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Lilies 101

Lilies are one of those plants that offer a big return on your investment. Just a little effort in planting the bulbs will reap years of fragrant, colorful blooms. Lilium is a large family of plants and some are easier to grow than others. Three common types are Asiatic, Oriental and Trumpet.

Asiatic Lily

Asiatic Hybrids — One of the most carefree summer bulbs that I grow in my garden are Asiatic lilies. They are perfect for cutting gardens and containers. I like to add five to 10 bulbs to my raised vegetable garden so I will have plenty on hand to use as cut flowers later in the summer. Asiatics are early to bloom and easy to grow. They don't have much fragrance but they make up for it in color.

Stargazer Lily

Oriental Hybrids — Like a Southern grand dame dressed in her Sunday best, Oriental lilies are bright, flamboyant and heavily perfumed! I can't imagine my garden without these royal beauties. They will perform well in partial shade.

Trumpet Lily

Trumpet and Aurelian Hybrids — The lilies in this group tend to bear striking trumpet-shaped blooms on tall stalks. Many are quite fragrant too. The flowers are so large the plant may require staking.

Planting Lily Bulbs

Lilies are planted as bulbs in fall or early spring. If you plant in fall be sure to mark the area so you'll know to look out for emerging growth. I've unknowingly stepped on the tender shoots more than once and it's completely devastating.

When you pick out bulbs at the garden center look for ones that are fresh and firm with plenty of white roots. Lily bulbs never go completely dormant like daffodil and tulip bulbs so you should handle them with more care.

Select a spot that receives the right amount of sunlight for the type of lily you are planting. For instance, an Asiatic lily appreciates full sun while an Oriental lily can take partial shade.

All lilies need good drainage. Wet, soggy soils are the kiss of death. To ensure good drainage I pour a little sand in the bottom of the planting hole. You can also get around heavy soil by planting lilies in containers or raised beds.

Dig a hole big enough to accommodate the bulb and roots. Plant small bulbs 3 to 4 inches deep, and larger bulbs 4 to 6 inches deep. Gently place the bulb in the hole, cover with soil and water in. That's it!

After your lilies bloom, just cut off the top of the stalk. Also when you cut blooms for using in arrangements, take no more than one third of the stem. The idea is to leave enough foliage so the plant can build up energy in the bulb for next year's blooms.