All of us, I daresay, have been awed and inspired by the stateliness, simplicity, and haunting fragrance of lilies. Some of us have thought how nice it would be to have lilies at other times than Easter and have planted the bulbs outdoors where they have bloomed again in fall. Yet, it is easily possible to have lilies in flower during the cold and bleak days of winter in our gardens under glass.
It is particularly important, if we are to grow lilies successfully, to realize that lily bulbs never go dormant there is always some evidence of life. Lily roots stay fleshy and alive even when plants have died back and lost their foliage, and it is a condition of successful flowering that roots be kept moist at all times.
Dealers suggest that you order lily bulbs early enough so they can be shipped just at your planting time, to avoid delay between digging and planting. Lilies like plenty of water when in active growth and a rich, fibrous soil. Use a mix of good garden loam and leafmold, and add a little bonemeal for extra nourishment furnished slowly. Eight-inch pots are best, to allow for the exceptionally strong root growth and make it unnecessary to repot until the second year. A layer of pebbles, broken crock, or charcoal under the soil provides good drainage.
When bulbs have been potted, water gently and gradually increase water as foliage appears. Place in a cool location for about four to six weeks to develop a good root system, then move to a cool, shady location outdoors to promote top growth. Return to greenhouse before frost and raise temperature to 60 F to induce earlier flowering, though flowers will be as nice if grown more slowly at 50 F. When plants come into greenhouse, feed with liquid manure or other liquid fertilizer every 7 to 10 days. If yours are cold-storage hlies, place them in the greenhouse at 60 F immediately upon potting. Keep foliage growing after flowers die off to strengthen bulb for the next growth cycle. Remember, even after foliage dies, the bulb is still alive and needs light watering occasionally to preserve the roots. Lilies benefit from a top dressing of fresh soil before starting another growth cycle, but try not to disturb the roots unless absolutely necessary to move to a larger pot.
I think you will enjoy growing these true lilies:
Lilium auratum, goldband lily. Pot non-precooled bulbs in 5- or 6-inch pots in April for flowers in January. Grows 3 to 6 feet high, has fragrant white blossoms speckled in crimson around a yellow band.
Lilium candidum, Madonna lily. Stems 2 to 4 feet high, waxy white extremely fragrant flowers; one of the few lilies that can stand full sun without damage; differs slightly from others in that temperature should be no higher than 55 F. It will take a little longer than the usual 13 weeks after bringing into greenhouse for blossoms to appear because they do grow at a cooler temperature.
Lilium pumilum (formerly L. tenuifolium), coral lily. A smaller type, with stems about 2 feet high; may remain dormant through a second season before blooming if roots have dried out before planting. Blossoms are brilliant scarlet, sometimes light at the base. Avoid direct sun.
Lilium regale, royal, regal, or Easter lily. One of the most beautiful lilies, with its half-yellow half-white throat with undertones of pink, and purple midribs; grows 3 to 6 feet high. Allow about 15 weeks after bringing into greenhouse before blooming. Likes partial shade.
Lilium speciosum rubrum, showy Japanese lily. One of the most valuable lilies for forcing; pot precooled bulbs and hold at 60 F starting in September for bloom in about 10 weeks. Flowers are white at tips, coloring to rose-pink toward centers with deep red spots, usual delicate lily fragrance. Grow in partial shade.
Mid-Century Lilies. Grow at 55 F. The nice thing about these lilies is that bulbs are precooled before shipment and can be potted and placed in the greenhouse for forcing immediately ('Prosperity' is the only one that requires a special rooting period). They like a loose, porous soil mix of 2 parts each sandy loam and peatmoss or leafmold, and 1 part sand, and uniform moisture while growing. Shade lightly to pre-vent leaf scorching. Alternate feedings of nitrogen and a complete fertilizer at 10-day intervals are beneficial. Recommended: 'Enchantment', blazing orange; 'Croesus', golden yellow; 'Cinnabar', maroon red; 'prosperity', lemon yellow.