Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Harvest time : What lurks under the soil?

Harvested Lilium Bulbs
Fall is the time to move and replant lily bulbs. When the green leaves have turned brown, the plant has completed growing the bulb for next year’s bloom. When lily plantings are crowded with many stems they need to be divided. Improve your lilies’ growing conditions by giving them more room to grow.

It can be fun to see what’s going on under the soil! Hardy fast growing lilies reproduce by growing bulblets off the main bulb. That’s like money in your pocket--you’ve got free lilies! Some lilies produce bulblets right away, the first year they are in the ground. Ones that I’ve had great success with are: 'August Ruby', 'Tiger Babies', and 'Robinson’s Comet', all Asiatics.

Oriental Trumpet hybrids (called “OT’s”) with fast bulblet increase are 'Scheherazade',  'Black Beauty' and a recent introduction, 'Flashpoint'. These are slower but still reliable at producing bulblets: 'Silk Road', 'Boogie Woogie' and 'Touch'.

Mother Lilium BulbDiscovering the size of a mother bulb underground can be a big surprise. Bulbs that are 2” in diameter grow, in just a few years, to be 5” and more!  These monster bulbs produce flower stalks that are 7” tall, sometimes growing up to 9 feet. They hold 20 or more blooms. Some of these large bulbs “split” or grow into a divided bulb with 2 or 3 “noses.”  The divided bulbs are ready to separate and be replanted into a bigger space.  However, some fully mature lily bulbs don’t like being disturbed.  I’ve had the sad experience of seeing a large mother bulb disintegrate after being moved. I’ve also see a once grand plant protest its move and come up smaller for several years after a move. 

Generally, however, lily plants need to be divided for optimum health. Here are tips for re-planting:

•    Dig and loosen the soil around the planting hole
•    Add compost to the hole
•    Add granular fertilizer
•    Plant lilies 2’ – 3’ apart
•    Water in thoroughly to settle the dirt around the bulb

You will be rewarded with strong lilies next year.

--By Kim Peterson