Short-lived lilies?

northerner_on(Z5A ONCanada)July 24, 2010

I have grown lilies for several years and some have died out after many years (maybe 5 or 6). However, in the fall of 2007 I bought 3 each of Monte Negro (Asiatic), Lovely Girl (Oriental), and Casa Blanca (Oriental). These were bought mail-order from a reputable Canadian company, and planted near to a stand of trumpets which have been doing well over 5 years. The first year the survivors were: one plant of Monte Negro, 1 plant of Lovely Girl, and 2 plants of Casa Blance. Last year there were 2 plants of each (surprise!). This year, the only plants which survived were 1 Monte Negro and one Casa Blanca. This is only three years and I need to replace these plants. Is this normal for these varieties or was I perhaps sent sub-standard bulbs? I can't remember but I am sure I would have checked to make sure they were hard and looked good. It's not a matter of drainage because they are on a level area next to Hollyhocks which hate wet feet, and the area on the other side slopes down to another level area which collects all the runoff in the spring. Has anyone had this kind of experience with these particulr varieties? Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.


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I've given up on Oriental lilies. Tried Stargazers and a few others I've forgotten the names of; have ideal growing conditions and they were great the first year; threw out a flower or two in the second year and had totally disappeared by the third.

Had the Asiatic "Monte Negro" from a cheapie pack at one of the Big Box stores - got about 5 years out of those and they either dwindled away or I accidentally destroyed them revamping some of the gardens. Other Asiatics that are doing well for me after a number of years - "Lollypop" and "Cancun". And of course, the old fashioned tiger lily (Lilium Lancifolium). Other Asiatics that always do extremely well for me are any in the Pixie series sold as budded up plants at Home Depot, etc. I've found those in yellow, red, peach, cream, some with spots and some without. I chickenwire cage those since rabbits will chew them down when they first emerge in the spring.

Some people have good luck with the fancy Orientals, etc. and many find they gradually peter out. Hard to say about substandard bulbs, growing conditions and all. A good bulb is one that is firm to the gentle squeeze and isn't moldy. Some people believe you can only get good stuff by paying the mail order prices and some of us do quite well buying locally. And yes, I will concede some/most lilies are available only by mail order. (Luckily, my tastes are simple. LOL)

    Bookmark   July 24, 2010 at 1:57PM
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If the bulbs did well the first year, then they aren't likely to be of poor quality. Something about the situation they're in is wrong.

First, check what lilies other people in your area can grow. Gradual dwindling down of the bulbs suggests that the growing season may simply be too short. One of the reasons Orienpets were supposedly developed was because Orientals didn't do well in some parts of Canada for just this reason.

If other people in your area can grow Orientals, look again at your growing conditions. Do they need a bit more shelter - perhaps planting closer to the house wall would help.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2010 at 8:34PM
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northerner_on(Z5A ONCanada)

Hello Duluthinbloom and Kayman and thanks for your input. I guess I was quite naive to think that Orientals did not require special treatment. Actually I have a beautiful Stargazer (in a different location) which has been doing quite well for more than 5 years. No blooms this year as I replanted that bed last year and we have had terrible weather this Spring/Summer. I do not notice any of my neighbours growing lilies of any kind, except for the trumpet Regale which also does well for me. But Kayman, you may have a point with location. This location is more wet than my other lily locations. It drains well but it gets the runoff from a downspout in the spring and we are in a snow belt, so perhaps that's the problem. I fell in love with these lilies when we were in China. There were loads of them by the wayside and the arrangements in the hotels were breathtaking. I think I will try again but I will place them in my other lily bed which is a little sparse now since I removed all my tigers. This is a much drier location nearer to my shed and shoud be more sheltered. I have looked at the big-box offerings several times and the condition of the bulbs is always questionable to me. I will go with the Monte Negro and the Casa Blanca this time. Wish me luck!! And thanks for responding.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2010 at 1:42PM
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flora2b(z6a bc)

Another problem may not be where you are growing them, but what is feasting on them in the winter.....
I have lost lots of lilies to mice, which in the winter under the snow use the bulbs as an underground feeding station.....even with 2 good mousers on the prowl, in the winter they have the advantage as the cats can't get at them the same.
It could also be squirrels.
Check to see if you can find any bulb at all....if not or just pieces then its likely varmints...
Options are to cage them, which I don't do, mostly cause I'm lazy and enough survive for me anyways.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2010 at 7:47PM
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Here is my experience ordering 3 of a kind. One bulb was good quality, the others quite small. Last order from the Lily Garden, I ordered 3 Pizzaz, one left, no increase in 4 years. 3 Lavendar Lady, none left at all. That one was oriental. 3 Dizzy, none left. I have had good luck with the orientals in the past. I just made sure they had at least a half day shade. Never again will I order 3 of a kind. You get 1 decent bulb and 2 scrubs.
Lilies are easy to grow here, no disease, beetles, or trouble from the underground varmints. We have a fox Terrier, she takes care of the varmints.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2010 at 4:13PM
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billums_ms_7b(Delta MS 8A)

I have given up on the Orientals here as well, after watching many cultivars fade away. The only one that has been truly happy here has been 'Golden Stargazer'. It has gotten larger every year and has started producing a clump of offspring, a first for Orientals in my garden.

