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Author Topic: Lilies from Seed  (Read 534 times)

Tristan_He

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Lilies from Seed
« on: March 15, 2020, 09:41:38 PM »
It's that time of year when I am repotting my lilies and I thought it might be of interest for others to see what works (and doesn't work) for me. In some ways I find the progress of the bulbs even more satisfying than the eventual flowers. The biggest causes of losses for me are in general: 1. winter wet / compaction of pots; 2. Slug attacks and 3. Vine weevil.



My lily pots are generally kept in and around the cold frame, depending on whether or not they are likely to need winter cover. I am not overly fastidious about weeding, as you can see - this is a fairly representative pot before potting on. Each pot seems to develop its own ecosystem of mosses, liverworts, bittercress, pearlwort, grasses, and even (as here) Campanula trachelium. Two of the pots even had Echium piniana seedlings! In winter I think some weeds may well be beneficial because the roots help to absorb excess moisture and keep the soil aerated.

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The winter lily compost is normally perlite-rich to ensure really good drainage. Additionally I put a layer of pure perlite at the bottom of the pot.

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Often (but not always) the roots are visible in the bottom - always a good sign of a healthy bulb. But quite often these will rot off a bit in the winter but there can still be a decent bulb there.



This is Nomocharis forrestii, from Bjornar's 2014 collection. I have planted this one out in the rockery as it should be about flowering size.






Tristan_He

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Re: Lilies from Seed
« Reply #1 on: March 15, 2020, 09:45:54 PM »


Lilium oxypetalum 2 year olds I think. These are quite unusual shaped bulbs.



There is a decent potful here.


Tristan_He

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Re: Lilies from Seed
« Reply #2 on: March 15, 2020, 09:56:54 PM »


Lilium lophophorum. Only one survivor of these unfortunately, they really don't like winter wet.  :'(

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Another Chinese lily, this time L. lijiangense. These are from the SRGC seed exchange I think.



A smaller bulb - these will often shoot earlier than larger ones, perhaps so that they can grow more over the season.

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Another of Bjornar's, this is L. bakerianum var. rubrum. It really doesn't like winter wet, as you can see the roots have rotted off a bit but it should be ok. This is a fast growing species but the smaller bulbs in particular are easy to lose as they are almost exactly the same colour as perlite or gravel.



Lilium grayi. This North American species has quite unusual rhizomatous bulbs. The scales fall off very easily so it's best not to handle the bulbs too much if possible. This is a 3rd year bulb from SRGC seed exchange seed.

Tristan_He

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Re: Lilies from Seed
« Reply #3 on: March 15, 2020, 10:12:46 PM »


A North American (Div IV) hybrid of my own making. It's a cross between a tall more or less unspotted turkscap and a much shorter red and yellow heavily spotted hybrid. Hopefully the offspring will include some nice seedlings. Here you can see the extensive root systems that lily bulbs often have even when dormant, and why many lilies are knocked back so much by being sold as dry bulbs.



Nomocharis saluenensis*. Another of Bjornar's collections, I purchased the seed for a relatively hefty price that worked out at around 1 per seed I think! But all of them have germinated and are now a nice healthy looking bulb this size. I am really looking forward to the flowers of this little treasure - I fell in love with it when I saw it flowering at Branklyn a few years ago.

* And yes, I know Nomocharis should  be Lilium these days. As far as I am concerned the genus Lilium is quite large enough though!

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Lilium canadense. The similarity to L. grayi is obvious here.



Lilium pumilum. This should be an easy species, but I lost a lot of the seedlings as for personal reasons I wasn't able to do a great deal of gardening last summer. I will try again.










Tristan_He

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Re: Lilies from Seed
« Reply #4 on: March 15, 2020, 10:20:40 PM »
Finally some young seedlings  - sown last year, so these are 2nd year bulblets - of another Chinese rarity, Lilium henrici.

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Germination and survival have been good over the first winter - how many I can get to flowering is another matter!  :-\

Tristan_He

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Re: Lilies from Seed
« Reply #5 on: March 15, 2020, 10:36:38 PM »
I'd really encourage everyone to have a go at growing lilies from seed. They are very beautiful (vastly more attractive than most of the overbred hybrids in my opinion); many are good garden plants that don't need coddling in a frame; they flower later than many alpines so extend the flowering season, and bulbs in the ground rarely suffer from vine weevil or slugs. All that is needed is a little patience, as most species take about 3 years or more to flower from seed.

For some reason a good deal of botanical jargon tends to get deployed when talking about growing lilies from seed and various complicated methods get wheeled out. I've no doubt that these work, but I have never tried any of them. You really don't need to know if a particular lily has immediate epigeal or delayed hypogeal germination - just be patient! Fresh seed usually germinates in the spring after it was sown.

