Monday, March 17, 2014

Transplanting Lily Bulbs in March

Asiatics - one on right needs dividing.

Don't wait too long.

If your soil is still “cold”, it is possible to move and divide bulbs this month, but you must do it very carefully.  A better plan might be to wait until this fall, but if you have a construction project scheduled for this summer or otherwise need to move your lilies out of harm’s way you can move them this month.

The lily stems on the left side of this photo are nicely spaced and the flowers will open fully with the maximum number of buds.  However, the “clump” on the right side needs dividing because the bulbs have become overcrowded, with each stem exhibiting fewer flowers.

Easy steps:
  • Pull away any loose mulch and pile up to save for later.  As a general rule of thumb, "summer" mulch should not be more than 2 inches deep, "winter" mulch in cold climates is more substantial. (See Guidelines for Winter Protection.)  If you are thinking of moving bulbs now—and the soil has thawed—you can do so, but remember that you should not leave more than the bare minimum of mulch, especially if you live in an area with lots of cool weather rainfall.  Whether established bulbs or newly transplanted ones, too much mulch and the bulbs will rot should the soil be able to dry quickly between storms in spring. 
  • Sink a garden fork (preferred) or sharp shovel into the soil about 4 inches away from the old stems to avoid slicing through the underground lilies.  If the soil is hard, then start further away and go a full shovel deep.  You want to dig under the bulbs and lift them up.  We find a good spading fork best for the job.  Should the old browned stems not be present from last year, your task will be much harder, so proceed slowly or wait until the sprouts have emerged.
  • Carefully loosen bulbs, soil, plus any weeds—do not dump over the contents of your shovel above ground—we aren’t digging potatoes or clams!  Lily bulbs do not have tough outer shells like tulips and can be easily damaged if dropped or crushed, plus you do not want to risk breaking off emerging sprouts.  Broken sprout = no flowers.
  • With your hands, pick through the soil to extract the bulbs being mindful of soft sprouts or

    beginning to emerge.  If there are multiple stems coming from attached bulbs
    and if you can gently pry them apart with your fingersthen you now have two nice flowering size bulbs to plant separately in the garden.  If the lily resists being divided, re-plant as-is and wait until this fall to divide the plant for sharing or creating another lily bed.  Smaller bulbs attached to the bottom sides of the main lily that are fully formed (see photo below) can be snapped off and planted a bit more shallow than you would bury the large bulbs.  2-1/2 times the size of the bulb is the golden rule for planting lilies.
  • If you are unable to plant the newly harvested bulbs right away, then layer them in a cardboard box with pet bedding (shavings), dry peat or potting soil in a protected area of the garage or garden shed until you can plant.  Do not let the bulbs either become too dry in the storage box.   Lily bulbs (and sprouts) will dehydrate quickly when out of the soil.  You can also "pot them up" for the summer, choosing a container with good drainage holes and at least eight inches deep. (Also see:  Emergency Transplanting)

Photo on left:  If you choose, gently break off the offsets (basal plate bulblets), planting them with no more than two inches of soil over the top.  For the specimen shown, the larger bulb would go back into the garden with 4 to 6 inches of soil covering the top of the bulb.

(The bulb shown is 'Candlestick', a Longiflorum-Oriental Hybrid.)

Final advice:  Be brave, but go slowly as you dig, or wait until fall to transplant your lily bulbs. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

A Lily Oddity in the Garden

Flatten stem with odd looking leaves.

Have you ever seen a flattened stem lily stem with short stunted leaves and a multitude of flower buds in your garden?

If so, there's nothing to worry about,  no mysterious lily disease has invaded your garden and the bulb is quite fine.

Only about 1 in 10,000 lily bulbs create a fasciated stem, which is most likely due to environmental fluctuations of weather. The next growing season usually produces a normal stem, or perhaps even two, if the bulb has divided underground.


Golden Splendor with fasciated stem.

Look at all the flowers!

The bulb of 'Golden Splendor Strain' that produced the cluster of extra flowers on this stem had rather evenly spaced buds and almost normal sized blooms.

Usually, flowers that open on a fasciated stem can be overall much smaller, and be packed tightly together so that not all the buds open completely.  

"Garden of Weeden"

Mrs. Ruth Sanclimenti's whimsical, "Garden of Weeden" drew attention from the neighbors when her Oriental lily, 'Siberia' bloomed out several years back.  It is interesting in that the bulb was actually was planted in just the right spot to become the centerpiece.  The lily bloomed normally the second year.

