2012.06.25 My Thoughts – Growing Lilies in Pots

All the advice about growing any bulbs in pots is that you will have excellent flowering the first year and this will decline if you continue leave them for future years; they may flower well in subsequent years if they are planted out into the garden.  Certainly the advice has always been true for Tulips, however for lilies I have found the opposite to be true.  The first year the flowering is OK, the second it is better but in the third year they are exceptional and even in the fourth year they are acceptable.

I don’t buy many different lilies as until this year I have tried to avoid having pots that need endless watering but this year I have decided that if the pot is very large and the soil is shaded I shouldn’t have to water too much.  The pots arrived a long time after the plants so this year I’m not expecting great things, but hopefully I’ll learn what is successful and what is too needy.

In autumn 2008 I bought 10 Lilium regale (pure white, shaded yellow throat, exterior wine-coloured, trumpet lilies) from Peter Nyssen; they cost £9 plus delivery cost, but they were part of a big order so the delivery cost was negligible.

One of the pots with 5 lilies, end of June, 2009

21st June, 2010, they grew straighter and with more flowers

More in bud here but I think they look healthier than the previous year. 10th June 2011

Few blooms this year but still wonderfully perfumed

I have to say I think the bulbs were an excellent purchase.  I didn’t feed them in 4 years and once they’d flowered they only received sporadic water.  In autumn I’ll plant them in the garden and I’ll report if they flower again next year.

In autumn 2009 I bought 10 Longiflorum ‘White Heaven’ for £8.50 again from Peter Nyssen.  In 2010 I think they were so disappointing I didn’t even take a photograph, so you’ll have to take my word that they weren’t very good.  They were planted 5 to each pot.

25th June 2011, they were quite tall and with multiple flowers per stem.

This year the pots looked so full and beautiful I moved them to either side of the front door

There are so many blooms they are jostling for space

Looking down, they look like this

The only problem with lilies is lily beetle!  I also have Madonna lilies and they are savagely attacked every year; however many we pick off and squish, they are damaged.  I see these lilies growing by the roadside here all looking perfect and undamaged – how is this possible?  Are they a slightly different strain (again mine come via the UK so are Dutch in origin)?  If I bought them from an Italian source would it solve the problem?  The good news is that Lilium ‘Regale’ is rarely attacked, but L. Longiflorum ‘White Heaven’ is also prone to attack so we need to be vigilant.

Which lilies do you grow that aren’t attacked?  I heard the RHS were conducting a survey to find if certain lilies suffered less than others, I would love to hear the results.

27 thoughts on “2012.06.25 My Thoughts – Growing Lilies in Pots

  1. Your longiflorum lilies are just amazing! I have some similar to Auratum, white with a yellow line and a perfume to die for. These are in a pot, which I just stood in the border. When the time came to take them in for the winter, they had rooted through into the soil. For about 5 yrs they haven’t had their compost changed or been fed (forgetful me) and they are getting better and better every year. Longiflorum I bought last year as a potted bulb, just one, this has come up this year, still in the same pot, with 6 stems. About 10 yrs ago I planted 3 Martagon lilies in a semi shady border. I have only ever had 1 stem of flowers. Red lily beetle is such a pain, always catching them and squashing them plus rubbing their eggs off the leaves, this year my longiflorum don’t seem to have been attcked yet!

  2. Wonderful lilies! I know how difficult to grow them in a pot here because of the winter time, the pot have to be stored in cool room. Fortunately you haven’t this problem!

  3. I have not heard of the lily beetle before, so do not have problems with damage. It sounds frustrating though. Your lilies do look grand in their pots. Do you feed them heavily each year?

    • I havenp’t fed them at all, I’ll post an imagine of the lily beetle, it’s a huge problem in England and spreading westwards and northwards all the time. Christina

  4. This is very useful info, thanks Christina! I have a batch of new lily bulbs I still need to plant and had considered putting some in 2 pots I have (quite similar to your cement pot actually!) Seeing how great they look in yours, I’ve decided to do it! I will show you when they flower :).

  5. Lovely post about lilies Christina, my lilies are going to be poor this year (year 4 in a pot, much neglected) As yet, red lily beetle have yet to find my garden here in Wales – but they were spotted during the Spring in Dobby’s garden on the fritillaries which is about 30 mins away, so I dont expect it will be long.

    How did your red lily beetle come via the UK?

    • Hi Karen, I’m not sure why or how the red lily beetle got here but as I said, almost wild (and certsainly neglected) Madonna lilies don’t seem to be affected, but mine wouldn’t flower if I didn’t keep removing the beetles. Christina

  6. Interesting information here Christina. I don’t plant in pots often because I tend to forget to water them, but your Longiflorum ‘White Heaven’ at your door are reason to change my mind. I like to use a lot of white flowers in my garden–it goes back to before I retired and would get home late. The white flowers still showed up well in the evening while other plants did not.

    • I wanted white flowers for the same reason, when we eat on the terrace in the evening (one always hopes every evening in summer) I wanted to see white luminous flowers. Christina

  7. What a revelation! Lilies don’t do well in my garden and I have considered growing them in pots, but the advice I read always said to pamper them and I knew I wouldn’t, so I never tried any. And now you have proved that neglect is the way to go. I can do neglect, no worries. So thank you, and I’ll be trying lillies in pots this year.

  8. I grow lilies in pots too, Christina and like you find that they don’t need re-potting very much or indeed feeding. No lily beetles at the Priory for the first couple of years but somehow they’ve zeroed in on it now. Where from? No idea, we’re several hundred metres from the nearest garden. Really annoying. D

    • I don’t think there are any other lilies with several km of here but as soon as I planted Madonna lilies, the lily beetles arrived! Do you find any lilies more susceptible than others? C

  9. I have given up on lilies. I love them and grew them in pots and you are right they get better year on year even when I neglected them. Last year the lily bettle was terrible and then I got a cat a read that lily pollen was incredbly toxic to them; something my vet confirmed. That was the final straw and the lilies went. I don’t actually miss them as much as I thought I would and think I will have agapanthus next year in the pots.

  10. You’ve inspired me, Christina. I had planned to do lilies in pots this year but they seem quite expensive and so I didn’t bother. However, if you can get 4 years from them and they don’t need much attention. Definitely will be putting in an order for next year.

  11. How I wish we could grow lilies in a pot and not have to fiddle too much with them,…but the winters here make it a bit more difficult so I grow them in the ground…some do not return and I am never sure why.

  12. Your lilies look beautiful in pots. I had never thought of putting them in pots. I have put mine in the garden directly. They were all cheap impulse buys and I am not sure whether they look quite right. Just to spite me they are thriving and have no lily beetle.
    Your pomegranate tree in the background looks lovely.

      • Christina – Your lilies look so glorious – I would be so grateful if you can help me? I planted 8 regale in open ground last autumn, against a patio wall – successful, but I guess they will be even better next year. I would love to know, but haven’t been able to find out – should I cut them down now (Sept) and/or mulch the ground in the winter?
        Also, I gather you can propagate them from their seed pods – do you know how and when?
        fingers crossed!

        • Ok, there are different options. You can leave the seed pods and propagate by seed, but that will take ages to have a flowering plant; also if you leave the seed pods the plant will put all its energy into the seeds and the bulb won’t be so good the following year. Personally I think it’s better to cut the flower heads off as soon as they’ve finished flowering then the plant will use the energy from the foliage to build up a stronger bulb. That way the bulb will also produce off shoots which will flower in future years. You can even lift the bulb in late autumn or maybe spring (I’m not sure) and pot up the bulbs that have formed around the original bulb. Good luck. Christina

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