Lilies are showy, elegant flowers that live over the winter as bulbs underground. During the growing season, roots grow into the soil from the underground part of the stem as well as the bulb, creating a large, spreading root system. If you try to move the lily plant while it is growing, you will lose large numbers of roots but, if you absolutely must, dig as much soil as possible and replant immediately.
Though many unrelated plants such as daylily and waterlily have "lily" as part of the name, only the species and hybrids in the genus Lilium are true lilies. These are marked by strong leafy stems that grow from a scaled bulb topped by brightly coloured flowers that may have recurved or trumpet shaped petals. Lily roots have the unusual ability to pull the plant deeper into the soil if the bulb is planted in a hole that is too shallow.
Most lilies prefer full sun but like to have their root systems shaded by small shrubs or groups of perennials. They need a moist soil that is high in organic matter, so add compost, well-rotted manure or peat moss to the ground before you plant, plus some bulb fertiliser or bone meal to give the growing lily the phosphorous and potassium it needs to grow strong stems. Good drainage is essential because the roots of lilies are vulnerable to root rot if the soil stays soggy for too long. Organic matter helps the soil stay open and porous, allowing air to replace the water as it drains away.
The best time to transplant lilies is in fall, after the stems and leaves have turned brown. This gives the bulbs the maximum amount of time to send out new roots before sprouting again in the spring. You can also dig and replant lily bulbs in early spring before they appear above the ground without damaging that year's growth. While transplanting at any other time is a poor choice, if you are moving to another house and you can't wait until the growing season is ended to move them, by all means dig up the whole clump and, without dividing the bulbs, replant immediately in their new location. If possible, shade the lily for a week or so to reduce transplanting shock and keep it well watered.
Growing Lilies in Containers
A better choice, if you know that you need to move a lily, is to plant it in a container in early spring. Lilies do well in pots and can be transplanted into a new location during the summer with no loss of roots. Use a rich, fibrous planting mix with extra organic matter added for moisture retention and drainage improvement. Place the container in a sunny area. In hot summer areas, part shade may be needed to keep the root system cool.
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