Fascinated stems are an oddity to be sure, but the lilies are indeed healthy.  Because they still need all of their leaves to rebuild the bulb after flowering, and even though the plant may look strange, resist the urge to cut the stem down prematurely.  You can however, remove the flowers as they fade.

Do you have a photo of an interesting lily?  Upload it to our Facebook page for the world to see.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Did you know? Lily bulbs have low water requirements.

Field in early July, before flowering.
Lily bulbs, by their very nature store water within the overlapping scales for times of drought.  Do not water your bulbs until the soil is dry one or two inches below the surface.  

Water deeply and infrequently for the best growth, just as you would for deep rooted trees and shrubs.  If you have an automatic lawn watering system that "mists" the grass every day or two, the lilies will eventually receive too much water, so locate them just outside of the spray zone.  The same holds true for flower bed sprinklers and drip irrigation.  Most perennials and annuals like more moisture than what the bulbs require, so be mindful of how your water is distributed.  Choose a spot for lilies where the sprinklers or emitters do not saturate the soil. 

In the photo, do you see how dry our field rows were in early July last year?  This section of the farm has a nice clay loam that drains well, but it is slippery when wet and builds up under your shoes.  Always check for soil moisture before you drag over the hose to give lilies a drink.   

Expensive electronic "water monitors" are not necessary.  Just your bare finger will do as a monitor; if damp soil clings, then the ground is still moist enough.  If your glove-less finger comes out clean two inches below the surface, then it is time to water.  Be sure to provide enough water so that the soil is evenly moist down to the level of the basal roots (at the bottom of the bulb) or to about 8 to 10 inches deep.   

Watering pots is a bit different; set your containers into a bucket or mortar box (used for mixing cement) to reclaim the water for the next pot if you only have a few to water.  If your containers are not on a deck, but rather sitting on a sheet of plastic topped by bark mulch (to keep down weeds), then excess water can drain, and will be retained by the mulch to keep the pots cooler during hot weather.  The only downfall is that you will give mollusks perfect conditions to multiply, so don't forget the slug bait around the pots, or a couple of resident ducks to root out slugs and provide eggs and entertainment.

Will you be short on water this year?

If you are in a dry climate, have a garden with very sandy soil, or live where water restrictions are imposed, you can still grow lilies.  A two to three inch mulch of bark, ground leaves or other insulating material will help to save money and even out the moisture content of your soil.  You need to include the depth of the mulch when determining how deep to plant your lily bulbs - 5 to 6 inches total of soil and mulch over the top of the lily bulb is about the maximum for most varieties.  However, you can plant a little deeper in sandy soil.  So, if there is 4 inches of soil over the top of the bulb, then 2 inches of mulch or ground up leaves would equal 6 inches total.  With fluffy mulch, you can add more because it will tend to mat down over time.  The idea is to give the stem roots enough space to grow underground, without making it too difficult for the sprout to emerge in spring.  The extra mulch will also encourage beneficial earthworms in your garden as well.  You can always add more mulch if necessary.

If the bulbs receive too much water during times of plenty or with saturated soil, the lower leaves will turn yellow and drop off, even before bloom.  If that happens, pull away mulch that may be keeping the soil surface too wet, and allow the excess moisture to escape.  A nicely mulched garden is beautiful, tying the landscape together visually, but only an inch of finely ground bark is needed during wetter years to cover the soil and help keep weed seeds from germinating.

Tips for conserving moisture in the Lily Garden.

Don't over water, always check the soil moisture first in your lily garden.  Snap off the spent flowers as they fade, so that stems do not expend energy producing seed, and thus require more water.  Top dress with well-rotted manure or compost in midsummer to provide nutrients to the stem roots and increase the amount of moisture-retaining mulch.  When the leaves have begun to turn from green to yellow in the fall, cut the stem back to ground level and only water enough to keep the soil slightly moist while the lily bulbs are going into semi-dormancy.

Previous related posts: 
Lily Bulbs not buried deep enough?  What to look for...
How to increase "Red Wigglers" in your garden.
Controlling Slugs and Snails in your Lily Garden


Thursday, January 9, 2014

Lily Bulbs for Sensitive Noses

'Tessala' - Beautiful & Oh, so warmly scented.

