The Q&A Archives: Planting Asiatic Lillies

Question: I just bought some Asiatic lilly bulbs but they came with very incomplete directions. When, and how deep should they be planted?

Answer: Lily bulbs should be planted as soon as possible, preferably within a few days of purchase, because they don't take well to "sitting around and waiting." So plant them as soon as the ground has thawed and the soil can be worked. If you must wait more than a few days, store them in damp peat moss. Lilies are hardy, so frost shouldn't harm the plants. Generally, lilies should be planted as deep as three times their diameter. When planting, bear in mind that lilies make more of an impact when planted in clumps, so its a good practice to plant them in groups of three or five, spaced about 12 inches apart. Fall has been the traditional time to plant lilies. However, many Oriental and trumpet lilies mature too late in the season for growers to dig and ship them before the winter freeze-up. Therefore, they're often unavailable until spring. Whether you plant in the fall or spring, water the bulbs well after planting. Every day is not too much for newly planted lily bulbs.

Fertilize for bloom and foliage Lilies are "heavy feeders", requiring nitrogen for good leaf growth and phosphorous and potassium to promote good blossoms and plump bulbs. In the spring, scratch a 5-10-15 fertilizer into the soil around the lily bed. Follow with repeated applications every four to six weeks throughout the growing season.

Keep lilies blooming by removing blossoms as they fade. This prevents the plant from expending all of its energy producing seed. Better the bulb spends its time making more flowers! When snipping off the dead flower though, be careful not to cut back the entire stem. Lilies need all of their green leaves and stem to help manufacture and store food for next season.

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