Saturday, June 14, 2014

Be mindful of lily bulblets.

Oriental bulblets in spring.
As you well know, not all green leaves emerging are weeds.

What are those odd looking single leaves at the base of an established lily?  Lily bulbs have a built in process for creating offspring; tiny nodules may form at the base of the bulb (basal plate bulblets), along portions of the underground stem (stem bulblets), or even with a few Asiatic lilies, at the base of a leaf where it attaches to the above ground stem (aerial bulblets).

The leaves shown in the right photo are of Oriental bulblets.  They typically will be wide and slightly rounded.  The bulblets under ground are not much larger than the eraser on a pencil.

Basal Plate Bulblets

'Candlestick' Basal Plate Bulblets.

This is the most common way for a lily bulb to divide, by simply forming new growth at the bottom of the bulb.

See the three large bulblets at the base of this bulb of 'Candlestick'?  They will put up a small stem, with one flower each.

Asiatic lilies and Lilium longiflorum hybrids are quicker to divide, sometimes three or more new bulbs can form each summer, which may bloom for you the following year. 

'Belonica' double-flowered Oriental.

Oriental Lilies

Oriental lilies can be erratic for propagating, only producing side bulblets on some cultivars if the growing season is good, and enjoying even amounts of moisture, fertilizer and fluffy soil to grow an expansive root system.  The usual method of quickly increasing bulbs is to "scale" the lily in fall, see "Scale Production" on our website.

Most Oriental bulblets grow slower than Asiatic hybrids, usually needing three years of additional care before they mature enough for us to offer on

'Donato' Orienpet lily.
OT Lilies
OT (Orienpets or Oriental-Trumpet Hybrids) have similar growth patterns as do regular (purebred) Oriental lilies.  They make fewer basal plate and underground stem bulblets (see below), and therefore take longer to propagate commercially.  Most years, bulbs will simply get larger and larger, until they naturally divide into two or three flowering size bulbs.
Purebred Trumpet lilies are similar, and after a few years of growing undisturbed, can be the size of a small cantaloupe. 

Stem Bulblets - on all types of lily bulbs

Asiatic bulblets along the underground stem.

Attached to the underground stem, and tucked within the new feeder roots produced every year, offshoots (bulblets) are an exact genetic duplicate of the original flowering bulb.  

These are easily removed in fall after the foliage has matured from green to brown and winter is approaching.  Simply pull the old crispy-brown stem out of the ground and gently dig down above the mother bulb to harvest the bulblets.

Choose a protected nursery bed with only 2 or 3 inches of soil covering the tops for the first year.  After the garden has frozen for winter, add a bit of mulch so you do not forget where they are planted. While we are harvesting bulbs in fall, bulblets are saved either for propagation or to sell as a mixed bag of bulblets at flower shows in spring. 

Arial bulblets are the little black colored offshoots that grow at the base of each leaf on an old-fashioned, orange colored tiger lily (Asiatic).  Some modern hybrids that have it in their breeding background will also exhibit this trait.  We do not grow "Tiger" hybrids here, partially because any bulblets that drops off the stem, or are missed during harvest will grow, causing all sorts of havoc.  There would be out of place, rogue lilies in the field two years later as they begin to grow within the carefully planted row.  However, the primary reason for not growing them is because they can be a "Typhoid Mary" in the garden.  See our Knowledge Base, Lilium lancifolium for more information.)

See  Dig 'n Divide - Lilies for Fee - Easy How-to  on our website,