Lilies are beautiful perennial flowers that grow easily from bulbs and usually bloom around May or June. The bulbs look like small onions but are not as tightly packed. You can easily break off pieces of the bulb so be careful in handing them.
The bulbs can be purchased through many mail order businesses or from garden centers. Planting time is in the fall through very early spring. The more time the bulbs have time to settle in, the better. Planting should be three to four inches deep and six to twelve inches apart.
Garden lilies are hybrids – that is they are bred from various species of the Lilium family. This means that one can find almost any color to plant in the garden. Each bulb will send up a long stalk in the spring reaching a height of two or three feet. A few varieties grow as tall as six feet. Small leaves grow along the stalk to nourish the plant. The long stalks make lilies naturals for bouquets.
Each stalk produces several large, trumpet shaped flowers near the tip. The flowers last a couple of weeks before they wither. The green stalks and leaves should be left alone until they turn brown. The bulbs rebuild their energy stores from the green plants in order to bloom again next year. Most lilies bloom only once a season.
You can extend the bloom season by planting different varieties or planting some lily bulbs in different locations with varying degrees of shade. Plants grown in sunnier spots will get an earlier start since the soil warms more quickly.
Overall, the lily is fairly easy to care for. A half a day of sun is plenty. But anything but a full day of shade will do. The soil does not need to be special though a well drained, moderately rich spot is best. Lilies grow best in climate zones four through eight. In colder areas, put several inches of mulch over the planted area to make sure the bulbs survive. Water in dry weather and work a little fertilizer around the stems after they bloom. Do not cultivate deeply to avoid damage to the bulbs and roots.
Some lilies have strong, sweet fragrance enhancing their appeal. The long necks of the blooms makes them especially attractive to hummingbirds.
To increase plantings, buy more bulbs or dig up the old ones in the fall. Gather some of the small baby bulbs and replant them at least six inches apart. Small bulbs will develop into plants big enough to bloom in a couple of years.
Easter lilies are grown in greenhouses and are not particularity well suited to garden conditions. They are grown for their seasonal appeal and usually discarded in their pots when they cease to bloom. If planted in the garden, an Easter lily will not have the huge trumpet flowers it had when grown under perfect conditions. They will bloom around June if they survive.
Tiger lilies are orange lilies with dark spots on the petals. They are an old fashion type of lily grown in the gardens of our ancestors. Easy to cultivate, they can re-bloom if you pull off the spent flowers to keep them from going to seed. Tiger lilies can take somewhat harsher conditions than the hybrid lilies. Plant them only three inches apart in the fall or early spring.