Oriental lilies are among the most prized of all lilies, loved for their heavy fragrance as well as the huge, often ruffled, blooms. Late summer blossoming is a plus, extending the lily season past the midsummer peak. They love a moderate climate, acid soil and moist summers but, with some extra care, can be grown in less than ideal conditions.
The Right Start
Start out with firm, healthy bulbs with plump roots attached. If you buy by mail, make sure you order from a reputable nursery. Check the size of the bulb specified. Larger ones will bloom more quickly and grow taller and smaller ones, even if less expensive, are rarely a good buy.
Buy three to five bulbs of the same variety for the best show. A single lily stem can look a bit silly!
You can buy and plant lily bulbs in either fall or spring, though fall planting gives them extra time to get established. Lilies in pots can be planted any time of the year.
Select a sunny site where the soil drains well, away from downspouts, leaky faucets or other sources of extra water. In northern or cloudy areas, make sure the lilies will have 6-8 hours of midsummer sun. In areas of strong sunlight, part-shade, 4-5 hours is preferable.
Dig a hole 2 feet wide and a foot and a half deep. Mix the soil taken from the hole with peat moss, compost or leaf mold and bone meal. This adds moisture-holding capacity as well as acidity.
If your soil is heavy or stays soggy after a rainfall instead of letting the water drain quickly, add extra organic matter and mound the soil a foot or so above the level of the garden, 2 or 3 feet wide.
Plant your bulbs 6-8 inches deep (measuring from the top of the bulb), and 8-12 inches apart. Firm the soil around and above them with your hands. Water well.
Mulch with a 1-inch thick layer of leaf mold or wood chips to keep weeds from competing with your lilies for water and nutrients.