|Iowa Regional Lily Society (IRLS)
Growing Lilies in Iowa and neighboring states since 1973
| Winterizing our Iowa Lilies
by Wanda Lunn
Leaves have left the trees, annuals are dead and our Iowa perennials are just a shadow of their summer splendor.
My flower beds are ready for a long winter sleep, but the Lilies still need my attention.
This fall my garden was a flurry of activity after all the green was gone. Lily clumps marked earlier this summer
with white tree tags were dug. I used a garden fork to carefully dig about six inches out from the lily stems and
was rewarded with a harvest of bulbs big and small. I put three big bulbs back in each hole plus the tiny bulbs for
future harvest. I placed the extra bulbs into well-marked paper bags.
Some tags reminded me to move too tall or too short lilies to a more suitable spot. Other tags reminded me that I
had too much yellow or too much pink in a certain area, diluting the beauty of the individual cultivars. My extra
bulbs were shared with local friends plus at the our Fall IRLS Lily Symposium in Des Moines.
My asiatic lily “Satin Slippers” won Highest Bud Count” at our June 2017 IRLS Lily Show at the Reiman Gardens.
Downfacing lily bulbs are not usually cultivated by the Dutch since the blooms do not fit well into cut flower
bouquets and are too tall to be sold potted. I dug a few selected bulbs of “Satin Slippers” to share with other IRLS
members who had admired it. I also dug and shared a few fragrant trumpet bulbs that do well in Iowa, but are not
suitable for the cut flower trade.
Of course I planted new lily bulbs from our IRLS Fall Bulb Sale in my garden six inches deep this fall.
All the bulbs are marked well and watered in to remove air pockets. I am excited to see what they look like next
summer. I know they will be short the first spring, but will grow to full height in 3-5 years.
In the past few weeks I cut my lily stems down to a few inches high and mulched them for the winter. Do NOT
pull the stems out unless they are loose—you can pull out the center of a lily bulb and damage it! DO use garden
markers to remind you which bulbs are planted where. Lilies grow roots all winter on the bulb plus send a stem
up close to ground level for a jump on spring.You only get ONE stem per bulb each year. Late snow or frost can
damage the stem and send the bulb back into hibernation.
Trumpet and Oriental Lilies are the most susceptible to below zero temperatures. Orienpets (Oriental x Trumpet)
and LOs (Longiflorum x Orientals) should be well protected too. Chopped leaves, peat moss, grass clippings or a
combination of natural mulches will protect your bulbs from a cold winter plus Iowa's Spring freeze and thaw
Lilies are a stunning addition to any flower garden, so protect them well. With good winter care, they will
multiply and bloom for years in your garden.