Q. When is the best time to plant lilies, and how do I care for them?
Lilies such as Madonna lilies are best planted or transplanted outdoors when available for sale, usually in late summer--August or early September. Other sorts are available later in fall or in early spring. Small lilies can be planted about 6-8 inches apart. Tall, vigorous types need 9-12 inches or more between bulbs. Bulbs such as Madonna, martagon, and American Turk's cap lilies are set with their tips of the bulbs not more than 2 inches below the surface of the soil. But cover small bulbs about 3-4 inches deep and 4-6 inches deep for larger ones.
Probably no other condition is more important to the well-being, even the very life, of your lilies than drainage. Lilies must have good drainage! A well-amended and prepared soil before planting is best for all garden perennials and annuals, including lilies. An organic material of compost and leaf mold added to the soil a foot or more down will condition and help build a healthy soil that is moisture retentive and well drained for all your plants. When planting lily bulbs, dig a hole large enough to be able to spread the roots in an outward and downward direction without crowding. After planting, keep the soil uniformly moist. In late spring or early summer, place 2-3 inches of mulch to keep your lilies cool and moist and to help keep down weeds. Prevent weeds from establishing themselves around your young lilies early on by removing the weeds while they are small. Even with mulch for moisture retention, periodic deep watering may be needed in hot, dry weather.
Transplanting established lilies that are prospering should not be done unless quite necessary. However, the bulbs of some sorts increase so rapidly that every 4-5 years it is necessary to separate them and replant. This necessity is signaled by the production of an excessive number of crowded, thin stems producing few blooms.
Enjoy your new lilies; they will enhance your garden and be a joy for years.
For tips on a variety of gardening topics, see our Plant Information Guides.
- Courtesy of NYBG Plant Information Service