By IRLS member Sue Williams
The martagon family has been seen as fussy and hard to get along with. While it is true that
marties, (as I will affectionately call them), can pout, they are quite versatile garden plants. They
are super for the shade garden where they will add some vertical lines to an otherwise normally
mounded growing in part sun.
Having said all of that, marties are a bit harder to get established; probably because when they fail
to show up the spring after fall planting, we, as gardeners, dig them up to see how they are doing.
That sets them back again and now they won’t show up or send up a weak spindly stem with one or
two misshapen flowers the following spring. With disgust we say “and I paid $$$ for THAT. Never
again!” Or, we dig them up once again to see what is wrong with it and start the cycle all over again
until the bulb exhausts its energy supply and dies.
The best way to plant a martie is as early in the fall as possible. Plant them in a semi shaded area at
a depth of 2 to 3 times their diameter, in other words, a 2 inch around bulb should be planted with
its base 4 to 6 inches beneath the soil line. Cover with soil and water in well to remove all air pockets
which will allow frost and freeze damage to occur, finish filling to ground level after the soil has
settled and water once more, mark the place where you have planted that martagon bulb. Mulch
with a layer of leaves, pine boughs, or other mulch after the ground freezes.
During the winter and following spring, the martie will be working to establish its root system and
may or may not make an appearance. Do not dig up the bulb to see what is wrong! If the bulb has
been planted in good soil that is well drained you will most likely see some growth by the second
spring, if not the first. Marties have also been known to send up a stem (even to form some
flowers) and then die back for no apparent reason. This is ‘normal’ martagon behavior, so don’t
Having said all this, I have found most of my marties make some sort of appearance the first spring
after planting and by the second spring are showing me what beauty they are capable of. I mark the
location of my bulbs so that I will not accidently dig in the empty spot if they don’t show up that first
year. You may want to provide rabbit protection in the spring as they seem to be especially
appealing to bunnies. Plant Skkyd ® is a blood based repellant that works very well
The hardest part is the waiting, Give her time… she’s worth it!!
Susan A. Williams (Nov. 2009)
|Claude Shride--Martagon Lily
|Mrs. R O Backhouse--Martagon Lily
|Nodding buds & whorled
leaves are hallmarks of
the Martagon Lily.
|Martagon Lilies for your shade garden!
|Dalhansonii --Martagon Lily
|L. martagon album--species lily
|Martagon Lily foliage
|Martagons are available in a
rainbow of colors!
|Iowa Regional Lily Society (IRLS)
Growing Lilies in Iowa and neighboring states since 1973