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Propagating lilies: 6th update

I thought it might be time once again to show my motley collection of tree lilies, originally propagated from a handful of scales back in September 2014.

Though they were all started at the same time from a single bulb, they vary considerably in their development: some are only a few inches high, whilst others are much taller and about to bear a flower for the first time!

Here they are as a group:


And here are some closer shots:

DSCF3552mblog DSCF3553mblog


The bulblets all seemed to be of very similar size when I potted them on into their current containers, so how they’ve ended up like this I’ve no idea. They all had the same compost and feed and spent the winter/spring lined up next to one another against a south-facing fence, so I wasn’t expecting quite such a difference between individuals – the shortest measures a mere 4 inches (10cm) and the tallest 24 inches (60cm). I can’t even blame pests or disease because none of the plants have been attacked by anything as far as I’m aware.

If I were being practical and space-conscious I suppose I would ditch the weakest ones, but, of course, I want to know if they eventually catch up and make garden-worthy plants, so I’m keeping them all – for now, at least.

My next update will hopefully include flowers – can’t wait!


Propagating lilies: 5th update (one year on)

It’s actually 14 months since I began this particular propagation project in September 2014, but it’s almost a year to the day since I took the following photograph, which showed that new plants were definitely on their way!

On 10th November 2014, I had this:


and now, on 15th November 2015, I have this:


Okay, it is nowhere near flowering size yet and probably won’t be for at least another year and a half, but I was aware before I began that propagating bulbs is a long process requiring considerable patience, so I am not at all disappointed.

In fact, I almost think I enjoy this sort of thing because of the wait, not in spite of it. In an age when so many desires can be instantly gratified I like that some things cannot be hurried – just imagining how excited I’ll feel when I spot that first flower bud after years of waiting puts a smile on my face.

And with any luck, there will be more than one plant. I have at least nine still going strong, so I have a good chance of getting several to maturity – some to keep and some to give away, hopefully!

As ever, I don’t really know what I’m supposed to do at this stage of their development, but I reckon they’re big enough to survive the British winter outdoors, so that’s where they’ll stay. They are in various sizes of pot, some singly, others in groups, so it will be interesting to see which do best from this point. At the moment, having dug a few up to inspect them and replant them a bit deeper, there looks to be very little difference in size or health, so we shall see.


Propagating lilies: 4th update

Time for another look at my tree lily propagation project.

It’s nearly two months since I potted most of them up, and they seem to be coming along nicely  (apart from the one that was eaten by a slug overnight!): lilies-mid-july

What I find curious is that some of them have thrown up a single stalk as if they were about to flower like the parent plant, whilst the others have no main stem and are forming a rosette of leaves at ground level instead. Why this difference exists I have no idea, but when I came to pot them on, it seemed to be that it was the smaller bulbs producing the single stem and the larger bulbs producing the rosette: lilies-side-by-side

Looking at the two side by side, I can’t help thinking the bulb with the rosette looks the stronger and healthier of the two and is better placed to grow on more effectively, but who knows? I’ve potted them on into larger pots of multi-purpose compost mixed with a little perlite for extra drainage and will label them so that I can keep an eye on them as they develop and note any differences in growth and habit next year. I’m fascinated to find out, I have to say!

As for the plant that was eaten by the slug, I was going to chuck it straight in the compost bin (I’m not exactly short of lilies!) but, of course, I had to see what was under the compost, and it turns out to be a perfectly healthy-looking little bulb with a decent root system: eaten-bulb

…so, naturally, I’m keeping it!  I’ve put it back in its pot in some new compost and will see how it fares.

So, here they all are, freshly potted on, including a pot (the largest one) that I left as a group having decided not to separate them from the parent scale to see if it made any difference to the speed of development: lilies-potted-on-22nd-july

One thing that did concern me as I was potting them on was how deep to bury them. When you plant dormant bulbs you are supposed to cover them with around twice their height in soil, but these of course are not dormant, so I presume that they should be covered more or less to the depth they were previously? That’s what I ended up doing, so I hope it’s right! I’ll keep them out of hot sun (assuming we get any!) for the next week or so whilst they re-establish, then grow them on in a nice light position until the end of the season when I shall have to decide how to over-winter them: coldframe? sheltered position in the open air? Not sure yet…and I’ll probably change my mind a dozen times knowing me! I expect I’ll hedge my bets and do both…:)

Propagating lilies: 3rd update

Time for a progress report on my lily propagation project, which started at the back end of last summer.

