How to Grow Lilies

Lily regale Lily in mixed border with Phlox, Achillea and Monarda Lily citronella


How to Grow Lilies 

Lilies are an easy to grow summer flowering plant with large, showy, and often fragrant flowers, which make a fantastic statement in the border.  There are a confusing number of  types of Lilies,  the most cultivated for the garden are L. Regale first image top left,  the oriental  lilies  shown in the second image, and illustrated  right the Martagon, Turkscap, where the petals recurve creating a very attractive flower shape.  Lilies are grown for their showy flowers many of which are scented, and strongly scented. Lily regale (1st image left)  has fragrant flowers, and as you can see in the image each flower stem supporting 6 flowers. Lilies als make great companion plants  and look good grown in mixed borders,  and the 2nd centre image is in a border with Phlox, Achillea and Monarda, the very friendly bee balm.  Lilies are easy to grow  green wheelbarrow easy to growand thrive best in a sunny spot, or in dappled shade,  with well drained soil and are suitable to grow in the border or in pots. Lilies in pots are useful to fill gaps in the borders, and on a patio, where their lovely scent can be best enjoyed.

Where and When to plant Lilies

Lily are bulbs which are best planted in the autumn, to a depth two and a half /three  times the bulb size around 10 /15cms deep. If you miss the Autumn planting Lilies can also be planted in the spring up around the end of March/early April. Lilies will  grow in any soil, but if your soil is heavy, Lilies will benefit from added grit to improve drainage. As with all bulbs, the flat end with embryo roots goes downwards and the pointy end at the top.

Apart from problems with Lily beetle, Lilies are really easy which is why there is not much more to say. Some species of Lily have specific soil requirements,  the Orientals, which are very popular and commonly grown, are lime haters  and usually the packet will state any specific planting requirements.  All Lilies like a rich soil and will benefit from feed after flowering. 

Lily bulbs can be planted from late Autumn until early Spring and are really trouble free.  One point to note is that the RSPCA has stated that all parts of the Lily can be poisonous to cats. Also worth noting is that lilies can be short lived, which is true of a  number of garden plants and the taller varieties may benefit from staking. Flowering and longevity will be improved by regular feeding in the growing season. Use a feed high in Potash which will be marketed as promoting flower growth. 

Lilies are ideal for growing in  containers, which add scent and colour to the patio. If growing in containers, to ensure you can plant them at the requisite depth of 10cms the container needs to be at least 30cms to provide a good cool root run which will not easily dry out. If growing in containers it is best to re pot annually, or at least every two years. Container grown Lilies will require regular feeding. If your soil is very heavy clay, it maybe better to grow Lilies in containers. 

Some Lilies are easier to grow than others, fortunately the very popular and showy Lilium regale, 1st image top left, will grow in most soils as long as it is not water logged. Also easy to grow are Lilium lancifolium, the tiger lily

Plants  that look look good with lilies

Lilies are a  versatile garden plant which look good with many different plants which the above centre image shows well.  Equally Lilies make a great statement planting on their own, (image left) also look excellent with Nepeta  which would create clouds of blue around the base where Lilies can be bare; alongside Cotinus 'Royal Purple' providing contrast between the dark red- purple foliage of the shrub and the white light lily.  

The Lily beetle

Lily Beetle The main pest is red lily beetle which is illustrated and it is a problem when growing Lilies, and it will also attack Fritillaria. It is not a native and first arrived in the UK 1939. Lily beetles are bright red which makes them easy to see but not easy to catch. They are about 8mm long and are best controlled by hand. There are pesticides such as bug clear, but the non pesticide way is to pick them off. Unchecked they will eat the plant, so it is necessary either to spray with with a bug killer or remove by a swift crushing by fingers, a bit unpleasant, but effective.

To crush the Lily beetle you have to be quick. The lily beetle has a party trick to evade it's predators. It seems to sense your presence  and as soon as it does it will quickly jump off and drop down hiding amongst the plant foliage. The best way is to be quick, spot it, crush it.