Lilies: How to Make Lily Flowers Last Longer

Lilies: How to Make Lily Flowers Last Longer

beautiful bombini Oriental LiliesBoz and I share a love of lilies; me for its beauty and perfume; Boz for its vertical nature.

Lilies, Oh Won’t You Stay Just a Little Bit Longer…

August is the month when my garden really goes full-on Victorian, a color explosion of old fashioned flowers plucked from a John Singer Sargent canvas. Hollyhocks, phlox, lilies and roses dot my landscape as if applied from the artist’s palette. At night when all is still and a gentle breeze cuts across my porch, it carries the perfume of late summer, that of the lily.

Regale Lily tall clover farmThanks to a little photo-editing magic, my lily regale is firmly rooted in the Aesthetic Movement.

Disneyland is to a child as the Pacific Northwest is to the lilies; the bulbs are very very happy here. Our cool summers and fast draining soils produce a robust flower of gob-smacking proportions and presence. This queen of flowers holds court and my attention at every turn.

Lily wonderland: Perfumed porch and eye candy corner of the garden.

Because the blossoms of lilies can be fleeting, I’ve explored ways to extend their visitations and enjoy their blooms for a longer period of time. It’s a simple ploy and one that doubles the vase and garden life of most lily flowers; I remove the stamens before pollen can be produced.

lily blossom and honeybeeBy removing the stamens you stop pollen production (and nose staining).

The flower’s purpose is to attract a pollinator, facilitate seed production and then fade away when the mission is accomplished.  By plucking the stamens off of lilies, you circumvent the floral foreplay so there’s no pollen to trigger the process of reproduction.

When the lily flower begins to open, simply pluck the pollen-less stamens from the flower. If you wait too long the pollen appears and resistance is futile, the pollen spores will locate the pistil and love will find a way. The flower having done its job will retire to the garden bed below and enrich the soil as it once enriched the view.



34 thoughts on “Lilies: How to Make Lily Flowers Last Longer”

  • I LOVE the scent of lilies. To me they are what Christmas smells like.
    I don’t grow them, but always take the stamens out of the flowers because, I understand the pollen is poisonous to animals and I don’t want my cats to get pollen on their furs and get sick from licking it off.
    Your garden is so beautiful – if you have to be awake in the night, rather than sleeping the sleep of the innocent, you could do no better than enjoy that luscious perfume xxx

  • Great Lilies and an aweseome view to enjoy! Have never removed stamens, but have suffered many indignities due to them on a white starched shirt…..

  • Gorgeous, gorgeous lilies, Tom! I’m laughing about Boz’s love for lilies, too. I only had a few lilies much earlier in the season (our area is not as friendly to lilies as yours) and not enough to garner our Sonny’s attention, but I’m sure he’d share Boz’s love, too. 😉

    Okay, so being a beekeeping family and “pro” pollinators (the beekeepers are even trying to get a pollinator license plate here in VA), are their adverse effects to removing the stamen? Are you interfering with nature and will it affect how many lilies you have in the long run? I’m just asking “blindly” … not trying to figure it out myself. 😉

    Thanks,
    Shirley

    • Shirley, I have two acres of weed flowers to satisfy my bees 😉
      By not producing seed pods, the lily puts more energy back into the bulb for a bigger flowers and taller stalks next season. This is what I’ve found to be the case. I don’t remove stamens on all lilies, just the ones near walkways and those I plant in pots or put in vases.

  • Nice of you to mention your dog’r reason for loving lilies; they are so beautiful, lucky dog! Anyway, reading this made me think of a business idea for you: What about planting the crocuses (or whatever flowers they are) that make saffron? That way, you will use your skills and start a cottage industry as well. ?

    • Joumana, I love that idea, but not sure my back does, plucking saffron crocus stamens on my knees, ummm maybe there’s a super tall variety. 😉

  • Don’t you just love Lilies…and you are so right about the PNW being practically made for them. I will have to give that a try next year (they are almost done blooming now in my garden for the season). I’m determined to find a super-fragrant lily to place by my front steps (and another for the back yard by my little seating area)…any suggestions?

