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How do I grow hardy lilies?
One of the virtues of lilies are their tremendous selection of colors; new blends, bicolors and pastels. Additionally, lilies can be enjoyed all season. Some lilies are known for their early blooms in May. This would include the easy-to-grow Asiatic lilies famous for their rainbow of colors. Favorites are the raspberry pinks, 'Corsica' and 'Crete' and yellow selections 'Sunray' and 'Connecticut King'. Oriental lilies provide a later season bloom that follow the Asiatics and additionally are quite fragrant. Some good cultivars are 'Casa Blanca', a splendid white form and 'Star Gazer', a pink beauty. Of course, one cannot forget the all time standard lilies, the tiger lily and the Madonna lily, named for its sweet scent and purity.
Lilies are know for their height some of which exceed 5 feet and require staking. The more recent development of dwarf hybrids called Pixies, standing only 18 inches or less, offer the chance to move lilies closer to the garden edge, intermix with other flowering plants and use in containers. Pixies are more difficult to find but should be more available in coming years.
Lily bulbs are typically offered for fall planting. There is nothing very difficult about growing lilies. The one requirement is a well drained bed so take extra time to work the soil amending with peat and compost, up to one-third each by volume. A recommended planting depth is 6 to 8 inches, spacing plants at least one foot apart. From here on, you can enjoy years of good performance with little more than an application of 5-10-5 fertilizer in early May and a layer of mulch in early June to keep the roots cool. Like with daffodils, new bulbs are produced each year and when the plant becomes too crowded, flowering will drop off. If this happens, in August before the leaves yellow, dig the bulbs, divide and replant or store the bulbs in a cool, dry place until spring.