Wednesday, August 7, 2013

When to "Cut Back" Lily Stems

Work while the weather is pleasant - in early morning or evening.  By only watering in the morning you will ensure that the leaves are dry before nightfall, reducing fungus concerns, especially if you are using an overhead irrigation system.

Freshen the appearance of your garden by simply removing faded flowers once a week, which involves very little time or effort. As flowers finish, cut off the top portion of the stem just below where the flowers were (see arrow on photograph), but do not cut off more leaves than necessary because the bulb still needs them for next year through photosynthesis.

Removing faded flowers will help camouflage maturing stems and direct attention to nearby shrubs and other perennials. 

  • Cut back any lily stem to ground level that has completely browned, usually mid August to late August for Asiatics and late September/October for Orientals.  Where you live, and the summer temperatures, will dictate “when” is the best time for your garden.  Generally speaking, when lily leaves have turned from green to yellow over most of the stem, you can safely cut them back completely. Do not pull still green stems out of bulbs as you risk doing serious damage. Until stems are fully brown and crispy, there is enough moisture in stems to tear tissues within the bulb centers, opening up the possibility of them rotting over winter.
  • If lily bulbs are in pots by themselves, continue to keep the soil slightly moist, but don't over saturate the planting media - lilies never go completely dormant, even when there is no top growth.
  • If you have other plants in the container, continue to water as usual because those actively growing plants will absorb the extra moisture.

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