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.
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.
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.