Lily Culture

General Instructions: Plant Lily Bulbs Immediately upon Receipt  

Lily bulbs are never completely dormant and need to be planted as soon as possible. You can delay planting for 2-3 weeks by keeping the bulbs in a cool, not frozen (34-40° F.), area of a garage, basement or refrigerator, but longer and you risk bulb damage. You must open the shipping box to check your order and then re-close any plastic bags before short term storage. Our packing material protects your bulbs and absorbs excessive moisture, but if large water droplets form within the plastic bag, poke more “air” holes in the sides of the poly bag, being careful to not damage your sleeping bulbs. Lily bulbs are happiest in the garden where they can begin growing new roots immediately.

Choose an area with good air circulation and well-drained soil. Waterlogged soils, with poor drainage or too much “organics” in the soil mean certain death to lily bulbs. A sloping site with natural drainage is best. When planting in heavy clay, try mixing Perlite (the white crunchy stuff found in commercial potting soil – not Vermiculite that holds moisture) or sand with the native soil to create raised beds 8 to 10 inches above ground level, or make raised beds of garden-safe, treated wood. If bothered by moles, mice or gophers nail 1/4-inch galvanized hardware cloth on the bottom of the framework before you back fill with good soil. Sandy loam soils rich in humus with a pH of 5.5-6.5 are ideal.

Lilies look most natural planted in triangular groups of three, spaced 12”-18” apart. Provide at least 6 hours of sun, dappled shade in very warm regions for Orientals. Cover bulbs with fluffy soil and mulch to control weeds and maintain even ground moisture. Plant bulbs 2”- 4” deeper in areas where daily temperatures average over 90 degrees F. and the soil is sandy. Do not plant among aggressive ground covers or where large trees or shrubs will rob nutrients or moisture. Lily bulbs need regular fertilizer, water, and cultivation. They do NOT “naturalize” like Daffodils or Tulips, which have a hard outer shell. Be sure to mulch bulbs in cold climates if a good winter snow cover is not expected. Likewise, in more temperate areas, cold saturated soil will rot lily bulbs some years, so a raised area and fast-draining soil is recommended.

A short list of Dianna's Recommended Companion plants - how many do you already grow?

Alyssum (Lobularia)
Cosmos – ‘Sonata Series’ is very compact
Dahlia choose varieties that only grow 12-14 inches tall or use as backdrop
Dianthus barbatus ‘Wee Willie’ – plus other shorter growing cultivars
Dillherb with lacy foliage and can't have too much of this when its time to make pickles
Geranium (Pelargonium) – many named cultivars, take your pick
Marigold (Tagetes)  – short varieties are best
Nigella – “Love in a mist” has lacy foliage and pretty pink, white and purple flowers
Pansy great in coastal areas
Papaver  (Poppies) – deep rooted, so will not overrun the bulbs, but some grow quite tall
Penstemon  – choose shorter growing cultivars
Primroses (Primula) – great in coastal areas
Snapdragons  (Floral Showers Series) – old standard types can overwhelm if planted too close
Violets (Viola) – great in coastal areas
Zinnia – choose shorter varieties please

BULBS - all bloom much earlier than lilies and go dormant in summer
Snowdrops (Galanthus)
Grape Hyacinth (Muscari)
Narcissus – choose tiny varieties
Species Tulipsnot the tall hybrids

Alchemilla  erythoropoda  (Lady’s Mantle) compact form
Aquilegia (Columbine) – all forms, I love ‘em!  They seed freely and have great foliage.
Aster (Alpinus and Wood’s Series) – both compact
Aubrieta blooms early and tends to be evergreen, making dense cushions of flowers
Bellis Daisy blooms in spring, not extremely long-lived, but can reseed
Campanula carpaticaavoid C. persicifolia, it even self-sows in our gravel driveway
Gaillardia ‘Arizona Sun’ – needs well drained soil when dormant, I lost mine last winter
Hemerocallis (Daylily)  – short varieties, plant at least 18” from bulbs - they will spread
Heuchera (Coral Bells) – plant at least 12” – 18” from bulbs, makes dense clumps
Peony – keep lily bulbs at least 24” away from peonies which do not need dividing
Papaver – (Oriental poppies) – plant bulbs at least 24’ away from the clump
Primula (Primrose) – likes moist soil in spring, probably best in coastal areas
Pulstatilla – attractive seed heads follow spring flowers, well behaved here
Saxifraga not the “mossy" types that need moist shade
Violets – watch the reseeding

SHRUBS – plant bulbs at least 24” away
Roses – choose Miniatures, Hybrid Tea or shorter growing Rugosa types, depending on your climate
Hardy Fuchsia  – lovely in coastal areas as a backdrop
Azalea –  the bright orange really cheers up our rainy days in spring and some have nice bronze edged foliage in summer
Barberry (Berberis) - Need a thorn barrier?  Cultivars with purple pink leaves are my favorite.
Lavender likes it hot and dry for best flowers, so plant just outside of sprinkler systems or uphill of lilies in a rockery

These are just some of our favorites and bear in mind that some cultivars may become weedy or not be advisable for your local area - so be sure to check with a knowledgeable neighbor or extension service. 

More specialized instructions can be found labeled as "Lily bulb culture"