    • Hi Scott, here are my recommendations for fragrant lilies. Skip planting Asian lilies; they’re early, short and no perfume. For garden presence, I’d plant at least 10 in a drift or clump for best effect or two nearby clumps of five, for a total of twenty bulbs between the front yard and back. I’d plant one type in the front yard and one type in the backyard: Oriental Lilies and Orientpet Lilies, respectively.
      Orienpet Lilies: July – August bloomers, cross between trumpet and Oriental lilies, subtle but delightful perfume. Amazingly tall, mine are now 7 feet tall, a variety called Satisfaction.
      Oriental Lilies: Mid to late August Bloomers, rich fragrance, 4-5 feet tall, amazing variety. I especially like Dizzy (unfortunate name) and Gold Band and Corso.
      Source: Scott, I really like John Scheepers for bulbs. And the Trumpet Lily Regale is also favorite and a July bloomer. They like good drainage.

  • Great post and thanks for sharing your experiene with your readers. Really enjoyed reading your post on how to enjoy the blooms of lily for a longer period of time. Do keep posting such wonderful articles 🙂

  • I do not twitter or use face book. Thanks for the tips and the information, Your garden is magnificent. I shall now look for your books.

  • Beautiful lilies Tom! Great pictures… I also grow alot of the oriential lilies here in South Carolina! They bloom all summer long. Love their huge flowers and wonderful fragrance! My wife really loves them, make a huge vase of lilies and adding someone ferns with them.

    You might be interested in my garden Bluebird House give-away, check it out.
    Bluebird House Give-Away
    My Japanese Iris Pictures

    • Thanks Michael, Nice to know lilies do well in the heat of the South. I wasn’t sure, and I wondered if they needed a winter chill to thrive as well. As a child, I lived in Myrtle Beach, and the nursery down the road from us used to refrigerate tulip bulbs before planting. Take care and I love your birdhouses!

  • hello,
    If I remove the stamens from the lilies so they last longer, does that mean I will have less lilies next year?

    Thanks

    • Hi Gerry, nope, you’ll bigger and better lilies as the food from photosynthesis goes back into the bulb and not into producing seeds.

  • Hi I planted some polland free lilly bulbs in planting pots to start them off.I planted them in may and none have bloomed yet.the stalk is growing its about 8 to 12 inches on a couple.a few just poked thru the soil.I used nice organic soil.what am i doing wrong.Ive planted alot of diffrent bulbs this year and so far none have grown.its very dissapointing to fail at gardning.I wanted a beautiful yard this year.but it looks like crap cause theres no flowers blooming.just weeds.my cactus rose is the only beauty in my yard.helpppp plzzzz.I want to save my lillies.Ive spent so much money on bulbs and none have grown to full bloom.lillies are growing but just a green stalk.thank you for reading.plzz help me

    • Hi Theresa, I had some similar issues this year, and I believe it’s that awful new moisture retentive potting soil. It rots bulbs very easily. I am no fan of the stuff after my first time use. I think they just got too much water and rotted most likely as most bulbs like excellent drainage. Plant the lily bulbs in the yard and they’ll be happier and grow bigger each year. Lily bulbs tend to sleep the first year, creep the second, and leap the third. So my advice to you is to plant bulbs in your garden and stay away from moisture retentive potting soil if you have to plant in pots, and don’t over water. Good Luck Theresa!

  • Just bought some Lilies for the office I work in, and I just removed the stamens thanks to your post! Thank you!
    Michelle – Kent, WA

  • I have alot of lilies growing on the north west side of the house here in Kansas. They get alot of heat and very little shade. They come back year after year, thriving. One thing; some varities grow tall faster than others. As it turns out some of those in the back are hidden.

    • That’s great, I thought it may be too hot in Kansas for lilies. Maybe this fall when the foliage dies back, you can move the shorter varieties to the front. Lily bulbs transplant quite well, just be careful not to slice the bulb with the spade. Good luck, happy gardening!

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