July is the month when most lilies come into bloom and are breathtaking in their beauty. When we think of lilies, we usually think of Easter lilies or day lilies, but for a great garden display, the Oriental, Asian or trumpets are the easiest to grow and will readily multiply.
My preference is the Asiatic. They seem to be hardier and increase in bloom and new bulbs as each year passes better than Orientals. The most commonly grown lilies are 3- to 4-feet in height. I plant these taller varieties in the back of my bed and the shorter or border lilies in the front.
Watch the fall seed catalogs to obtain border lilies. I have seen them in gold, yellow, pink and red. The taller ones can be obtained in a great variety of color from seed catalogs or garden centers. Lilies will multiply with each passing year until you have a large amount that can be easily divided and plant elsewhere. I do this anytime after blooms are spent.
Lilies like a loose pliable soil with a neutral pH. I use a bulb planter to dig holes and add about a tablespoon of bone meal in each hole and then water well.
The first year, I would mulch over the bed with leaves. In subsequent years I do not cover, but mulch around the growth with leaves which I leave on each year. This adds nutrients to the soil as leaves decay. You will then have an abundance of additional bulbs. They can be transplanted every few years. If bulbs become too crowded, bloom will lessen.
Remember, the taller lilies can sometime reach 6 feet tall, especially the trumpets, and need to be staked. I use the border or shorter kinds around some of my other flower plantings also and they add to the attractiveness of any bed. This is a strikingly beautiful point of interest.
My favorite reason for growing lilies is the ease of caring for them and their lasting quality. They seem to tolerate some drought and an over abundance of rain. I fertilize sparingly, maybe throwing a little l0-10-10 in and around them after they have finished blooming.
The trumpets are the tallest with very large blooms, usually down facing, another reason for staking. Lilies prefer some afternoon shade, but tolerate sunny area. There is a tall lily called “Turks Cap” that will readily grow and bloom in moist shady spots.
There is another lily worth mentioning. It is often called “Magic” or “Mystery” lily. I have one and it is truly magic. In early spring it sends up loads of tall slender strap like leaves and can spread 2 feet or more across and high. It is an attractive green plant. Then in July, the leaves die down and seem to disappear. Do not despair, in August tall shoots, up to 2 feet or better, will spring up devoid of leaves with a large pink blooms on each stem. A sight to behold.
A tried and true lily planted by our forefathers since the 1800s is the tiger lily. It is tall, up to 6 feet, bright orange in color speckled with chocolate brown. It is a late summer bloomer.
Lily bulbs can be quite expensive, but just a few will increase readily until you have plenty to plant elsewhere. If you do not divide and let them multiply, they will form a wide row of spectacular color, but when bloom starts to decline, it is time to dig and replant bulbs.
Betty Winscher is a Master Gardener Emeritus and can be reached at (320) 584-8077 or via e-mail at [email protected]