In the lily world, the gardening trend over the last 25+ years has been to favor fragrance, and for those fortunate gardeners without allergies, the heavier the scent the better.  

However, for those of us who are chemical sensitive—me included—an overload of fragrance in personal care products, cleaners, stores, banks, etc. can be too much throughout the year, even before the garden comes into bloom.

During holidays, and especially before Valentine's Day, I avoid getting anywhere near the smiling demonstrators with the perfume bottle.  Even having my hair done in a salon can be torture during selected times of the year, especially if I'm not able to snag the first appointment of the day, before the perms and tints begin.

'Ormea' OT (Orienpet)

Don't get me wrong though, I love the whiff of a spicy-scented Oriental lily in full bloom, but it must be outside in the garden, not in an enclosed space such as a car or small room.  

Spring flower shows with potted Daffodils or Hyacinths, Daphne and other flower shrubs in the display gardens are pretty, but a little too overwhelming for my senses as well.

So if you are like me, there are ways to enjoy all the later-blooming lilies in your garden, and not limit yourself only to early Asiatics.


During flower shows we place large bouquets of lilies along the perimeter of our booth, with tiny fans to gently dissipate the fragrance into the open isles, plus we generally choose open space, rather than a wall location, so there is naturally increased air circulation. 

Years ago, when we used to exhibit lilies in competition, our old blue station wagon had no air conditioning, but the back window could be rolled down.  On the freeway, there wasn't a problem, because with the front vents open, air would remove fragrance out the back window.  However, waiting at a traffic light was another matter, so as the car slowed and filled up with fragrance, the front windows were quickly rolled down.  

There are differing types and degrees of lily fragrance.

'Antequera', plus an unidentified white Asiatic.
Unscented Asiatics
(Including some Lilium species)

Burdened with no fragrance at all, these lilies are the workhorses of the early lily garden, sporting the widest range of colors.  No fear of a headache or stuffy nose here, just remember to pick off the pollen before bringing them indoors to avoid spilling pollen on tablecloths or clothing.  

People will still tend to give them the "sniff test", so picking pollen will also prevent guests leaving with orange noses.  (On the other hand, leaving the pollen on could hold entertainment value for you, wink wink!)  Lily pollen is large and "sticky" so is rarely a problem with allergies because it is not generally breathed into the lungs. 

'Indian Summerset'

Lightly Scented Asiatics
(Lilium longiflorum x Asiatic, also called LA Hybrids)

The inclusion of the familiar, white trumpet Easter Lily found in the stores during Lent is highly scented.  Plant breeders originally crossed them with brightly colored Asiatic lilies to introduce pastel colored "Easter Lilies".  Many of the early crosses did have a trumpet shape, but they would not force in time for Easter in the greenhouses, plus the public generally preferred the traditional white.  Later generations of crosses were producing flowers that looked like Asiatic lilies, but forced more quickly and had larger flowers with a slight fragrance.  These traits opened a whole new market, and savings in the greenhouse, for the cut flower producers. 

Upon first opening, these Asiatic hybrids of two different divisions of lilies appear to be unscented, but after the blooms have matured a light fragrance can be detected in a vase indoors or when viewed up close on a windless day in the garden.  Gardeners with more sensitive noses can happily grow them outdoors, or potted on a patio, but they probably should avoid using LA Hybrids as cut flowers indoors.

'Golden Splendor' Strain
Trumpet Lilies 
(Including the traditional Easter Lily and the Chinese species Lilium regale)

These lilies generally grow tall and have large, funnel shaped flowers that are difficult to include in floral arrangements unless you are creating something really massive, such as for a lobby.   The fragrance can best be described as what I remember as "Grandma's Perfume", heady, strong and heavily floral - no undertones of spice or wood.  When our Trumpets bloom in the propagation field, I stay upwind until the blooms are removed - after the label and inventory map are checked for accuracy.  In the garden, a nice triangle of three stems can be located so fragrance naturally blows away from any open windows or doors, not into them.   If you want the heaviest scent of all the lilies, choose these and place next to a door, but if you are sensitive to fragrance, placing them downwind will be much safer.


