Want some drama in the summer garden? Why don’t you plant some lilies this year? You say you’re scared of lilies?
Though they look exotic, lilies are pretty easy to grow.
In Oklahoma, the genus Lilium is almost foolproof grown in sandy soil. If you have clay, amend it to the max with compost, or leaf mold, or some other soil amendments that break up clay. Or, you can dig out the clay and purchase at least eight inches of good soil to place on top of the nasty stuff. If you have sandy soil, just add compost or other organic matter for better drainage. Compost and other soil amendments make clay soil less glue-like and retain moisture in sandy soil so nutrients don’t wash away. It’s almost like magic.
We Oklahomans know all about nutrients, soil and mulch washing away this year, don’t we? Even my paths have washed out numerous times with our spring storms. Not that I’m complaining or anything. I would never complain about rain.
I am no expert on lily bulbs, but I grow a lot of them.
It works like this. In May, we have roses and peonies. Right after they finish, asiatic lilies start blooming. Asiatic lilies have smaller horizontal foliage stacked all the way up the stem, and they tend to be on the shorter side.
You’ll see a lot of asiatic lilies in full, glorious bloom at the box stores each May because they are short and easy to transport on large trucks. I saw some last week. Often they are orange or yellow, or sometimes, a dusty pink, but note that asiatic lilies can be exquisitely colored. The ones you see for sale were brought to full bloom in a wholesale greenhouse. By the time you buy them, the blooms won’t last more than a week or two. They may return next year if planted in the right place, but they are only party favor flowers this year.
Yes, I see your sad faces. I’m sad you bought those too. Consider this post your fair warning for next time.Don't buy anything in full flower at the garden nursery or the box stores. You'll often be disappointed. Click To Tweet
You could wait and buy these same lilies on the dollar rack after they bloom. Just kidding. Buying stuff on the $1.00 rack at the box store is like gambling at an Oklahoma casino. You may win big, but you may also lose your rent check. Unless you know what you’re doing, please avoid the $1.00 rack.
Instead, bite the bullet and order your bulbs from a reputable online nursery and pay for shipping.
You’ll receive your bulbs at the correct time for planting–often in October here–and you’ll start a beautiful bulb relationship that will last for years.
So where were we? Oh yes, the asiatics start. Then, come daylilies which aren’t lilies at all, but they do still have trumpet-shaped blooms. While the daylilies are often still blooming, the trumpet lilies and the interspecific hybrids begin their show, and what a show it is. There’s been a lot of breeding being done between species. Hybridizers are trying to get the best qualities of each. For example, the Orienpets or OT Hybrid lilies are the last blooming in my garden and among the strongest. They have wonderful fragrance along with really strong and tall stems. I have better luck with the Orienpets than with traditional Oriental lilies. Orienpets, like ‘Conca d’Or’–one of my favorites–, make quite the exclamation point in the July garden when little else is blooming. I buy most of my lilies from B&D Lilies, Brent & Becky’s Bulbs or Old House Gardens. My ‘Black Beauty’ lilies are from Old House Gardens. You can also find ‘Black Beauty’ from B&D Lilies. My ‘Kaveri’ lily was a gift from Longfield Gardens a couple of years ago.
Last year, I bought ‘Corsini,’ ‘Morini’ and ‘African Queen’ to add to my collection of lily bulbs. The first two are Orienpets, and the last is a trumpet strain. This year, I’ll get to see them bloom for the first time. I’m extremely excited. I grow most of my lilies along my garage in a border that faces east and gets morning sun, but I grow them in other parts of the garden too. Lilies are imbricate bulbs which have separate layers and should stay barely moist during shipment. In other words, lily bulbs are more delicate than say, a tulip or daffodil. You should plant your lily bulbs as soon as you receive them. Do not let them sit in your garage for a week or so, or they will rot, and you will be sad.
I don’t want you to be sad.
Plant lily bulbs in fertile, well-drained soil and your lilies will bloom the following year. If they are happy, they will grow bigger and better, often multiplying year after year. You can dig up and transplant the small plants as they come up in spring once you have an established stand of lilies. You can also give them away to your friends. Asiatic lilies really multiply if happy. You’ll have plenty to share in a few years.
The one culprit to lily joy is the scarlet lily beetle, but I’ve never seen the little creeps in Oklahoma. I hope they never come here either. We have enough problems without them.
I hope I’ve enticed you to grow a few lilies in your garden. It’s almost daylily season. I’ll do my best to allure you to these non-lily perennials too, but now, it’s the start of lily season, and my garden rejoices at each open bloom.
Plant lily bulbs and plant happiness. Drama too. It’s a win-win.