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“Dozing, not sleeping . . . just resting.” That’s what lily bulbs would whisper if they could. These are one of the few bulbs that are never in a state of full dormancy, never in a really deep winter sleep. In fact, to keep them from sprouting prematurely, lily farmers pack these plump scaly bulbs into big crates cushioned with peat moss and freeze them as solid as a Thanksgiving turkey. When they are allowed to begin to thaw, they start to sprout.
The moral of this story is . . . when your lily bulbs arrive, be ready to plant. They’ll be itching to grow and will not sit quietly on the kitchen counter for 3 or 4 weeks until you find an open Saturday morning to plant. Pushy? Perhaps. Worth making a slight schedule adjustment for? Absolutely.
Lilies prefer full sun locations. These perennials will grow in partial shade but won’t produce as many flowers and the plants won’t be as robust. Lilies need soil that drains well. If your chosen site still has puddles a couple hours after a rain, consider another location.
Loosen the soil to 12- 15”. Deep planting provides stem support for stability and can eliminate the need for stalking. Deeply planted lily bulbs are also less likely to be impacted by soil heat when summer temperatures rise. Enrich the soil with a few handfuls of compost to provide nutrients.
Plant outdoors in spring when frost danger has past and soil has warmed a bit. These plants are winter hardy once established but during their first spring plant after danger of frost has past. In fall, lily bulbs can be planted at any time the soil can be worked, although a few weeks before hard frosts allows for more root growth.
Dig holes 3 times as deep as the bulb is high; i.e. for a bulb that’s 2.5” tall, dig 7-8” deep holes. Place the bulb in the hole with the pointy end facing upwards. This is where the sprout will appear. Fill the hole with soil, pat to eliminate air pockets and water well to settle the soil around the bulb. Plant bulbs 7-9” apart and in groups of 3 to 5 or more for best effect.
Lilies need about 1” of water a week; rain, irrigation or a combination of the two. An application of a high potassium fertilizer every couple of weeks from spring through flowering will keep bulbs strong for future performance.
Wait until the lily foliage has turned brown in the fall before cutting it. Leaving the stalk and foliage in place helps nourish the bulb. Trim the stem to 3” above the soil line.
Light: Full sun
Depth: Plant 6-9" deep depending on bulbs size; bigger bulbs are planted deeper
Water: Average moisture
Uses: Perennial beds, along foundations and fences
Tip: Site to enjoy the delicious fragrance
They Start Out looking Like This:
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