L. auratum platyphyllum
Lilium auratum viginale - unspotted varient of 'Yami Yuri'
Oriental Lilies

Purebred Oriental lilies are derived mostly from Lilium auratum playphyllum.  The best known is the "Golden Ray Lily', called Yami Yuri in Japan, and is a beautiful species of pure white with lemon yellow bands down the center of each petal, usually with a varying number of speckles.  Flower are large and the bulbs need better drained soil than most hybrid Orientals.   The scent can become a bit heady as the fragrance oils age, so it might not be a good choice for bringing indoors.

The unspotted version, L. auratum virginale, along with Lilium nobelissium gave us pure white lilies.  Over the years, other wild lilies, such as Lilium rubellum, were added to create modern hybrids of pink and red. (See our Lilium Knowledge Base for more information on some of these rarer species.)

The scent of Hybrid Oriental lilies, like the famous 'Casablanca', 'Star Gazer',  'Rio Negro' and 'Miss Lucy' are reminiscent of the fragrance of old fashioned carnations and are a nice surprise in the garden.  A stem of Orientals lilies can easily be "picked out" among a group of other fragrant flowers.

'Rio Negro' - Purbred Oriental

Many people who are sensitive to the heavy scent of Trumpet lilies are able to enjoy these spicier lilies in the garden, and perhaps even enjoy a single blossom indoors for a few days before the fragrance becomes too intense.

'Miss Lucy' - Purebred Oriental

Did you know—fragrance oils are mostly on the petal tips?

When checking the scent of a lily blossom, there's no need to bury your nose inside the bloom and risk dusting your face with orange pollen. Wait until the flowers have been open a day or two, to give the fragrance oils time to mature, and just sniff the petal tips for the best effect. Lilies are pollinated by bees that are attracted to the sweet fragrance, so nature placed the scent on the outer portion of the petals so it can be snatched away in a breeze.

Closeup of 'Bonbini' - OT Hybrid

Orienpet Lilies
(OT or Oriental-Trumpet Hybrids)

Sporting the best of both divisions of lilies, OT Hybrids tend to more resemble an Oriental in looks and growth habit, but the fragrance varies from light to heavy with no spicy overtones.

'Eudoxia' - OT Hybrid

Colors are more diverse than the purebred Orientals, bringing gold and melon tones from the inclusion of Lilium henryi and orange Trumpet lilies.  Gardeners in warmer climates like the OT hybrids because they are more heat tolerant than purebred Orientals and thus can take sunnier areas.

'Scarlet Delight' - OT

Lilies that have the variety 'Black Beauty' in its breeding background, such as 'Schereherazade', 'Scarlet Delight' or 'LeVern Freimann' tend to only have a bit of light fragrance, which is not overpowering in the garden.  Clones, such as 'Candy Club', 'Zambesi', 'Conca d'Or', 'Amarossi' and 'Eudoxia' have more fragrance.

If you are not sure which ones will work for you, place an order in spring for several different types, and plant them in containers.  That way, you can move the lilies around like furniture as they begin to bloom, and find where the various types of fragrances works best in your garden.  When you discover a pleasing arrangement, slip them out of their pots and plant into a permanent spot in October. 

Other Interspecific Crosses, plus Lilium species

A few wild lilies, such as Lilium pumilum and Lilium lankongense are very strongly scented, and hybrids with these in their background do tend to pack a wallop in the garden.  When we grew lilies in a field with less water, Lilium pumilum had to have the flowers removed before anyone would weed it -  when kneeling, the flowers were always at nose level and the weeder's entire face would end up covered in pollen.  We switched from blocks of L. pumilum to a long single row for comfort.

'Lankon' (shown on right) is a cross between both L. Lankongese and L. longiflorum, and the resulting perfume is "different" than either parent, but still makes its presence known in the garden.  I tend to group 'Lankon' with the Trumpet lilies for garden use.  They grow 4 to 5 feet tall on sturdy stems, so they can go towards the middle of a bed, out of range of my nose, but still close enough to enjoy their bell-shaped pendant flowers.

'Prince Promise'

OA (Oriental-Asiatic crosses) tend of have either very light fragrance or no fragrance at all.  They vary greatly and while one person may decide a particular variety is unscented, another might detect a slight fragrance.  These are best planted in pots so you can decide for yourself.  Most tend to resemble Asiatic lilies and are not as often found, but they do tend to bloom a bit later than mainstream Asiatics.

LO (L. longiforum-Oriental Hybrid crosses) tend towards large, perfumed flowers that are very heat resistant with no spicy overtone.  Use them as a background plant if your nose is sensitive because the larger flowers show up very well from a distance.

