What is a tree lily?

If you love lilies you will simply adore tree lilies says Jean Vernon

Tree lilies have masses of large flowers on tall stems
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Lilies are lovely. They are easy to grow and they will flower year after year in your garden

The latest innovations in lilies are the tree lilies. Of course they are not trees at all, simply very tall, large cousins to the more familiar oriental lilies that they are related to. Imagine everything that is great about lilies magnified and accentuated into a super bulb. These are the tree lilies. A supercharged take on the old garden favourite that is perfect for growing in containers, small gardens and on the patio for maximum impact.

Tree lilies have masses of large flowers on tall stems

Tree lilies have taken lily growing to a new height – quite literally. These gorgeous stately plants that can easily grow to 90cm-1.2m (3-4ft) in their first year and up to 1.8-2.4m (6-8ft) in subsequent years.

Super lilies

You could describe tree lilies as lilies on steroids because not only are the plants bigger and taller than most other lilies, but they have even more flowers and the flowers are actually bigger too. Each sturdy stem is topped with numerous large, exotic, trumpet-like flowers, reaching up to 20cm (8in) across, for weeks from July to August.

Line a path with a border of tree lilies and enjoy the scent as you walk through the garden

What’s more the large blooms are often scented and because the tall stems are strong and stout, as long as you don’t plant them in a wind tunnel they don’t usually need staking either.

As long as you lilies are planted correctly (see below) and are happy where they are growing, then once you’ve got them they will grow back year after year. They are very hardy and don’t need lifting or winter protection. Then if you feed them during the growing season with a potash rich food like the amazing Flower Power your plants will perform and flower spectacularly.

How to grow tree lilies

Tree lilies are sold as bulbs that need to be planted into the garden, pots or containers as soon as possible after you buy them. In fact that applies to all lilies, which should ideally be planted before the end of March.

On arrival – Ideally, plant your tree lily bulbs as soon as you receive them. If you are unable to do so, keep them somewhere dark, cool, but frost-free – somewhere they won’t start to dry out or start shooting.

They can be planted outside at any time, providing the soil is neither frozen solid nor waterlogged.

Planting out

Tree lilies grow well in a sunny position, as well as light or partial shade.

Before planting, carefully cut off or remove any dead or damaged roots from the base of the bulb.

In pots and containers plant them 10-15cm (4-6in) deep and 15cm (6in) apart; planting all three of one variety in a large container will provide the best display. Make sure to use a good quality multi-purpose or John Innes No 3 Compost. To help them establish extra quickly, water them in with a dilute plant food, such as Flower Power.

In borders, they need a well-drained soil that doesn’t dry out in summer. Dig the planting hole, so that the base of the bulb will be 15cm (6in) deep, sprinkle some compost in the bottom and, ideally, add some Root Booster or Easy Feed fertiliser, before planting. If the soil is heavy clay or poorly drained, also dig in some sharp sand or horticultural grit and add a 2.5-5cm (1-2in) deep layer of the same material under the bulbs.

Pop the bulb in the planting hole, adding a bit more compost if needed, and gently firm in with your fingers or the end of a trowel or hand fork and water in thoroughly, ideally using a dilute plant food like Flower Power.

For the best display, plant your tree lily bulbs from 30-45cm (12-18in) apart.

Growing on

Water thoroughly whenever necessary to prevent the compost or soil drying out; plants in the ground are only likely to need watering during prolonged dry periods, those in containers much more frequently.

Feed plants regularly with a high potash, liquid plant food, such as Flower Power. This really helps produce stronger, healthier plants with lots more flowers.

Although tree lilies produce sturdy stems, these may need staking and supporting individually with bamboo canes, especially in very windy gardens. Tie the stems to the stake as they grow, in at least two different places, tying the knot around the stake and not the stem.

After flowering

As with all bulbs, lilies need their leaves and stems after flowering to build up their strength to produce flowers the following year. So, deadhead after flowering – removing the developing seed pod as well as the faded flower – and keep them growing for as long as possible, watering if and when necessary, and feeding regularly while they’re still in leaf.

The stems should only be cut down to ground level when they have started to die back in autumn and turn yellow or brown.

Tree lilies are very hardy and can be kept growing from year to year wherever they are planted. Those growing in containers may need lifting and replanting every five to six years or so.

The only really serious pest that affects lilies is the scarlet lily beetle. The bright red adult beetles and the grubs can strip a plant of its leaves and flower buds in a matter of days. Inspect plants regularly and if any are present, either physically remove them or spray plants with organic Pest Control Concentrate.

Please note – Pet matters

In case you didn’t know lilies are poisonous to most pets, including dogs and especially to cats. All parts of the plants are poisonous to cats, so be sure to keep your cats away from the plants.

Pollen in particular can cause problems to your pets if any pollen grains get onto your pet’s body or fur then because when your pet grooms itself it could ingest the grains.

If in any doubt grow something else.

 

 

Jean Vernon

About Jean Vernon

Jean Vernon is a slightly quirky, bee friendly, alternative gardener. She doesn’t follow the rules and likes to push the boundaries a bit just to see what happens. She has a fascination for odd plants, especially edibles and a keen interest in growing for pollinators especially bees. She’s rather obsessed with the little buzzers. Telegraph Gardening Correspondent, mostly testing and trialing products and Editor-In-Chief for Richard Jackson’s Garden.
@TheGreenJeanie
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