IN THE GARDEN: Growing and Care of Asiatic Lilies

Thursday, August 3, 2017 - 12:10
  • Lilies (Photo by Chris Wood)

The Lilies are blooming and they are gorgeous! Asiatic hybrids, (Lilium) are hardy Zones 3-10, and easy to grow. Native to Asia, mature plants can reach 1-6 feet and have long glossy leaves. These beauties come in many bold colors. Unlike Oriental Lilies, they have no fragrance. These plants are low maintenance, a perennial, and suffer from few diseases. A definite must have for the Alaskan gardener.

Lilies like full sun, but I have mine in partial shade and they are doing fine. Raised beds and deeply dug soil with rich organic matter of leaves and loam and sand with a little gravel mixed in helps to promote the drainage that lilies need. Lilies like a soil ph of about 5.5-6.5, so don’t add lime. I use matured steer manure around my plants, about 1 inch and I give them a drink of Epsom salts, 1 Tablespoon in a gallon of warm water in the spring and they seem to be thriving and multiplying. You can also use 8-30-15 water soluble fertilizer a couple of times during the growing season to promote a strong bloom.

Grown from bulbs, lilies will rot if too wet. You will want to spread your lilies out when planted as they need space to multiply. Plant your lilies approximately four inches deep for Alaska. Compost, bulb food or bone meal can be added to the soil when first planting.

You can also divide the bulbs and move them around to grow more in different areas of your garden. If you are lucky, your gardening friends will thin out their lilies and this is a good time to pick some up. I never pass on lilies.

Asiatic Lilies grow well in containers. You want a medium to large pot for your lilies that has good drainage. Mix two parts potting mix and one part sand. Place rocks in the bottom of the pot. Lilies are heavy feeders and benefit from a monthly water-soluble potassium rich fertilizer during the growing season. Lilies can grow in your pots for several seasons. To winter over in Alaska, cut the stalks back to the soil line at the end of the season and put in the garage on a cool floor and stop watering them. Lilies need a cold period in order to grow beautiful blooms. Don’t bring your potted lilies in the house as this will prevent them from blooming next year.

Lilies are perfect in a cut flower arrangement and last a long time. Lilies are a favorite to be used in flower shows because they will last and look good for at least the three days of an average show. Florists will use a lily many times as the focal point of a floral design. Pollen stains on your clothes and hands from handling lilies can be problematic. The oil from your hands can set the stains. Some flower shows allow for the removal of the stamen which keeps your exhibit looking fresher longer. A soft dry small paint brush or pipe cleaner will easily remove the pollen off the flower petals.

Here are a few varieties that are Zone 3-4 Alaska hardy:

*Lilium ‘Tiny Sensation’ (Asiatic), Yellow

*Lilium ‘Arcachon’, (L.A.Hybrid Lily), White

*Lilium ‘Frangio’ (L.A. Hybrid Lily), Plum

*Lilium ‘Tiny Ghost’ (Asiatic Lily), Burgundy

*Lilium ‘Tiny Orange sensation’ (Asiatic Lily), Deep Mango orange

Staking may be necessary for the taller varieties. Plan ahead and put a round tomato cage around the plant early and allow the lily to grow into the cage. A tall stake and twine also works well. For taller plants, wind can be problematic so plan ahead. I take all my cages and stakes out for winter to clean and store them.

After the bloom is gone, let the stalk die back naturally, which helps to strengthen the bulb for next year.

I hope that you will give Asiatic Lilies a try in your garden. You will be rewarded with an impressive array of amazing blooms in midsummer just after your spring flowers have faded and a new performance is required.

What varieties of Lilies are you able to grow? I would love to hear from you at,chriswood_ak@yahoo.com.

Remember, we must, “Keep calm and Garden on”

Tour the great gardens

of Greater Eagle River

Join us on Saturday July 22, 2017 for the first annual Greater Eagle River Garden Club garden tour. The tour begins at noon until 4 p.m. and features an array of beautiful gardens. You will see rock gardens, English country style gardens done in perennials, vegetable gardens, private backyard retreats, greenhouses and special trees and bushes not usually grown here.

There will be signs to designate the gardens on the tour. Please consider the following garden tour etiquette when visiting:

Think safety! Park safely on the road and do not block driveways of neighbors. Children must be under parent/guardian control and the use of strollers would not be appropriate. Respect the homeowners and do not pick anything. Stay on the designated paths unless otherwise advised. Enjoy yourself, ask questions and thank the homeowners for sharing.

Garden tour locations:

17118 Santa Maria Drive, Eagle River

17342 Baronoff Ave., Eagle River

17216 Alice Loop, Eagle River

19712 Belduque Court, Chugiak

17538 Santa Maria Drive, Eagle River

19655 Belduque Court, Chugiak

12012 Sweetwater Circle, Eagle River

23746 Goliath Drive, Chugiak

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