Final Advice:
  • For those with super-sensitive noses, only grow the unscented Asiatics near outdoor living areas or to bring indoors as a cut flower. 
  • Position the highly fragrant lilies away from open windows or doors, using the more brightly colored or larger flowered varieties to enjoy from a distance.  
  • Do you have windows that are generally not opened, but have a wonderful view of the garden?  Place scented lilies in full view to enjoy from the house interior.  
  • Grow lilies in pots and move them around like furniture, closer to outdoor living areas during cooler windy weather, or further away during hot, muggy days with little airflow.  
  • Experiment with different varieties in pots; the spicy Orientals or lightly scented 'Black Beauty' hybrids and LA (Scented Asiatics) may not be a fragrance issue for you outdoors. 
  • If your garden has a predictable wind pattern, try to locate the strongly scented ones as "downwind" as possible and into the neighbor's garden.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Help... Winter Lily Pollen Stains!

'Zambesi' - Fresh white flowers & pollen just beginning to "open".
Note from Dianna: 

Kathy, a gardener who loves her lilies in the greater Seattle area, sent us an email in November asking for help with pollen stains on her wool sweater.  A day later, when asked if she could write a short story and document the pollen removal with photos, she reported that even after a a single day of exposing the fabric to sunshine, the stain had already shrunk too much to make dramatic photos. 

Good work, Kathy!

(All photographs by B&D Lilies.)

Kathy's "Winter" Lily Pollen Report

"Here I am in the kitchen cooking away with a beautiful vase of lilies on the counter. They smell so wonderful. Now, I've heard pollen does not come out of fabric and I should be cutting off the anthers where the pollen dust sits. Problem is, I've also been told the fragrance is emitted from the anther. True, False, I don't know. For this story it's true because that's the reason I had not cut the anthers off.

Back to dancing around the kitchen because I'm cooking a great dinner for a special person. As I dip and turn I realize I'm close to brushing up against the lily, I panic and try to dodge it, but my arm sweeps by the anthers getting covered across the whole upper arm. I immediately take the wool sweater off and flush it with water with nothing happening. Adding dish soap and rubbing between my hands only makes it spread. I stop. Ring it, pat it, and PANIC!

I run to the computer to hunt for any information on the web. Everyone recommended the sun on a sunny day. They also had fabric like cotton and linen. I have wool, it's winter and I live in the Pacific Northwest, which means no sun.

Taking a chance. I put the sweater in a single pane window that had morning light, not sun light. Next afternoon when I had time to get back to the sweater the spot looked a little diminished. As it set in the window over the next month little by little the spot has disappeared.

  1. The sun works on materials of cotton, linen, wool and probably many others
  2. Natural Light over a longer period of time works too.
  3. The fragrance comes from the anther, pistil and even the petals.
  4. Don't touch the area that was brushed by the anthers. Let it dry and brush it off in a day or two with a soft brush. Tape also works if you don't have a brush."

Further Notes from Dianna

'Corcovado' OT - anthers "closed", Style moist.
  • When a lily flower first opens, the anthers are moist and tightly closed.  As the day progresses, they unfurl, exposing the pollen grains.
  • Petal tips have the greatest concentration of fragrance oils, so sniff the edges of a fully opened flower for the best scent.  The center of the lily, where the reproductive parts are located, can be removed without any loss of perceived fragrance. 
  • The "Style", which ends in a three part "knob" and drips sweet-tasting stigmatic fluid, also exhibits light scent, and in the case of a large purebred Oriental lily, can sometimes plentifully run down the bottom petal.  This sticky protrusion helps to hold the pollen from other varieties tightly to the Style, as hummingbirds, bees and other insects brush against it. This is how new hybrids are created from the resulting seed—produced later in the summer between compatible plants, if the growing season is favorable.
Can you see the pollen grains? (Hint: Look at the texture.)
  • Pollen is generally sticky, even when "dry", which is the reason why you should never try to brush pollen off with your hand; the natural oils present on your skin will smear and "set" the pollen into fabric, or simply beautify your skin with a lovely orange-yellow cast.  
  • If pollen is on your skin, such as an arm, flicking a soft cloth or brush on the grains can generally remove it.  In the field, we've used the end of a clean tractor towel to knock the pollen off jeans, not nearly as effective as a brush, but good for emergencies.
  • It is a simple thing to gently pull off the dangling anthers with your fingers before they fully open, or use a tissue to remove open ones and keep your fingers from turning yellow.  With a dry artist brush, you can sweep off any dropped pollen grains on the petals to tidy the flower, but only if the petals and pollen are dry.  Lily pollen grains are generally too sticky and large to blow around upon the wind, so generally do not affect those with sensitivities to spring and summer pollen, and for those of us with fragrance allergies, unscented lilies are generally preferred for indoor use. 
'Little Yellow Kiss'

