Sprouting Lilium bulbs

kenneth hixson kennethhixson@gmail.com
Sat, 11 Apr 2020 09:39:18 PDT
     First, my garden is in western Oregon so my comments need to be 
taken as general rather than specific.

>   many types need a substantial period of cold temperatures to induce rooting, which is why they are best planted in fall.
     With about a hundred species and innumerable hybrids, it is hard to 
be specific, but try for at least six weeks, up to three months, at 
forty to forty five degrees F.  A plastic bag (indispensable, 
ubiquitous, and hated by environmentalists) with some barely moist 
peatmoss--not enough to "sweat" if left out overnight--the bulbs 
themselves are moist.
> I have tried what are sold as Oriental and Asiatic lilies, since their ancestors seem to come from warmer climates, like southern China and Taiwan.
     The problem with Oriental hybrids is that they include the mountain 
species L. japonicum and L. rubellum, neither of which tolerate high 
temperatures well.  But they do give the lovely pink colors.  L. 
speciosum is somewhat heat tolerant, but begins loosing leaves from the 
ground up in high temperatures.
> I have planted commercial hybrids in the ground and in pots when I can buy them locally in the fall. I have planted some arriving mail-order in spring in pots. It appears mail-order bulbs are only avalable in spring.
     Lily bulbs do not mature normally until after seed has normally set 
and the stems  have died down.  Then they have to be dug, graded, 
separated, packed, cooled to remove residual heat from growing, and 
shipped.  Lily bulbs are easily bruised, and the damage results in 
fungus infection, often not visible on the exterior of the bulb.  
Gardeners don't usually want bulbs arriving in November or December, 
when gardeners in the north are "dormant".  The mass market is in spring 
when gardeners are eager to garden.  Getting bulbs at the proper 
planting time has always been a problem, and is one reason why L. 
candidum, the madonna lily, is so often not available.  North American 
species lilies suffer the same problem, they need to be planted before 
the mass market lilies are shipped.
> I have tried planting both spring- and fall-bought edible shrink-wrapped lilies from a local Chinese market, in pots and in the ground. They are packaged so it is often hard to see both the basal plate and the tip, Usually the packager has made attempts to cut out both, but I have found bulbs with substantial amounts of basal plate.
> 	Because these bulbs are intended as food, most "excess" material is removed to reduce the waste for the cook.  It is easier to pack, and cheaper to ship without this unwanter material.

     The problem with buying lily bulbs from non-specialists is that 
they are seldom handled the way they must be.  Not bruised, kept 
refrigerated, protected from moisture loss, with viable roots which can 
establish and nourish the stem.  A first year lily bulb will often 
flower from the nutrients stored in the bulb, just as Hyacinths, Paper 
White Narcissus, or Amaryllis will flower, but to continue to flourish, 
they need to establish.  It might be worthwhile to scale (propagate) the 
bulbs which arrive, grow them on and see if that doesn't work better.  
The North American Lily Society website has icons for culture and 
propagation, which see if interested.

     One last comment: I was shocked to see you planting into fifteen 
gallon pots.  Here I normally plant two or three bulbs into a two or 
three gallon pot.  I prefer three gallon pots because they give more 
root room.  Lily roots may extend more than six inches from the bottom 
of the bulb, and if the bulb is another two or three inches high, that 
may leave the top of the bulb exposed.  Tall pots are better.  The 
larger pots make sense for heat protection, but perhaps a "pot within a 
pot" might work better.  Potting mix should be "well drained" which 
doesn't mean little water, but air available to the roots when they are 
growing.  Lilies can and do survive being submerged in water when 
dormant, but need air at the roots when growing.  Without it, they rot.

     I probably haven't answered all the problems, but it is possible to 
grow lilies in hot conditions.  If I can help further, email.


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