Lilies enjoy a position of full sun. Lilies like their roots in the cool and flowers in the sun. Soil should ideally be rich and fairly moist, yet free-draining. Most lilies prefer an alkaline or neutral soil. There are a couple of types that prefer an acid soil such as Lilium speciosum.
Martagon, lancifolium and pardalinum lilies are happy when grown in a position of dappled shade and will often self-seed and make a wonderful colony under deciduous trees. They are all ideal for naturalising.
When growing lilies in containers, choose deep pots that offer good drainage. A multi-purpose compost is fine. For top results choose John Innes No 3 and add some slow-release fertilizer.
Lilies can be planted from late autumn until early April. They’re bought as bulbs – choose large, firm bulbs - although you can also find potted plants at the garden centre in summer.
Potted lilies must have at least 12cm of soil above the bulb. Bulbs will benefit from extra winter protection if planted deeper. As a general guide plant bulbs 15cm apart and three times the depth of the height of the bulb.
After three or four years, lilies will clump up and need dividing. The best time to do this is in autumn. Lift clumps with a garden fork and peel off bulbs. Plants them directly into the garden or into pots.
A common pest that troubles lily growers is the red lily beetle. These striking red beetles, that are 8mm long, can be spotted anytime from March to October. They’re very clever! When you approach a plant they drop to the floor, landing on their backs so they are hard to see. They eat the foliage and leave behind a black excrement.
To solve the problem, try to pick them off and squash them. If an infestation is very bad you may have to turn to a suitable insecticide.
Taller lilies will need supporting with a plant support. As plants start to flower feed them with tomato feed every fortnight. This will encourage great flowers and help bulbs to perform well in the following year. Once flowers have faded deadhead. If flowers are left on, plants will start to produce seed which can take valuable energy away from the bulbs. However, when growing martagon lilies let them self-seed.
Never cut flowering stems right back to soil level. Just remove the top third. Leave the stems in place until they have gone brown as they will provide energy for the bulb. This rule also applies when growing for cutting.
Pot-grown lilies should be moved after flowering to a shaded spot.