Lillies

(Lilium)

Lilies have fascinated gardeners for thousands of years and they are easier to grow than you might think.

Some species are demanding to grow but most modern hybrid varieties can be planted with the confidence that in a few months you will be rewarded with amazing flowers that have the wow factor. Choosing which variety to grow can be daunting because there are so many varieties available but you won’t go far wrong if you try any of the widely available hybrids.

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Try to give lilies the conditions they like best – a rich and fertile soil with good drainage and preferably one in which lots compost or well-rotted manure has been incorporated. They enjoy flowering in the sun but don’t mind some shade and prefer to have their roots sheltered by other plants. This is useful as the lower parts of the plant aren’t that interesting so plant something pretty here that will compliment that lily blooms above.

  • Asiatic Hybrids are characterised by their study growth and usually have early-blooming upright ‘bowl-shaped’ flowers. The main flowering period is early and mid-summer. They are usually the earliest to flower and are ideal for large containers.
  • Oriental hybrids have bowl-shaped flowers in mid and late summer which tend to face outwards (rather than upwards in Asiatic hybrids). They have very fragrant blooms but don’t like limy soil.
  • Trumpet Hybrids have long (you guessed it) trumpet shaped blooms and are perhaps the most recognisable varieties. They can be grown in large containers and usually look best in mixed borders. Most of them grow to about 1-1.5m.

When should it be grown?

  • Ideally plant bulbs in the autumn but bulbs can be planted until spring.
  • Plant bulbs at least 6 inches deep and with the pointy end up. Bulbs planted deeper will perform better than shallow sown bulbs.

Where should it be grown?

  • Almost all lilies grow well in containers but taller types will require support for the stems as they grow.
  • Some lilies don’t like limy soils and heavy clay soils can be a problem too as the bulbs can drown in the wet over winter. If you have very heavy soil, you’re best to plant the bulbs within a pot and sink the pot into the soil for spring and summer, removing it in the winter.
  • Lilies don’t like dry roots so add plenty of mulch around the base of the plant like compost, bark or manure.

Are there any particular varieties that are most suitable in Ireland?

  • Not really

Any other additional tips

  • Although any compost can be used when planting lilies, soil-based John Innes composts are recommended for most lilies.
  • Lilies like plenty of fertiliser so add some controlled-release granules when planting and feed regularly with a high potassium liquid plant food. Tomato feed is ideal.
  • Dead head spent blooms but leave the foliage to die back naturally
  • A good idea for bulbs in pots over winter is to lie them on their sides so that the bulbs don’t get too wet
  • Lilies can grow tall and many varieties will need support as they grow. Use bamboo canes or spirals which you can pick up in any garden centre.
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