Lilies are one of the most exciting bulbs to grow, with scent, scale and drama that’s hard to beat in the flower world.
They have been a mainstay of Australian gardens for a long time as they are tough and wonderfully obliging.
I adore lilies. Restraint is my problem as there are hundreds to choose from. They’re not fussy. They fill the summer garden with sweet scents and stunning colour. They are set and (almost) forget bulb; there’s no need to lift and store them over winter, so plant them where they won’t be disturbed, and they will look gorgeous for years. In fact, they just multiply and get better. I love them so much that I plant the overflow in pots.
I dare you to go online now, drool over the dozens of varieties available, and not be tempted to buy too many. Let me know how you go. At this time, there are good deals as the buying season finishes and the planting season begins. The best time to plant lilies is late May and June. This gives the bulbs time to make strong root growth before top growth commences.
How to grow lilies
Choose a spot with morning sun or filtered shade, as full sun will bleach their beautiful blooms. Ensure the soil is well-drained and enriched with compost, leaf-mould or well-rotted organic matter. If you have moist, boggy soil, bed your bulbs into a layer of grit or sand to prevent the bulbs rotting in prolonged wet weather. Additionally, you can plant the liliums on their side to prevent moisture being trapped inside the bulb.
Plant them at least 15cm deep in groups of three or five for best effect. Place a strong stake with your bulbs at planting time as most varieties grow tall and need support. Doing this later may result in you damaging the bulb with the stake. Take care not to overwater the newly planted liliums as these bulbs are susceptible to rotting.
As soon as we see new shoots emerge, we give our lilies a dressing of home-made compost enriched with pelletised manure to add the nutrition that lilies need. We also sprinkle snail pellets around because snails can eat out the flower bud at a very early stage, leaving lots of stem growth but no flowers. As plants grow, use soft ties to secure stems to stakes.
After flowering has finished, allow the foliage to completely die down so that all the nutrients go back in the bulb, ready for next year’s flower. A second dressing of compost will also help.
Burnished and beautiful old orange Tiger Lilies have been a mainstay of Australian gardens for a long time – I remember them in my grandfather’s garden in the 1950s. These new selections are just as tough but come in exciting new colours.
Pearl Lilies are a new group of Tiger Lilies bred for garden display with shorter stems that don’t need staking. These ‘New Age’ lilies are hardy cultivars with flowers that last well in both gardens and vases. In creating these lilies, breeders have taken well-loved heritage varieties and made them better, stronger and more disease resistant.
‘Pearl Jessica’ is the pick of them, a delightful musk pink with chocolate freckles. The reverse of the petal has a green streak along the curve. The flowers
are outward to downward facing. Excellent cut flowers with up to 12 opening on a single stem.
‘Sweet Surrender’ is a hardy, multi-flowering bulbs that has strong stems and a gorgeous selection of colours, all with chocolate spots. The white, recurved blooms of ‘Sweet Surrender’ crowd the tall stems, with up to 20 flowers. It will reach a height of 1.2m and spread 0.5m after 2-5 years.
Orientals are the largest and most flamboyant of all lilies and also, the most fragrant. Flowers are produced on strong, tall multi-flowered stems. A vase will fill a house with their intense fragrance. Orientals are easily grown, the most heat tolerant of all lilies.
Lilium ‘Miss Lily’ - This stunning lily will grow to 2m tall and carry 40 lightly fragrant flowers per stem. Each bloom measures 20cm in diameter with a green star at its heart, deep mahogany centres and white edges.
Sumo Oriental ‘Rio Negro’ is opulent, tough, fragrant and glamorous. The large 13cm magenta blooms are heavily spotted with a fine white edge to each petal. Sumo lilies are the largest of the lilium bulbs, so you can expect plenty of flowers.
Where to buy
Van Diemens Quality Bulb: www.vdqbulbs.com.au
Drewitts Bulb: www.drewittsbulbs.com