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How to Propagate Asiatic Lilies


A leaf axil is “the upper angle where a small stem joins a larger one, or where a leaf stalk joins the stem,” according to You can also grow more lilies from seed, but this method can be unreliable because many lilies are hybrids and do not reproduce “true to type.” Pick stem bulbils before they drop to the ground. The popular tiger lily is the best candidate for propagation by stem bulbils. Tissue culture is another propagation method used for lilies, but it is usually done under laboratory conditions because it is a complex procedure.

Asiatic lilies produce beautiful flowers from their bulbs and are an easy-to-grow addition to gardens from USDA climate zone 3 to 10 (Minnesota to Miami). Asiatic lilies are hybrids in the Lilium genus; many shapes and colors have been created to charm and delight flower lovers when they bloom from June until September. Several propagation methods are effective for the home gardener: bulb scales, stem bulblets, stem bulbils and bulb division are all methods you can use to create more of your favorite lily.

Propagation by Bulb Scales

Select large, healthy bulbs that you have dug up in the fall, soon after blooming is finished. Wash off all soil.

Break off the scales cleanly, much the same as you would peel an artichoke.

Plant the scales directly into your garden and keep the area moist. The scales will grow into bulblets and should flower next June.

Propagation by Stem Bulblets

Look for bulblets in fall on the underground portion of the Asiatic lily’s stem: they look like small bulbs with scales and roots and can be the size of a marble. Expect to find up to a dozen of these on many varieties of lily.

Plant the bulbs 4 to 6 inches deep in a pot or flat with good quality potting soil, into which you have mixed compost and sand. Keep the soil moist but not soggy.

Transplant your young lily plants into the garden in spring, after your final frost, when they have formed leaves about 4 inches tall.

Propagation by Stem Bulbils

Search for bulbils in midsummer. They are located in the leaf axils and are small and dark colored, sometimes with leaves and roots starting to form. You might find more than one bulbil in each leaf axil, and one stem can produce 100 bulbils.

Pot your bulbils before late summer, using a good potting soil.

Transplant young plants into the garden in spring, after your final frost, when they have formed leaves about 4 inches tall.

Propagation by Bulb Division

Dig up Asiatic lily bulbs at the end of summer and look for new bulbs that join the main bulb at its basal plate: cut or snip these off. If foliage remains, it’s all right to leave on several inches of it, because it can serve as a handle for lifting the bulbs.

Store bulbs in your refrigerator for 6 weeks.

Plant bulbs in fall for blooming the following summer.

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