Looking after Lily... Question time with Warwickshire College plantsman, Bob Hares

PUBLISHED: 18:20 02 August 2011 | UPDATED: 19:48 20 February 2013

Lilium ‘Red Ace’

Lilium ‘Red Ace’

Question time with Warwickshire College plantsman, Bob Hares

Q I have been growing lilies for a few years, some of which have been in the same position in the garden for a number of years. I read somewhere that the bulbs should be transplanted in September, and as my own lilies have been in the same position for some time I would appreciate your advice on this.

A If your lilies are still doing well in the situation you planted them in, I would leave them and only transplant (September is a good time to do this) if they show any signs of deterioration. Some lilies will go on for years in the same spot, while others require regular transplanting. So if theyre looking good leave well alone!

QAny tips on growing lilies in pots?

AIt is important to start with healthy and strong bulbs, which usually appear for sale in the autumn and early winter. Pot these as soon as they become available, using a good quality general purpose potting mix, with the bulbs not quite touching and covered with four to four inches of compost. I like to place the pots in a shed or unheated greenhouse until shoots emerge in late winter or spring, keeping the compost just moist, but not soaking wet. The pots can then be placed in a sheltered part of the garden, and when the plants are full growth, water as necessary and, most importantly, feed regularly with a high potash liquid feed. (Many lilies can be quite greedy!) When flowering has finished, gradually reduce watering and feeding as the plants begin to look tired, and then you may like to save these for planting out in early autumn, or the following spring. Growing lilies in containers can be very rewarding, and with good culture, you may be surprised at the wonderful quality of the bulbs you have at the end of the year.

QLast year my lilies where ruined by lily beetles, in spite of killing many of the little beasts, and I am reluctant to spray. I have even considered giving up the growing of these lovely plants because of this problem. Can you offer me any encouraging advice?

AI find that with a little practice you can learn to spot these brightly-coloured red beetles more easily, and even if they are hidden in lush lily leaves, their presence is betrayed very quickly by nibbled leaves, especially in the growing tips. If you grow a few different types of lilies, you may well find that, like many pests, the beetles will prefer a certain cultivar to another, and if this is so, you can use this as a type of early warning system, by checking these first. So there is no need to stop growing these wonderful plants if you are able to check them regularly, and if spraying is necessary, the control can be very effective. â– 

Bob Hares provides a FREE gardening advice service to Royal Horticultural Society members every Monday at Pershore College from 9am to 4.30pm. Personal visits are by appointment. Bobs advice line telephone number is 01386 551145.


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