The new season's lilies are currently available in garden centres.
They are normally planted out from May to September, but should be planted as soon as the bulbs are purchased.
The reason for this is that the bulbs never completely stop growing. It can be fatal if they are allowed to dry out.
Existing bulbs need not be lifted unless the clumps have become too congested and this is normally done about every four to five years.
Division is done at this time of the year while they are semi-dormant and the soil is moist.
Carefully dig around the clump so that you can lift the whole clump, bulbs, roots and soil.
Place the lifted clump on newspapers or a sack and, starting on the outside, carefully separate the bulbs with as much of their roots as possible. Some root loss will occur but as long as each bulb has a reasonable amount of roots they should be fine.
As you separate the bulbs place them into one of three piles, small, medium and large. Do not allow the bulbs to become dry.
The large bulbs will go back into the garden after revitalising the soil where they came from.
Use compost mixed into the soil, a bit of Rok Solid or Ocean Solids, some blood and bone along with Fruit and Flower Power. Space the large bulbs about 16 centimetres apart, giving room for new clumps to form.
The medium size bulbs would be ideal for containers where they may flower this coming Christmas or the next.
Use a mix of friable compost with a bit of soil added in, along with the other products mentioned above, planted about 8cm apart so you can have a few bulbs in a larger container.
The small bulbs are best planted in a nursery bed either in a spare bit of garden or in a tray that is about 8cm or more deep.
The spacing of these need be only a couple of centimetres apart. The nursery bed preparation is similar to above. When these small bulbs have grown larger, they can be transplanted one winter into pots and later into gardens. The only nitrogen fertiliser to use is blood and bone when planting – do not use any sheep manure, cattle or fowl manure.
The reason for this is that even through the bulbs need food, they don't want too much nitrogen as this can cause excessive growth and lack of flowers.
A very important aspect of growing lilies is if you cut the flowers later on in the year, then leave at least one-third of the stem on the bulb with the leaves intact.
The reason why some gardeners don't have flowers every year is because they have been too ruthless in cutting long stemmed flowers, leaving little or no foliage. The foliage is the way the bulb gathers energy from the sun.
Simple rule: "No leaves, no flowers, Few leaves, few flowers".
The solution for those that want to cut long stems of flowers is to have a good number of bulbs planted of each type and cut flowers off one-third of the plants each season.
If you are confused by the different types currently available, this may help: patio lilies are especially good for growing in containers, though all lilies can be grown in suitable sized containers; patio lilies are the dwarf ones which grow to about 40cm tall.
The most important thing to look for in buying lilies is that the bulbs and root systems have not dried out.
Check the packaging for this aspect.
If the roots have been allowed to dry out then the bulbs will very likely fail.
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