My basic rules are (i) get fresh seed (collect your own, from a seed exchange or from a really good seed supplier); (ii) sow the seed in the usual alpine way, preferably in early winter, leaving the pots outdoors - not all species need chilling but many benefit from it; (iii) guard against soil compaction in pots by regular repotting - but minimise root disturbance for growing plants by potting the whole potful into a bigger pot, rather than trying to seperate growing plants. (iv) protect against slugs when young and vine weevil when older.

Rick R.

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Re: Lilies from Seed
« Reply #6 on: March 16, 2020, 02:39:26 AM »
Those pics are wonderful, Tristan! You are so right about compacting soil being a huge downfall for lilies in pots.  If I may compliment your photos with some of mine that I have posted in this thread at another site:
https://garden.org/thread/view/4020/Species-Lily-Bulbs/
  Most are more mature than yours and show better the differences in the species.  I so agree with you about how beautiful lily bulbs are, and many are quite tasty, too!

You live in a much milder climate than I do in the northern United States.  How I envy you all in Europe, because it is true that the various modes of germination that different Lilium species exhibit are fairly easily accommodated merely by your normal seasons there.  It's not as easy in my climate with much colder winters that swing quickly to much hotter summers.  Still, I am an avid Lilium seed grower, and am very satisfied.

Here is a hypogeal germinating martagon seedling.  The seed produces a tiny bulb first, and later (after a cold treatment) sends up its first leaf from that bulb.
Rick Rodich
just west of Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
USDA zone 4, annual precipitation ~24in/61cm

Carolyn

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Re: Lilies from Seed
« Reply #7 on: March 16, 2020, 08:39:00 AM »
Thank  you,Tristan, for this. Most interesting, and a timely reminder to go and pot-on my lily seedlings. I tend to forget about them until I see new green leaves and then it's trickier to do without damaging the new growth. I will copy your idea of extra perlite at the bottom of the pots. I am also relieved to see your mixture of moss, liverwort and weed seedlings on the surface. Another benefit of weed seedlings on pots overwintering under cover is that they can act as a warning that the soil has become too dry. If the weed seedlings wilt, time to do some watering.

This made for better reading than my usual breakfast reading of the BBC news website - so depressing just now. The garden is the only tranquil place to be (or the mountains...)
Carolyn McHale
Gardening in Kirkcudbright

Leena

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Re: Lilies from Seed
« Reply #8 on: March 16, 2020, 08:02:58 PM »
The garden is the only tranquil place to be (or the mountains...)

This is true.  :) In the garden you can forget everything, and just enjoy the flowers and concentrate to what you are doing. :) There is so much coming up at this time of year.. and all April and even May.

Tristan and Rick, thank you for inspiring posts!
Leena from south of Finland

Tristan_He

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Re: Lilies from Seed
« Reply #9 on: March 16, 2020, 09:12:10 PM »
Thanks Rick - your photos of the mature bulbs are lovely too and a valuable resource. I don't think I'm going to be eating any of my lilies just yet though!

Milder climates have their disadvantages - we have around 1500mm rainfall each year which makes the compaction issue much more serious. Mild winters also mean that pests such as slugs and aphids are not killed off by frost, and have longer activity periods. I usually find myself hoping for a good few days of snow and ice - sadly not as common as they once were.

Nice photo of the delayed germination Rick. My L. carnolicum are at a similar stage - they would have been sown in September.

Tristan_He

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Re: Lilies from Seed
« Reply #10 on: March 16, 2020, 09:23:36 PM »
This is true.  :) In the garden you can forget everything, and just enjoy the flowers and concentrate to what you are doing. :) There is so much coming up at this time of year.. and all April and even May.

Quite true Leena - it was a nice day on Sunday so for once I was a little organised! Still lots of pots of other things to sort through though... I think a few of us may have plenty of time to spend in the garden this year.  :-\ Stay safe everyone.

Jan Jeddeloh

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Re: Lilies from Seed
« Reply #11 on: March 28, 2020, 09:52:50 PM »
Very nice pictures Tristan.  Where do you live?  I'm in Portland, Oregon, USA and we also have soggy winters, around 100cm rain per year, none in summer.  I have a greenhouse and keep my  lily pots under the staging but still seem to lose some seedlings over the winter.  Usually the ones I want most.
 
Jan Jeddeloh, Portland, Oregon, USA zone 8

Tristan_He

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Re: Lilies from Seed
« Reply #12 on: March 28, 2020, 10:56:18 PM »
Hi Jan, I live near Caernarfon in North Wales, UK at about 300m altitude. It's a very maritime climate, mild winters but lots of rain, maybe as much as 15cm. We often get our driest period between about mid April and mid June.

I keep my lilies outdoors in winter, either open to the elements or in a cold frame with the lid mostly down (for the Himalayan ones). They still get rain blowing in to keep them from drying out.

Yes, it's always the ones you want most that die isn't it? I suppose that's part of the challenge.

 


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