Gardening: Stealing the show

Lilies are much tougher than they look... but you must get it right when planting.
Lilies are much tougher than they look... but you must get it right when planting.
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Lilies are a lot harder than they look – that’s why many are going into the ground right now. Some experts say that as long as the soil isn’t frozen solid, then you can go ahead and plant.

But get it right.

Lilies may be tough, but they demand the best to give of their best. So always plant them in a well-prepared spot in sun or partial shade.

And to ensure they get the right drainage, dig a hole two-and-a-half times the depth of the bulbs and then balance them on little mountains of coarse grit.

If you expect the winter to be particularly severe, finish off by applying a hefty mulch – the emerging shoots need to be protected from frost.

If all that sounds far too complicated or there’s not sufficient room for or the right spot for lilies outdoors in the ground, plant them in containers.

Alternatively, keep them in the pot and give yourself a movable feast. Nowadays, the majority seem to be grown in this way because the gardener can provide them with the ideal conditions they need to thrive.

They will flower slightly earlier than those lilies grown in open ground, but they will require more care and attention. Always try to plant the bulbs as soon as you get them, incorporating plenty of well-rotted leafmould or manure, and a helping of coarse sand to improve drainage. And a bit of bonemeal will be much appreciated.

Use crocks (pieces of broken clay plantpots) to cover the holes at the base of the pot, then plant the bulbs well below the soil/compost surface. Water well.

Next year, after the lilies have finished flowering, pop the pots into a cool greenhouse where they can be kept dry until it’s time to bring them out again. Just renew the compost and the cycle begins again. After a couple of years of this treatment, plant the bulbs in the open garden and buy new for containers.

The most important thing to remember about lilies is that they look their best when they’re not alone.

They thrive in the company of other lilies, so grow them in groups, and if they can be left undisturbed in a border, they will show their gratitude by increasing in number to form colourful clumps which will steal the show from their less-exotic rivals.

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