Lilium season

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Autumn’s renowned as the planting season for spring-flowering bulbs (e.g. daffodils, hyacinths and tulips) but, as winter approaches, later-flowering bulbs such as liliums start to become available. Most people are familiar with liliums – they’re regularly seen in cut flower arrangements. But, because they look so stately and perfect, many gardeners don’t realise how easy liliums are to grow.

Lilium bulbs don’t have the familiar protective ‘skin’ we see on daffodils, onions and other bulbs and, as a result, they’re vulnerable to drying out. Lilium bulbs are available in packages or from specialist growers such as Golden Ray Liliums Packaged lilium bulbs should be purchased as early as possible while the bulbs are still in good condition. And, because the bulbs are relatively vulnerable, it’s best to plant them straight away.

Liliums can be grown in pots filled with good quality potting mix (such as Yates Professional) or in a pre-prepared garden bed. Choose a spot with well-drained soil. A small amount of old cow manure dug through the soil will improve its organic content, but never fresh manure, and not too much. Drop a few Dynamic Lifter pellets into the base of the planting hole and cover with a small layer of soil. Plant bulb, allowing at least 10cm of soil depth above the bulb. Water in with Yates Uplift Root Booster.

Treat every couple of weeks with Nature’s Way Citrus & Ornamental Spray for it will keep the plants free of most of the common pests and diseases. Watch out particularly for snails and slugs – they love the new growth. Sprinkle Blitzem or Baysol pellets around the base and renew the pellets after heavy rain. If you have pets, put the pellets inside a pet-proof, snail-accessible container. Keep the soil moist, but not over-wet.

While all lilium flowers are beautiful, the plants fall into a few distinct groups. Trumpet liliums have graceful, bell-shaped flowers that hang from the top of upright stems. Some of the best known are the wildflowers such as pure white Lilium longiflorum which, depending on your climate, is known either as November lily or Christmas lily.

Asiatic liliums are hardy growers that tend to bloom in late spring or early summer. There are also some relatively new crosses between Asiatics and Christmas lilies that are known as LA lilies.

The biggest, showiest and most flamboyant lilies are the later-flowering Orientals. Their highly perfumed, large blooms can be so heavy that it’s best to plant them in a wind-protected spot and, if necessary, stake them to support the top-heavy stems.

Liliums make superb cut flowers (take care to avoid the staining pollen), but don’t forget to continue fertilising the plants after the flowers have been removed. The remaining leaves will continue to feed goodness through to the bulb. Re-pot bulbs after the plants have died down in autumn but, if possible, leave them undisturbed for a number of years.


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