Need help - what should I do with these lilies?

gardenfanatic(MO zone5b)July 6, 2008

I've lost several lilies this year due to near record rainfall. Many of them didn't even come up, and the majority of what did come up had short, tiny stems that hardly grew. Then eventually leaves started turning yellow and dropping off from the bottom up, then collapse. Interestingly, all the Asiatics and Orienpets were fine - it was the Orientals that suffered.

Anyway, today I finally got around to digging them up and finding out what was going on, which is how I know it was from too much rain. With the ones that had sprouted and collapsed, for some the bulb was mush. Others, the bulb was fine but the stem underground had a rotten place.

So I removed what looked healthy and viable, and now I need to know what to do with it all. I have two normal sized bulbs (actually one is huge - the size of my fist) that look perfectly healthy. Do I put them in the ground, in a pot, or in the refrigerator? Do I give them fertilizer? Will they sprout next year, since they don't have leaves to give them energy to grow?

I have several bulblets the size of marbles. Do I put them in the ground, in a pot, or in the refrigerator? If I put them in a pot or in the ground, how deep should they be? Do I give them fertilizer? Will they sprout next year, since they don't have leaves to give them energy to grow?

Strangely, in one area there were a bunch of scales in the soil. I thought it was strange because they had to have come off a bulb, but I saw no bulb. Should I try to get some plants off of them?

Lastly, a couple of stems that had detached from the bulb but not collapsed yet had roots on the stem above the rotten part. I put them in a pot in case their stem roots might keep them alive. Is that a possibility?

Thanks for your help,


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hld6(z7 MD)

If they have greenery left pot them up so they can keep photosynthesizing and feeding the bulb.

It seems from your message that they don't. In that case you can do any of the three options. Small bulbs would go just a little below the surface. They will pull themselves deeper as they grow larger. But, if you don't have time to improve the drainage in their beds you can pot them up with nice potting soil and baby them for the rest of the season (so they can get a head start on growing new roots) or store them in your refrigerator in just moist peat moss until you have reliably cool weather in the fall and then plant them out. That takes up fridge space but would give you time to work on their beds and would also keep you from having to babysit a bunch of pots during the now (or soon to be) hot part of the summer. Whichever of the three that works best for you would be fine.


    Bookmark   July 6, 2008 at 11:13AM
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hld6(z7 MD)

While stem roots help the bulb to take up water and nutrients they are not enough to support a plant by themselves since they don't have the energy storage abilities of a bulb.

If the scales have some of the basal plate on them (even a little) they may be able to produce bulblets. You can put them in a baggy with moist peat moss if you want to watch them. Or plant them in the garden or pots (a little under the soil) and see if anything comes up next spring.

As long as your soil is reasonable you don't need to fertilize.


    Bookmark   July 6, 2008 at 11:03PM
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Deanna: I seem to have the same problem as you do, only it has also affected my orienpets. I planted 25 last fall in a large circle hoping to produce something really eyecatching. Not 1 came up! My orientals that I have had for several years have the same problem as yours. They are (were) in a raised bed. My asiatics are doing fine, and my 5 year old orienpet Silk Road is the only one that is doing fine. My other trumpets are barely growing, but have "miniature" stems and leaves. I'm totally frustrated, hurt and disappointed. I've sprayed with baking soda and faithfully fertilized this spring. We did not have a super wet winter, but a cold wet spring.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2008 at 12:06PM
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hld6(z7 MD)

Hi Fayeraven,

If they have miniature stems and leaves they are probably not from the original bulbs but from offset bulblets. When some bulbs get stressed they respond by making more than the usual amount of bulblets and, unfortunately, then usually expiring.

While most of my lilies were OK this year I have a group of oriental Siberia that really suffered. Not one large stem has come up - though small stems have. It's right next to some trumpets (Leucanthum) which are doing OK. But some other younger Orientals in the same bed are struggling a bit.

But then, most of my soil is heavy clay. And while the bed was amended with peat moss at one time - organic amendments decay away. I'm going to add a decent amount of sand to that bed. This is the second time Siberia has done this - both times in clay soil.

Another batch of Siberia is fine. That bed that is in a stepped up area in my backyard that is a very grainy fill -from when they graded the yard 100 years ago. (They just put whatever down back then!) It look's terrible but it the only spot in the yard that isn't clay. While that soil doesn't look nutritious at ALL, the lilies there, Siberia, Regale, and Triumphator, are not having any problems. And I never fertilize my lilies.

The other main culprits that can wipe out bulbs, besides rot due to drainage problems, are stem borers and winter hungry furry "critters" (squirrels, moles, voles) but stem borers would have happened after large stems emerged.


    Bookmark   July 7, 2008 at 3:23PM
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gardenerme(z9/21 inland socal)

I grow lilies in clay soil and have discovered a way to plant that really solves the moisture issue. I dig a hole 3 or more inches deeper than I need and usually several inches wider. Then I line the hole with 3 inches of pea gravel. Then no matter what the rainfall or my watering, the bulbs don't end up sitting in water. It works great!

    Bookmark   July 18, 2008 at 4:46PM
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gardenfanatic(MO zone5b)

gardenerme - that sounds like a great idea. I'm going to do that this fall when I plant some new lilies. I've never seen anything at Lowe's labeled "pea gravel". Is it basically gravel that's the size of a pea?


    Bookmark   July 18, 2008 at 7:10PM
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I saw some pea gravel in bags at my local Ace Hardware, just happened to notice it stacked outside. When I had cement work done, I had the cement company add pea gravel so it would match more closely the existing private sidewalk and steps on the rest of my property. So a concrete company might sell you some.

Some of the big box stores and nurseries may stock it, wouldn't hurt to call around and talk to someone in the garden dept.

We had one of the wettest early seasons ever, also lots of snow and some thawing this past winter. It didn't affect my lilies, but that is not to say it couldn't at some point. My soil seems to drain well in most places which is fortunate, not that I haven't had other heartaches, disappointments, difficulties and a few total failures, just not with lilies but most annuals and perennials. It's the roses that give me the most trouble.

Just my Regals and one easter lily are failing on the east side, not sure if not enough sun or multiple issues the culprit.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2008 at 1:58PM
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I should have said True Value Hardware where I saw the pea gravel, think they are not the same as Ace. Ours is locally owned but that is part of the name, so I'm positive now.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2008 at 4:45PM
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I would pull the bulbs, set them outside for a day or two to dry (not as in dead, but that the exterior is dry and no longer rotting), put them in a baggy with slightly damp peat moss (read take a pot of peat moss and wave it back and forth over your sink, that should be enough water) pack them in there not touching and stick them in the fridge. What I have done in the past is planted said bulbs (I also do this for late season bulb closeouts) in peat pots and stacked those pots in a very cool room (or fridge, just not frozen) to chill. During this time they are making love to the dirt and sending lovely new roots. I start planting them in little pots in January. Around the end of February, put them out on a little tray under a light and lightly water. They'll start popping pretty quickly, and in a week or so be ready to be transplanted outdoors (i usually get them in the ground end of April, spring comes late here in Minnesota). I will guarantee they will grow like champs and bloom. I did this last year with about 500 grapette hyacinths and 200+ mixed lily bulbs. It was so easy you'd flip. I had tons of comments and offers to buy my bulbs because they were more mature and ready to flower when most folks plants in the ground have yet to see the light of day.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2008 at 12:21PM
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