In February I posted a picture showing the new plantlets having sprouted a single leaf each:


They stayed like that for a few months, during which time I hardened them off to outside conditions. Then at the beginning of May I started to notice more growth, so I reckoned it would soon be time to investigate what was going on below the surface. I finally got around to doing this today, and here is what I found when I knocked them out of the pots:


Perfect little replicas of the parent bulb complete with tiny scales, measuring about the size of a 20p piece. Here is a slightly closer view:


They were still attached to the scales from which they grew, so I very carefully broke them off before I photographed them and then potted them up individually into 7cm pots of multipurpose compost.

I sincerely hope that my timings are right and that I’ve done what I’m supposed to do. It may be that you’re meant to leave the new mini bulbs attached to the parent scale until it rots away rather than breaking them off to fend for themselves, but I haven’t been able to find out one way or the other, so I’ve taken a chance!

I’ve put them back in my coldframe in the shade for the time being to give them a bit of protection, so we’ll see what happens next. Fingers crossed!

Propagating lilies: 2nd update

Finally got around to taking a photo today:


Coming along nicely!

The sprouted scales were potted up 3 months ago into 10cm (4in) pots of fairly fibrous multipurpose compost and placed by my north-facing patio doors to keep them as cool as possible in this centrally-heated house.

By early December I started to see the first grass-like shoots poking out of the compost, and now I would appear to have 10 new plants on their way – apparently, each scale is capable of producing more than one new plant, which is great if you really want to bulk up your stock.

I’m keeping them in the house for now, but it probably isn’t ideal – I suspect they’d be better off in a cool greenhouse, but I don’t have one of those, unfortunately! – and I’ll look to move them outside to my coldframe as soon as the weather is clement enough (hopefully in March sometime).

It will be at least a couple of years before they reach flowering size, but I know they’re gorgeous, so well worth the wait!

Propagating lilies: update

Well, it worked!




I’ve been checking for signs of growth periodically over the last couple of weeks, and on opening the bag today I found that six of the nine are definitely on their way to producing new plants. Why the remaining three appear to have failed I don’t know, but as they haven’t shrivelled or rotted yet I’ll leave them in the bag and see what happens – perhaps they’re just dawdling! In any case, I have more than enough for my needs, so if nothing comes of them it doesn’t matter.

In the end I didn’t put the bag in the airing cupboard as I thought it might get forgotten in there, but instead put it on the top of my tropical fish tank hood, the warmth from which has proved handy for germinating seeds in the past. I noticed that the scales showing most development seemed to be those closest to the bottom of the bag, so perhaps being nearest the heat source helped them?

Next step will be to pot up the scales that have reproduced and keep them on a windowsill to tick over through the winter until I can plant them out next spring – hopefully that bit will be as easy as getting them to start growing, but knowing me, probably not!

Anyway, I’d encourage anyone with dormant lily bulbs to have a go at this: you have to be patient, but it costs virtually nothing to do and really couldn’t be simpler!

Propagating lilies from scales

Inspired by this video , I decided to have a go at propagating one of my tree lilies today.

The lily in question is this one, “Monet”:


My other two tree lilies (“Picasso” and “Cezanne”) have seen fit to reproduce of their own accord over the years, but this one never has, so I’m giving it a helping hand.

As per the video, here is what I did:

1. Sourced the bulb, which in this case meant carefully digging it out of its pot:


The plant finished flowering over a month ago and is heading for winter dormancy, so a bit of messing around with it won’t hurt it at this time of the year.

2. Cleaned off the soil from around the bulb and peeled off a handful of the outer scales:


They come off pretty easily, like separating cloves of garlic from a bulb. The lady in the video above says to take about 6 or 7, but I think I took a few more than that – 8 or 9, maybe:


3. Then I put them in a plastic bag of slightly damp compost (not too wet or I imagine they’ll rot), labelled them and placed them somewhere dark and warm (the airing cupboard).



I finished up by replanting the parent lily bulb, and hopefully the job was a good ‘un!

Now it’s just a question of waiting, checking the scales from time to time, and in a couple of months there should be signs of new plants growing at the base of them, which can then be potted up for growing on.

I’ve never tried this before, so I shall be ridiculously excited if it works – watch this space!…