The Q&A Archives: No Blooms and Brown Leaves on Lilies in the Desert

Question: I have 5 fortnight lillies that have been planted for 3 yrs and they have never bloomed. The leaves also are either completely brown, or the tips of them are brown. I read that they like to stay moist, so they are getting plenty of water.

Answer: We're glad you enjoy the site! A couple of ideas come to mind for your problems.

First, watering correctly is an essential part of a healthy garden in the desert. It's best to water slowly and deeply, to keep the soil moist to a depth of about one foot. Frequent light waterings that just moisten the top soil can cause an accumulation of salts, which is harmful to the plant roots. Salt burn usually shows up as brown edges on leaves and then eventually the whole leaf turns brown and crispy. To determine if you are watering deeply enough, poke a sharp stick or metal rod in the soil. It will move easily through moist soil and stop at dry, hard soil, so you can tell how deep your watering is reaching. Also, a 2-3 inch layer of mulch will help prevent your soil from drying out so quickly and will also maintain cooler soil temperatures in your hot sun area.

As for no blooms, that sounds like a lack of phosphorous. Here?s some basic info on fertilizer and nutrients that plants require. The numbers on a fertilizer bag refer to the percentage of N (nitrogen), P (phosphorous), and K (potassium) in the bag. There are different formulations for different purposes. In general terms, nitrogen produces lush green growth, phosphorous helps strengthen stems and produce flowers, and potassium keeps the root system healthy. In reality, these elements work in conjunction with one another. You're interested in blooms, so apply a formulation lower in nitrogen and higher in phosphorous and potassium, such as a 5-10-10. Miracle-Gro's Plant Food at 15 30-15 is another example. Bone meal is an organic source of phosphorous. Since phosphorous doesn't move as readily through the soil as does nitrogen, it's a good idea to mix a small amount (follow package instructions) into the hole before transplanting, to mix it into the soil before sowing seeds, or to scratch it into the soil along side existing plants. Also, keep adding compost every year. Organic matter is excellent for soil fertility and contains many essential trace elements, such as magnesium. I hope this information helps.

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