by Mitzi Davis
Colorado State University Cooperative Extension Master Gardener
“Plant bulbs in the fall” and everyone thinks of the big three - tulips , daffodils and crocus. Mention lilies and they think of Easter lilies or daylilies. But there are other true lilies that include Asiatic, Oriental, trumpet and tiger lilies that are planted in late fall or spring for spectacular summer bloom. A vase full of Enchantment Asiatic lilies will stop you in your tracks.
The Asiatic lilies are the hardiest of the lily bulbs and the first to flower. They grow from two to four feet tall. Blooming in June and July they make a great transition between the spring bulbs and summer perennials and annuals. The flowers are up facing and available in a wide range of colors from bright yellow, orange and red and pastels such as pink, peach and white. The latest hybrid introductions have “brush strokes” of a different color or spots on the petals. Their only fault is that they have no scent.
Oriental hybrids though, are known for their intense fragrance and large flowers. They are listed as USDA zone 5 but will grow here if mulched in the winter after the ground freezes. Blooming in late July and August, they will grow up to 8 feet tall. A popular variety often used in florist bouquets is Star Gazer. Oriental lilies also have upward facing blooms that are bowl shaped
Another division is called Martagon or Turk’s Cap lilies, a native of Europe and Northern Asia. They have smaller flowers than the Asiatics or Orientals and the blooms are tightly reflexed and face downward. A shady spot around a pond with moist, loamy soil would work well for this variety. They are cold hardy, strongly scented and make good cut flowers.
Chinese Trumpets and Aurelian Hybrids also bloom in July and August. The flowers come in all the lily shapes – trumpet, flat faces, bowl and recurved and have a wonderful fragrance. Once established they grow 4 to 8 feet tall and need to be staked to keep the heavy flower heads from breaking the stems.
The Tiger lily is a species or wild lily. A native of China and Japan, they will grow to 5 or 6 feet. They are rugged and carefree but they are a host for a variety of plant viruses that they can pass on to the less resistant hybrids. Aphids spread the viruses so aphid control is critical if you grow tiger lilies and other lilies in your garden. Coral lily (L.pumilum), regal lily (L.regale) and the Madonna lily (L. candidum) are other lily species that are available.
Unlike daffodils and tulips, lily bulbs are never totally dormant but have a resting phase after the tops die down. The growers don’t dig lilies until late October so you need to plant them as soon as you get them. Bulbs should be firm and have a few lively looking roots. Lilies MUST have good drainage. Heavily amend clay soil with coarse organic material and consider planting in raised beds. Lilies also prefer a neutral to acidic pH soil. The large lily bulbs should be planted about 10 to 12 inches deep and about 8 to 12 inches apart. Apply super phosphate fertilizer (0-20-0) at a rate of 5 to 6 pounds per 100 square feet for beds or put a teaspoonful in each hole as you plant. Fertilize in the spring with a general-purpose fertilizer (5-10-5) at a rate of 1 pound per 100 square feet. Apply when the plant emerges from the ground and every two to three weeks until the buds begin to color.
Lilies will fit right in with other perennials and shrubs in your garden adding a great vertical accent. The bright Asiatics go well with “hot colored” zinnias, coreopsis California poppies and Drumstick alliums. Good companions for some of the taller lilies are globe thistle, white or crimson hollyhocks, Coronation Gold or Moonshine yarrow, Shasta daisies and Rudbeckia. Ornamental grasses, tall garden phlox, Pacific Giant delphiniums and baby’s breath will fill in behind or beside the tall lilies. Use shallow rooted annuals to soften the “bare legs” of the lilies. The annuals will also shade the soil and keep the bulbs cool. Fill your summer garden with easy to grow lilies that have wonderful color and a heady scent.
Q: Since almost everything is dead outside from the frost, what plants can I have inside that will bloom this winter?
A: Some colorful winter blooming plants include Streptocarpella Blue Angel, cyclamen, amaryllis, Christmas cactus and begonias. You can also take cuttings from your geraniums and coleus to grow inside during the winter.
Q: I harvested all my tomatoes – ripe ones and green ones - before the frost. What’s the best way to get them to ripen?
A: Wash and dry the tomatoes to remove dirt, bacteria and any pesticide residue. They must be free of any blemishes or they will rot before they ripen. Store them in a cool, dark spot and put an apple in with them. The apple gives off ethylene gas that will help the tomatoes ripen.
Q: Are there termites in Colorado that can get into my home from the firewood I store in my garage?
A: Colorado termites nest underground and rarely infest firewood or other timber products. Also, the low humidity in houses causes any incidental termites that may be in the wood to quickly dry out and die. Colorado termites do not produce sawdust so if you see piles of sawdust you are probably seeing the results of the tunneling of woodborers. They do not emerge and attack healthy trees and they do not attack furniture, wall framing or other seasoned woods.
Harvest seeds from some garden favorites such as snapdragons, violas, marigolds and penstemons. These seeds can be kept in a cool/dry place until they are planted next year or they can be taken to a specific spot in the garden and left until spring.
Remember to turn off and blow out your sprinkler system. This should be done in mid October.
If your pine trees are shedding inner needles, don’t panic. Pines naturally lose some inner needles during the fall. If outside needles are browning, a problem may exist.
Keep your eyes open for Blue Heron around your backyard pond.
They are attracted by the possible menu of koi, goldfish and frogs.
The authors have received training through Colorado State University Cooperative Extension's Master Gardener program and is a Master Gardener volunteer for Larimer County.
Gardening and Insect Fact Sheets are available on-line by clicking HERE.
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