Showy garden lilies are favorite garden perennials. They are low-maintenance plants, thanks to the supply of food stored in their bulbs. With only a gentle annual nutrient boost, most lilies will bloom for years before they need attention.
Fertilizer is any food containing nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (N-P-K) in proportions that encourage vegetative, root and plant tissue growth and that support inflorescence, or flowering.
Garden fertilizer comes in dry and liquid form, slow-acting and fast-release. They are composed of chemicals, minerals and plant and animal products that contain nutrients.
The primary need of garden lilies is fertile garden loam. If they have balanced soil that drains well, most lilies store enough food to bloom the following summer in their bulbs.
When planting bulbs, a handful of 5-10-10 or 10-20-20 (low nitrogen) slow-release fertilizer scattered on the surface can help the lily establish itself. Fertilizer should never come in contact with bulb or roots.
A second application of slow-release bulb food can be scratched into the surface around plants before flowering in summer or in late fall. Because the material drains through sandy soil so quickly, bulbs in sandy loam should be fed annually.
Organic fertilizers like bone and blood meal and fish emulsion must be combined by the gardener to provide a complete balance of nutrients. Some natural fertilizers can attract scavengers and wildlife.