How to Propagate Oriental Lilies

Written by meg butler
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How to Propagate Oriental Lilies
Oriental lilies are propagated by bulbs. (Darrell Gulin/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Oriental lilies are almost exclusively propagated via bulbs. As they are hybrids, Oriental lilies won't come true, or resemble the parent plant, if planted from seeds. Once an Oriental lily is established for three years or so, it will have grown small bulbs, referred to as "scales," around the basal plate. The main bulb will now resemble an artichoke. You can remove each piece of this "artichoke," called a "scale," or small bulb, from the base to plant.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Hand tiller or rototiller
  • Horticultural sand
  • Aged compost
  • Peat moss
  • Rake
  • Trowel
  • Pruning shears

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  1. 1

    Cut your Oriental lilies' foliage back to within two to three inches above the ground in September when the plant has finished flowering and its foliage has begun to wither and brown.

  2. 2

    Dig the bulbs up one week later with a trowel. Oriental lily bulbs have no protective coating and scratched or damaged bulbs are likely to develop disease in their new planting location. So dig carefully. Loosen the soil around the bulb until it is easily lifted out of the soil by gently pulling on the cut foliage.

  3. 3

    Brush the soil off of the bulb with your hand while holding the stem firmly. Then cut the foliage off at its base.

  4. 4

    Pull each individual scale, or small bulb, free from the main bulb with your hand. Discard the smallest bulbs and any that are soft, physically damaged or otherwise imperfect. Replant the main bulb.

  5. 5

    Loosen the soil in the lily bed to a depth of one foot with a hand tiller but take care not to damage any neighbouring roots or bulbs that were not dug. Spread one inch of aged compost over the soil to refresh the soil's nutrient level. Then use your hand tiller to mix it evenly to the top foot of the soil.

  6. 6

    Plant each scale to a depth of four to six inches. Neighbouring bulbs must be about 12 inches apart in rows that are two to four feet apart.

  7. 7

    Water the planting area with a gentle spray from the hose until the soil is moist but not soaking to a depth of roughly 10 inches. Continue to keep the soil moist until the lily bulbs germinate in spring. Water whenever the top three to four inches of the soil dry out. Stop watering when the ground freezes. Resume when it thaws.

Tips and warnings

  • Oriental lilies must be grown in a spot where they will receive full sun for six to eight hours per day.

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