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Problematic lilies

Photo: Russell McGeorgeLAST year I purchased some Asiatic lilies. All flowered except one. Two stalks came up but instead of flowers a lot of little black bulbs grew in their place. This year the same thing has happened. I planted the little bulbs. Will they flower or take after the parent bulb? Hope you can explain the trouble.

 

WITHOUT examining them, it's hard to say why the bulb would produce stalks which failed to flower. Perhaps, in the early stages of growth, the shoot tips were attacked by slugs or snails and the tiny flower buds eaten. Is it the same bulb this year that failed to flower last year? If so, I'd be tempted to throw it away and keep only those that flowered well.

Many lilies do produce small bulbs (bulbils) on the flower stems and you can propagate them this way. The new plants will have the same growth habit and flower colour of the parent. Your lilies that did flower well should also produce some bulbils. To encourage them to do so, cut off the flower heads as soon as they're spent, but leave the leafy stem intact. Wait until the leaves start to yellow then carefully pick off the bulbils. Treat them like large seeds, gently pressing them into the surface of seed-raising mix in a pot or tray, then sprinkle sand or more mix over them so they're buried just below the surface. Keep moist in a sheltered spot and eventually new growth will appear. You'll need to grow them on for two or three years, in pots or in the garden, until the new bulbs reach flowering size.

Weekend Gardener, Issue 135, 2003, Page 27

Reproduced with permission from the former Weekend Gardener magazine. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the RNZIH.

Andrew Maloy Weekend Gardener


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