Growing Liliums (lilies) in Containers

Liliums (lilies) can be grown in containers or troughs and although they are fairly easy in the garden sometimes a container is required. Some collectors of species choose to grow lilies containers where they have more control over growing conditions. Some gardeners choose containers so that lilies can be shown to best advantage, and then, 'put away' after flowering.

You will need a large container as lilium bulbs like to remain cool, and larger containers stay cooler than small ones. You will also need to provide excellent drainage. Add some crock or the material to the container before adding potting soil.

Liliums prefer a sunny position, but a cool root system, protection from hot afternnoon sun and winds is important. Containers can be placed beneath low growing shrubs and the liliums allowed to grow through them, this keeps the rrots cool and provideds some support as well.

Container size

Remember that liliums have relatively extensive root systems, so for a single bulb look for a container 20 - 35 cm in diameter, 30cm plus for 3 bulbs.

Planting depth for liliums in containers

In general lilium bulbs should be planted at around 2 times the height of the bulb, remember than some are 'stem rooting' and others 'basal rooting'. Tiger lilies for example are 'stem rooting' while the 'asiatics' root from the base.

Bulbs are planted 'pointy end' up. Lilium bulbs can be planted from autumn through to early spring. Water in well with a liquid seaweed fertiliser. Remember that lilies are tall growing and may require some support, consider this when choosing a container. A layer of mulch will help retain moisture and keep the roots cool.

Care of liliums in containers

Containers need to be raised of the ground, especially terra cotta pots with drainage situated only in the base of the container. Drainage holes in the base can become blocked and cause the container to flood, and the lilium bulbs to rot. Fertilise with a general purpose slow release fertilizer (try not to over feed), and water with a seaweed fertilizer every second week, keep the soil moist but not wet. Remember to provide support, stakes are best put in place when planting bulbs to avoid damage.

Forcing and Overwintering

Yes you can 'force' lilies in containers by bringing them into a warm position earlier than the normal spring as soon as they begin to show signs of growth. In colder areas lilies in container are best kept in a frost free, but cool position over winter. Try wrapping containers in a fleece, or moving to a frost free position

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John Allman 

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