Monday, April 28, 2014

Potting Lily Bulbs in Spring

Quick Instructions from our Planting Guide:  When potting lily bulbs use one gallon of potting soil per mature bulb into a container with ample drainage holes 8 to 12 inches deep.  Lily bulbs make stem roots above the bulb, which are “feeder” roots and are grown new each season; the basal plate roots on the bulb bottom acts primarily as a counterweight to keep wind from toppling the stem, therefore the stem roots are the most important immediate concern.  In containers that are barely 8 inches deep, place bulbs almost on the bottom, so there will be at least 6 inches of soil covering the lilies, any less room and stem roots will not be able to form properly, which will severely limit the growth potential of your lily bulbs.
Large fiberglass/molded plastic pots, especially of double-wall construction are preferred, the larger soil mass acts as insulation during both winter cold and summer heat, plus there is room to plant trailing annuals  to drape over the sides and soften the lines.

Pre-moisten potting soil before filling your container.  Place bulbs, pointed top up, roots down, about 4 to 5 inches apart; any closer and you’ll need to divide more than every two to three years.  Put a small plastic label next to the bulb underground for future reference should the top label fade or be lost and cover your bulbs completely, lightly firming the soil.  Water just until you see moisture streaming out of the drainage holes and if needed, top off with fresh soil, leaving about two inches between soil and the top rim of the container.  Add a label topside for easy reference and do not water again until the potting soil is dry two inches below the surface.  Lily bulbs by their very nature are designed to store moisture in the fleshy scales that make up the bulb; they do not swim well, so if you allow their soil to stay constantly wet, the bulbs most likely will rot.

When sprouts emerge, sprinkle one tablespoon of balanced granular fertilizer around, but not touching sprouts.  Water pots as normal, repeating the fertilizer when the flowers are budded and just beginning to open.  We like 5-10-10 or similar formulas, but you can also use a time release mixed into the top two inches of soil.  This simple twice-a-year feeding will keep your lilies in prime shape for up to three years before bulbs need to be divided in autumn or winter.   Top dress in midsummer with compost or aged manure

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