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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!


The Late Show

I seem to have been waiting forever for my tree lilies to flower – they usually bloom throughout July and are pretty much finished by August, but with the cold, late summer we’re having this year, the little divas are at least 3 weeks late!

Still, they are definitely worth waiting for. Not only are they exquisite to look at, but the scent is quite gorgeous, and in my small, enclosed garden it builds and wafts to all corners on balmy days.

Cezanne was the first to open its petals about a week and a half ago, and here it is:


And for a sense of scale, here is a single bloom, plus (rusty!) ruler:



Honestly, I can’t praise these things enough. I have four plants in an 18″ pot (2 Cezanne, 2 Picasso) and just those four have produced over thirty blooms between them – it’s like having the best-ever bouquet sitting down at the end of my garden for a month every year.

And they’re ridiculously easy to care for. I re-pot them into fresh multipurpose compost at the end of each growing season (or early spring the next year if I don’t get round to it!), water as needed, feed once a week through summer and into autumn (you need to build up the bulb for the next year) and that’s more or less it. They do need a bit of pest control: I pellet for slugs and snails in spring/early summer and keep a lookout for lily beetle through the growing season, but they are relatively trouble-free otherwise.

Their star turn might be brief, but I know I wouldn’t be without them – even if all I had was a windowbox, I’d find a way to grow them!

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 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!…

Tree Lily “Picasso”



It’s the last of my three unknown pollen-free lilies to come into bloom, and the one I’m least sure of identification-wise.

Looking through some online catalogues, I’m fairly certain that my white/pink one is Monet, and my pink one is Cezanne, but this white one is still in doubt.

It ought to be Picasso because those are the three that seem to be sold together as the “Crystal” collection, but the pictures of Picasso appear to show a scattering of dots towards the centre of each petal, which mine don’t have? The petals on mine are almost pure white with just a hint of a green stripe down the centre and definitely dot-less!

Oh well, it’s a lovely thing anyway. It’s the tallest of the three at about 5 foot (should be taller, but in my mini-garden, if it stays this height I’ll be quite happy!), has a delicious scent and produces 4 or 5 large, ice white blooms per stem. It’s also been the keenest to propagate itself as I now have three flowering-size bulbs from my original one:  love it when something so beautiful decides to reproduce and I don’t have to do a thing!

I’ve never made a note of the flowering period, which I suspect won’t be long, but as I’ve said before, these lilies earn their place even in the smallest of gardens because they occupy so little ground space and can be easily grown in pots to be moved into and out of the limelight at the appropriate times.

A cameo performance, maybe, but well worth it!

Lily “Monet”…I think!

Another of my gorgeously-scented, pollen-free lilies opened fully today, and I believe I may have identified it as Monet:


I struggle badly with photographing white/pale flowers, and as usual, this image is a bit on the bleached side, but it’s close enough – there’s actually a better picture of it that I’m using as the background of the blog, but it’s not from this year so it would feel a bit like “cheating” to post it here where everything is meant to be current.

If it is indeed Monet, it’s rather short for a tree lily at only 4½ foot or so (should be nearer 8 foot!), but to be honest, smaller is better in my garden, so I’m not at all bothered that it’s a bit of an underachiever. The blooms are large, measuring about 7½ inches across, they are beautifully coloured with a subtle wash of pink over white and a dusting of pink dots, and they smell absolutely glorious – that’s all I could ask!

Care-wise, it needs staking or it would be flat on its face by July, and I’ve been diligent with the watering and feeding to try to get the best from it, but otherwise, it seems a pretty fuss-free plant.

It probably belongs in the “Spectacular But Brief” category, and as such should be under threat of removal in my teeny, tiny garden, but it earns its position by virtue of occupying much more vertical space than horizontal: an 18″ pot holds 6 of these stately beauties, and it can of course be moved aside once the display is over, so no ugly gap need be left.

Definitely one I’d recommend.