Lilies forum: Planting pre-chilled bulbs

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Name: Cindi
Wichita, Kansas (Zone 7a)
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CindiKS
Aug 18, 2010 2:07 PM CST
Hello Lily lovers
If I buy pre-chilled bulbs in October, and I'm in zone 6 where first freeze is late October or maybe not until November or some years, maybe even January, would I be taking a huge chance of killing the bulbs by planting them outside?
IF we had the early freeze and the bulbs couldn't grow and bloom, they wouldn't make it, right?
IF I planted the bulbs in pots and brought them indoors if a freeze was imminent, then grew them inside until they finished blooming, then could I plant them outside?
Can they be planted in wintertime as long as the ground isn't frozen? They should have good roots from growing in the pots, right?
I'm looking at the lilies on the co-op over on MamaJack's cubit, and many of the ones I want only come in pre-cooled condition. They would be shipped here in October.
Here in Kansas we have freeze-thaw, freeze-thaw all winter long. Some years we get snow, some years we don't. My lilies generally do fine, but most years I plant them in the spring.
2nd question---I have some in a bag growing without being planted (long story, came from a friend who didn't get around to planting them) and I would like to plant them now.
Any advice or suggestions?
Thanks
Cindi

Remember that children, marriages, and flower gardens reflect the kind of care they get.
H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
Name: Connie
Willamette Valley OR (Zone 8a)
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pardalinum
Aug 18, 2010 9:18 PM CST

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I have been kind of following this discussion and I don't have a firm answer as I have never tried growing "pre-cooled" lilies. But I can provide my opinion of what I think is going on with these lilies.

Oriental lilies naturally bloom in late July-August, then they sit and rejuvenate the bulb prior to being harvested, usually in October. If these bulbs are being sold in October as pre-cooled, that suggests that most likely they were harvested LAST year and kept in a cooler all this time, perhaps just below freezing. That is how they do it in the cut flower industry. When they come out of the cooler they are primed to grow. It is also possible that the bulbs are coming from the southern hemisphere where the seasons are reversed from ours. Either way, the bulb is trying to grow outside of its natural season. It might be ok for places like coastal Southern California where they could then grow all winter long and then bloom earlier than they do for the rest of us.

So I guess the question is, can the bulb survive trying to grow outside of its natural season. I don't think it would be happy in the house because they need cool temperature to grow roots. If they grow the stem without roots, the bulb is depleted due to lack of additional nutrition acquired via the roots. So if you decide to try it, I would go ahead and plant outside. If the sprout freezes that would be it for the entire next year. That would probably be a good thing, then the bulb could concentrate its energy on roots. If this all stresses the bulb too much, it might just decide to save itself by making bulblets at the base of the scales, instead of a stem in the spring. Same with your bagged lilies that have been sitting around-- get them planted. I wouldn't let them bloom, cut any buds off and let them settle in for the winter.

One thing I would like to say is, lilies are a whole different type of bulb compared to say tulips or daffodils. The scales of a lily are really modified leaves that grow underground. On some lilies they can propagate above ground on the stem, drop off, and pull themselves into the ground to grow. When they are out of the ground for too long they get dehydrated. This is why they should be planted as soon as possible when you get them.
Name: Polly Kinsman
Hannibal, NY (Zone 6a)

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PollyK
Aug 18, 2010 9:23 PM CST
I had one bad experiance with pre cooled bulbs.

I had purchased them from Ednie, (where Sunshine gets theirs from), and planted in late fall. Maybe about three years. I had no problem, the bulbs sprouted the following spring.

But then one year we had a warm late fall, and the bulbs sprouted in the fall. The next year nothing at all from them. But then the following year many of the bulbs came back. Some did not.

I think the pre cooled bulbs are meant for the cut flower industry, so flowers can be grown and sold all year to florists.

But, I'm no expert on it.
Name: Connie
Willamette Valley OR (Zone 8a)
Forum moderator Hybridizer Region: Pacific Northwest Lilies Sempervivums Sedums
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pardalinum
Aug 18, 2010 11:54 PM CST

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Polly, thanks for your comments. I was hoping someone with experience would chime in.
Name: Tracey
Wisconsin (Zone 5a)
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magnolialover
Aug 19, 2010 7:46 AM CST

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Precooled lilies seem to work better for spring and not fall. These lilies are all set to grow when placed in a warm temperature. Polly's experience sounds typical. I asked a grower about this years ago and it is not a really great way to go in the fall. No matter how cheap you can get them, the risk of losing them is too great.
Tracey
Name: Cindi
Wichita, Kansas (Zone 7a)
Charter ATP Member Plant and/or Seed Trader Permaculture Roses Ponds Peonies
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CindiKS
Aug 19, 2010 3:28 PM CST
I sure appreciate the input from everyone! It's possible these pre-chilled bulbs are leftovers from spring sales if they've been in the cooler that long. Or they could be from the southern hemisphere, as Connie said. Either way, I will take the advice here and save my money for bulbs that are more likely to survive the extreme climate in Kansas.
Today's mail brought my membership booklet for PNWLS so I'm official!!! yay!
I am sooo looking forward to the fall bulb sale.
The leftover bagged bulbs I have are already sending up stems in the bag. One even has a bloom in the bag. i know with other plants you do conserve energy by not letting a stressed plant bloom, but do lilies "need" the stem's growth to feed the bulb? Or are you saying cut off the blooms, but leave the growing stalk?
Cindi
Remember that children, marriages, and flower gardens reflect the kind of care they get.
H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
Name: Connie
Willamette Valley OR (Zone 8a)
Forum moderator Hybridizer Region: Pacific Northwest Lilies Sempervivums Sedums
Pollen collector I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Database Moderator Charter ATP Member Garden Ideas: Master Level Plant Identifier
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pardalinum
Aug 19, 2010 4:10 PM CST

Moderator

I would cut the blooms off and leave the stem. Cut any buds off on the others. If you have a shady place I would plant them there just for the rest of this season. The stems and leaves need to green up to feed the bulbs but I suspect high heat would not be good for them. Oh, and please report back to us later on how it works out for you. Getting some actual information will help others who may ask the same questions!

Glad to hear you got the PNWLS information. Have you gone to their site and looked at the photos of last springs offerings? It will give you an idea of the choices and pricing you can expect.

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