Lilium Specialists

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Q: As a person new to lilies, what wild lilies or species would you recommend to start with? A: One of the easiest species to grow is L. pumilum and L. davidii. Both of these lilies have been used extensively in hybridizing. L. pumilum is also easy to grow from seed. Both of these species have grassy style foliage.
Q: Catalogues show lilies available for spring planting. Is this a good time to plant lilies rather than the fall and will they bloom this year if planted this spring? A: Yes they will most certainly bloom this year. Because of better cold storage and quality control of bulbs dug in the fall more varieties are now being offered in spring as well. Orientals and trumpets are best planted in the spring here on the prairies. Because of the early emergence  of martagons they should be planted in the fall.
Q: My lilies have made a large clump but now only have a couple of blooms per stem. What can I do to improve them?  A: It is time to dig them up and divide them as they are too crowded and are starving for nutrients. The best time to move them if they are asiatics or LA hybrids is when they have matured in the Fall, from September 15th - Oct 15th.
Q: How can I tell what seeds I collected are viable?  A: Use the huff and blow technique. Just blow gently on the seeds as you transfer them from one bowl to another. The chaff will blow away while the good seeds (the heavier ones) will fall into the other bowl. Another way is to candle them. If you have   a reading or magnifying glass, then place the seeds under it. The good seed has a light colored stripe to it.
Q: Should I fertilize my lilies this Fall? A: If you feel the need to fertilize your lilies this Fall, do it very sparingly. Bone meal is a good choice. Heavy fertilizing in the Fall can cause the bulbs to go soft and rot over the winter. The best time to fertilize is when they are coming into bud and after they have finished blooming. At this stage they are putting down new roots and will take advantage of the additional food. Fertilize with a even numbered fertilizer such as 14-14-14 or a 20-20-20.
 Q: Is it possible to have fragrance in the asiatics?  A: Yes, although it is rare it is possible. Two of the asiatic species have a pungent odour. L. pumilum and L. amabile and their offspring sometimes have a bit of fragrance. A number of years ago, Doli Kolli had a lovely seedling that had a spicy scent. It was registered, ‘Carlie’ and was a deep raspberry pink with a white flare. It was a cross of ‘Pirate’ x ‘Juliana’. If you like to hybridize and have a chance to have an asiatic lily with perfume, then try this cross again. I know I will this year.
Q: Why do lily leaves turn yellow or light greenish yellow? A: Generally this is a plant disorder called chlorosis. Chlorosis is the result of the interruption of the production of chlorophyll (which cause the green pigment) due to not enough nitrogen or phosphorus and magnesium. Often this problem here in Manitoba is caused by a deficiency of Iron. One other cause may be not enough light over a long period of time. This may show up in yellow growing tips, ie rapid growing under heavy overcast conditions. Light, heat and a fertilizer boost should correct the problem.
Q: What is an Aurelian and it history? A: Jean Ericksen told me in a letter it is a cross, first made by a man in France. He named it after a Roman named town in France. The first cross named L. aurelianense was made by Debras and was a cross of L. sargentiae and L. henryi made in 1928. Aurelian hybrids have had L. leucanthum  to the cross by Carlton Yerex. The RHS Lily Registry also add the term Aurelian has become synonymous with all hybrids of similar parentage. L. henryi has given hardiness to trumpet crosses.
Q:  Are the little black things growing on the stems of my lilies seed? A: No, these are not seed but are called bulbils. This is one way in which lilies with L. lancifolium blood in them can increase themselves. These will grow to be exactly like their parent. They have a small contractile roots that when they fall to the ground help to pull them into the soil. This is the way L. lancifolium or L. tigrinum propagates itself.
Q: I have a clump of lilies. Can I move and divide them this spring? A: Lilies generally speaking are best moved in the fall at the lowest point of their growth period. However they can be successfully moved and separated in the spring. This must be done very carefully in digging them and teasing them apart. Dig them before new growth starts otherwise the new growth stems are most likely to be broken off and so you will lose the bloom of that bulb for that year.
Q: I have collected seed pods from my lily. What should I do with it now? A: Take the seed pod and break it apart, to take out the seeds. You can get up to 300 seeds from it, or you may get some seed and some chaff. Separate the seeds from the chaff, and store seeds in a paper envelope in a cool place until you are ready to plant indoors in February or March. Look for how to start seed in the next newsletter!!
Q: I planted pink, white & yellow lilies. Why did they all change to orange after 2-3 years? A: I would suspect that you planted them with the old L. tigrinum, which is orange with spots, with black bulbils in the leaf axils. Those little bulbs drop down and start new plants. This lily also carries a virus and so it ends up killing your other lilies. Plant your other lilies a good distance away if you want to grow L. tigrinum.
Q: When is the best time to move lilies?  A: You can move lilies anytime through their growing period as long as you take soil with the bulbs and are careful not to break the sprouts off. In general Fall is the best time to move them after frost when the bulbs are going into their dormant stage. Be sure to water in after planting so that the soil settles in around the bulb, leaving no air pockets.
Q: What is a martagon lily? A: A martagon is a lily characterized by whorls of spatulate leaves. The stems rise vertically from a round yellowish bulb with pointed scales to a height of 3-6ft with anywhere from 3-50 flowers. These flowers are fleshy and recurved, hence the name Turk’s cap. The seed is heavy and hypogeal delayed. Ideal for shade areas.

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