Golden Stargazer

The Asiatic lilies and the LA Hybrid lilies are much less fussy and multiply like crazy for me.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2010 at 1:58PM
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northerner_on(Z5A ONCanada)

Good thought, Flora. Most of my other lilies are caged so quite safe over winter. These ones were not. There are lots of squirrels around but they stay out of my garden because I feed them. I will have to check to see if there are any bulb remnants. And Billums, thanks for reminding me of yellow Stargazer. I ordered it the first few years it was available here and it was always sold out. Perhaps I should try it. Time for a yellow Lily. I'll have to take another look through the catalogues.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2010 at 8:12PM
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buyorsell888(Zone 8 Portland OR)

Orientals dwindle away for me too. It is very frustrating, however, I have noticed that the ones that are the worst are in flower beds that have tree roots in them. The trees aren't even mine and they don't shade these beds but their roots really suck out all moisture.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2010 at 4:06PM
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Have you tried using a root barrier around the bed? A lot of work, but if it increases the number of things you can grow it may be worthwhile.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2010 at 7:30PM
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northerner_on(Z5A ONCanada)

I am glad I posted this question because I now realize that several gardeners have unfavourable results with orientals. My 'real' lily bed is enclosed in a chicken wire fence which goes quite a way into the earth. The oriental I have in that bed has been there for at least six years and has now undergone 2 re-plants. The subject lilies here are not really in a bed: they are placed along a west fence alongside some beautiful trumpets so they are not enclosed. Perhaps as Kayman suggested, I need a barrier. I am still waiting to place my bulb order because several of these responses have made me think. I'll let you know. Thanks everyone.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2010 at 8:24AM
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We have trouble with voles and as a result I surround each lily bulb that is going in the ground with pea gravel or a product called Perm A Til. Voles will leave the bulb alone. I use one of these products for tulips and most any bulb I plant to keep the voles and/or squirrels away. I have never tried the mentioned varieties but do have some luck with lilies.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2010 at 5:53PM
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hostaholic2 z 4, MN

I have bought all my lily bulbs mail order and can't say that I've received any duds when ordering in threes. Orientals tend to be prima donnas and have very specific requirements. They want excellent drainage, an acidic soil (but don't add to much peat moss as that will keep them to wet.) They also need a long enough growing season to ripen the foliage before frost. Casa Blanca is the only one that has survived and multiplied in my garden over a period of 15 years. A few of my favorite lilies are Red Velvet, White Butterflies, (usually in bloom for a month) Black Beauty, and Scheherazade. Silver Scheherazade looks like a winner as well but at $40.00 a bulb it will be a while till it joins my collection.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2010 at 10:40PM
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I had 55 types of lilies.
My orientals are not thriving like some others varieties. After 3 seasons some types are almost gone altogether. I'd say yellow OT's and orange , really any asiatic , does pretty darn good, other than some odd ones from the lily garden.
Trumpets and Orientals are less vigorous for me.
I have noticed some cruel things happening to lily bulbs.

First I guess it is too wet here.Altho I made my lily bed as a raised bed amended, with sand, and planted these high quality bulbs with turkey grit to diminish rot, I found several bulbs that had some evidence of basal rot anyway after just 3 years. I'm not just talking about orientals, OT's too.

I have seen the nasty grass that covers my lawn -crabgrass maybe? anyway I have seen it rhizome into my lily garden and pierce thru a lily bulb. Clean thru.

This spring I was digging up a giant grass- miscanthus gigantues that had crossed a barrier into a patch of lilies- it had grabbed hold of a lily bulb with it's wooden-spoon-handle-thick-rhizomes and was putting the squeeze on a full size bulb. The lily was trying to multiply into 2 even tho getting damaged from this. I'm sure if that grass had continued this year the lily would have died.
I also found tree roots crossing thru my lily garden even tho the tree is a good 6 feet away and the lily garden is only 3 yrs old. The tree roots are also the same size and very sturdy.

Lastly, I had lilies sharing a bed with cerastium, ie, snow in summer. The cerastium formed a thick matt that the lily sprouts were unable to find a way thru. They had gone sideways but never got thru it.
I guess what I'm saying is orientals are fragile. And I believe lily bulbs are rather fragile against other plants, and trees, and mother nature - they may lose.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2011 at 10:16PM
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Interesting post cheerpeople. I guess we all have to think twice about where we are putting lily bulbs and what we are putting them with. I have had some in the past not even emerge but they were in a garden that I have an awful perennial weed problem. Maybe that was the problem.
I have planted many lily bulbs in the last 2 years. Some from last year didn't grow at all but I am hopeful they will emerge this year. I know some species are pretty slow to establish. The groups of 3 that I got last year all grew. I never used to order 3 just because of the price but last year I splurged on a few. I was glad I did. I am looking forward to seeing what happens this year.
I have a trumpet lily that never multiplied for many years until I needed to move it one year. There were lots of little bulbs there that bloomed after I moved them and planted them shallower. I wonder if when these bulbs are down deep and they multiply, the new little bulbs just can't reach the surface. Anybody found that before?

    Bookmark   March 23, 2011 at 12:32PM
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gardenfanatic(MO zone5b)

One thing Oriental lilies won't tolerate is sopping wet soil. We get a deluge of rain in the spring, and some years it's so heavy, I've lost lots of Orientals. I know they made through the winter because it happens when they've already started peeking out of the soil.


    Bookmark   April 3, 2011 at 5:21PM
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northerner_on(Z5A ONCanada)

Gardenfanatic: I think you have hit the nail on the head.

While these lilies are against a fence and next to other lilies, they are on a slope. A few yers ago, we made an adjustment to our eavestrough, and the downspout comes down a bit further 'up the hill' from these lilies. We have lots of snow, therefore the runoff goes right through these lilies, and at some time it would be quite wet in tht area, even thought it eventually drains. So I have concluded that over the three years, most of the bulbs rotted. I have just oredered some Stargazers, which I will put in my enclosure.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2011 at 4:08AM
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