The Q&A Archives: lilies

Question: what is the best way to divide them with out hurting the bulbs?

Answer: Late September and early October is prime time to divide and transplant lilies. It?s best to use a garden fork to carefully dig and lift the clump. Try not to use a shovel or a spade because it?s very easy to cut the bulbs in half. Be prepared to dig deeper than you originally planted the bulbs. Pull the clump out of the ground and begin to remove some of the dirt. You may want to hose off the clump so you can better see the bulb divisions and all the little bulblets that have formed. Separate the larger bulbs and pull the small bulblets away from the stem. The clumps of some varieties may be a little hard to break apart and a twisting motion might be necessary to separate them. Before replanting, remove this year?s stem from of the top of the bulb. You may notice many roots along the stem above the bulb. They are called ?stem roots? and they help to anchor the bulb in the ground. They absorb nutrients during the summer growing season and this is where many bulblets are formed.

Plant the bulbs 4 ? 6 inches deep, larger bulbs being the deepest. The smaller bulblets should be planted only 1 ? 2 inches deep. Contractile roots that come out of the basal plate at the bottom of the bulb will actually self-adjust. If the lily needs more nutrients or moisture, you may find the bulb you planted 4 inches deep a few years ago has pulled itself deeper and is now 8 or even 10 inches under the surface. Lilies are quite amazing.

Larger bulbs will probably produce blooms the next summer. Smaller bulbs may take a year or two to bloom and are well worth planting to increase the future size and beauty of your lily garden.

Enjoy your garden!

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