are my lilies dying?

grandma_gardener_02July 24, 2010

Last year we planted lilies [lollipop and Crimson Pixie to be exact] for the first time. They are in a bed that gets full sun most of the day. This year they bloomed beautifully. But now most of them are pretty much just stalks with limp yellow/brown leaves hanging down.

We are in the midst of a severe heat wave/drought. I had heard that lilies can grow just about anywhere with little water needs. So as I was running around making sure everything else was surviving, I tended to neglect the lilies. Until one day I really looked at them and saw the leaves at the base limply yellow/browning. Thinking they must be thirsty, I gave them a 'drink' right before [wouldn't you know it] one of our few rainfalls. So now the ground is on the wet/moist side. The dying yellowing leaves are working their way to the top of the plant and now some of the top green leaves are showing spots with yellow centers and brown rims. By the way, there is one lily that is staying green. It is the only one that gets some shade from another plant.

Is this a problem of 1) excessive heat, 2) drought, 3) fungus, or ) all of the above?

I sincerely hope that we have not lost these plants. Would you think that even if the plants were very stressed this year, that they still might come back again next year?

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dublinbay z6 (KS)

I'm not an expert on lilies, but I always heard that lily bulbs need a reasonable amount of water during their active growing phases, as they are preparing to bloom and while they are blooming. But even after they are done blooming, I don't think they like roasting.

All I can say is that most of my lilies are in my rose bed and get watered by sprinkler any time I water the roses that way (occasionally I water the roses by hand--but usually by sprinkler). However, I have one cluster of orientals in another bed that often gets overlooked. Only in that last bed did my lilies exhibit the problem you describe, so I'm guessing we both need to water with a bit more regularity.

The other possibility is that your lilies have reached the end of their blooming cycles. Mine were mostly done several weeks ago, for instance--only one Casa Blanca is still hanging on with one last bloom that probably won't last beyond today.


    Bookmark   July 24, 2010 at 11:14AM
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I'd agree that inconsistent watering is the base problem. Most garden lillies do best in well-drained soil which is regularly watered.

From the description though, some of the lilies are also showing signs of developing botrytis (the 'pheasant-eye' spots) which can be quite damaging.

Pick off any affected leaves as well as any yellowed and dead ones and put them in the garbage. Apply a fungicide to help control the fungus (you can also use a spray of dilute milk or bicarbonate solution, but these only work to stop fresh infections and won't kill any current ones). At the end of the season clean up any old leaves and stems and dispose of them in the same way - rain falling onto the spores splashes them up onto the plants to reinfect them; if an infection has been particularly severe some people even remove the topmost level of soil to try to break the cycle of reinfection. For next year try to improve air-flow and reduce humidity.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2010 at 9:03PM
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