Lilies Brighten Local Landscapes
By Jos Van Hage
Lilies are beginning to show their colours in local landscapes throughout the area. They are a favourite among many gardeners and with good reason. There is so many different varieties and types that come in a wide range of colours and size with different bloom times that you can have lilies blooming in the landscape for many weeks throughout the summer.
Lilies are grown from a bulb. The bulbs are available in the spring, and can be planted directly into the garden or started indoors in a pot and later transplanted outside. The plants can also be found in the perennial section of the garden centre. There are many hardy varieties that can be grown very successfully in our zone 3 climate. It is important to plant the hardy varieties, because once they are planted they can be left in the ground for several years until they need to be divided. Lilies do not require a lot of care or attention, but because it is a bulb the bulb needs to build and conserve its energy for the following year. This is why after a lily has finished blooming the old flowers need to be removed before they form seed pods. Each flower can be removed as it finishes, or you can wait till all the flowers on the stem have finished blooming, and then the stem is cut off to just below where the last flower was. You want to be able to leave as much foliage and stem as possible, as this will continue to grow and is important in growing a strong healthy bulb .The stems should not be removed until they have yellowed and died back naturally. When cutting the dead stems back, cut them back to within 10-15 cm from ground level as this will help trap the snow in the winter which gives the bulb extra winter protection. The leftover stems will also help mark where the bulbs were planted next spring when it comes time to clean up.
After several years of lilies being planted in the same place you may notice that there are a lot more flowers and stems then you originally planted. This is because new lily bulbs grow from the main bulb, which is how lilies are most often propagated. This is a good thing but when there is too many bulbs they become overcrowded and you will notice that the flowers become smaller and the stems are smaller and weaker too. This is a sign of overcrowding,which means that the bulbs will need to be dug up and divided. Dividing lilies is done in late summer/early fall, after the foliage has died back. Carefully dig up the bulbs and remove the excess soil off the bulbs. Gently pull the bulbs apart, tossing out any unhealthy or damaged bulbs. The remaining bulbs should be re-planted right away. Lily bulbs unlike other bulbs never go dormant so if you don't plan on re-planting the bulbs right away, place them in slightly moistened peat moss and put them in a cool place such as the garage, or fridge.
To plant lily bulbs dig a hole at least 15-20 cm deep. Add some good quality potting soil to the bottom of the hole so that the roots can take hold and sprinkle some bone meal on top. Place the bulbs with the top end up in the hole spacing them 15-25 cm apart. Plant them 10-15 cm deep as the roots prefers cooler temperatures. Lilies are also able to grow roots on the stem above the bulb, so by planting the bulb deep the roots on the bottom and on the top of the bulb will help anchor the bulb down which will help when the lilies are in full bloom. Cover the bulbs up with some good quality potting soil and water them in. Extra mulch can be placed on top of the planted lilies for the first year.
Lilies need lots of light. If they are planted in a shaded area they will grow on an angle or crooked as they will grow towards the sun. We have some lilies at home, that are now slightly under a tree because the tree became larger and the lilies are growing slanted. These will need to be moved this fall. It is also important to plant them in a well drained soil, or else the bulb will rot.
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