'Miss Lucy'

'Polka Dot' - a Spring 2014 Introduction.

  • Don't want to go to the bother of picking off pollen to bring the stems indoors for vases?  Choose one of the pollen-free varieties, such as 'Little Yellow Kiss' (Asiatic) or one of the fluffy and fragrant Double Orientals for your home.  The anthers are either not completely formed—hidden completely inside the petals—like 'Miss Lucy' or do not naturally produce a significant amount of pollen beyond a few grains.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

What's happening underground this winter?

Lily bulb regenerating in October.
Lily bulbs are in a constant state of growth; even during the winter months new basal plate roots are expanding, bulblets (offshoots) are growing larger, but most important, the center of your lily bulb is continuing to regenerate for its next flowering period.  

Sometimes it is easy to see the transformation because more of the bulb is spent to grow a stem with some cultivars.  The bulb shown is a perfect example - notice the two different colors of scales?  The outside purple-brown scales were part of the "original" bulb; you can see that during flowering, most of the nice fat bulb planted the previous fall or in early spring had shrunk to only a few outside scales, consuming the center in order to grow a stem.  The backside of this bulb (not shown) was where the stem had emerged for flowering in July.  The new bulb began forming when the flowers were finished, emerging from the basal plate, (bottom) along with a couple of new bulblets that will be exact duplicates of the original.  

Of the three prime necessities for a sustainable lily garden—well drained soil, sunlight and fertilizer—some folks begin to become a little forgetful when it comes time to help the lilies prepare for next year's flowers. 

If your soil was prepared well before planting to be soft and fluffyeven if an application of fertilizer is missed a couple of timeslilies will extract what food they can from their surrounding soil to flower the next year.  If no fertilizer or annual top dressing of compost is provided, lily bulbs will tend to become smaller each year and finally disappear completely

Spreading POOpeas around the stems.

Feed your lilies for bigger and better flowers each year.

We recommend two feedings a year—once when the sprouts are just emerging in spring and the stem roots are beginning to grow—then again when the flowers are beginning to open and the stored food within the lily bulb is depleted.  You can either use a commercial formula or mix your own elements for an organic approach.  Remember that lilies like balanced feeding, too much nitrogen will grow lovely green leaves, but at the expense of good flowers.  A "blooming" formula (e.g. 0-20-0) encourages flowers, but nitrogen and potash are still needed to grow new bulb scales. 

Lilies are heavy feeders, but they only need fertilizer spread during the times of rapid growth or roots can be damaged.  Slow release fertilizer (worked into the top 2 inches of soil) generally only works when soil temperatures reach a certain degree, and usually after the stems are already tall, missing the first milestone.  Time release is better in containers than open garden, because potting soil stays warmer during active growth, but because the volume of soil used is constricted and pots are watered more frequently, it is harder to judge the amount of fertilizer needed.

What if you've forgotten?
  • If you've missed spreading fertilizer during flowering in an established lily garden, do put an inch or two of compost or well-aged manure where the stems were produced this summer, even if your soil is completely frozen when you remember. 
  • For newly planted September to December bulbs, mixing fertilizer at the bottom of the planting hole is generally wasted over winter.  It is the roots produced in spring between the top of the lily bulb and the soil surface (stem roots) that are expecting the food at the proper times, not below the bulb.  Organic material spread on the soil surface takes a year or more to completely break down, and so is a better choice during planting time in October and November.
  • Since everything the lily needs to bloom is already present in the bulb and is depleted during the process of making a stem and flowers, fertilizer you apply during the spring and summer is for the next season's bloom.  If your soil is on the poor side naturally, not fertilizing will compromise next season's flowers—so it is important to always be thinking ahead.  Missing a few meals will not hurt, but for long term health, a regular fertilization program of twice a year is preferred.