I was digging over a garden bed last week and dug out several Oriental lily bulbs. When you dig out “oriental” or “Asian” lilies, be sure to use a garden fork, not a spade. A spade will slice into the bulbs. These had not been dug for five or six years so it was time to divide them. The bulbs are comprised of many, many scales that emanate from the bottom of the bulb. These scales are fairly easy to propagate in your greenhouse.
After digging out the bulbs look for the natural divisions between two or three bulbs. The scales confuse things a little bit, but most bulbs that have been in the ground for several years will easily break apart. At the same time some scales will probably fall off the plant. Save these scales, especially if they broke off at the very bottom of the bulb.
I replanted the bulbs in the garden bed about six to eight inches apart and three to four inches deep in holes into which I had mixed a tablespoon of 5-10-5 fertilizer. Next year these bulbs should grow and provide wonderful flowers (if the deer don’t eat them!)
The tiny bulblets that I found growing on the top of the existing bulbs were gently broken off and repotted, either into the ground or into pots. I put mine in pots so that I could plant them out after the tiny shoots have grown a little more.
The scales are a different matter. If you don’t have left over scales, you can break a few – up to six or seven – off each plant from the very bottom of the bulb, and use them to create new plants. The easiest way to do this is by putting the scales in a plastic bag half-full of 30% potting soil, 30% peat moss (for acidity) and 30% sand. Just put your ingredients in the bag and shake it up. Add the scales and shake it again. The scales are ‘buried’ in the bag and left to grow.
In about three to five months tiny bulblets appear around the bottom of the scales. These bulblets are only 1/8″ to 1/4″ in size and are way too small to set outside, So in the past I have potted them up into separate pots and waited for them to grow larger.
That first summer the shoots that came up were only about five or six inches tall, but at least they were growing. I am told it will take two or more years for these tiny bulbs to grow into plants that will bloom like full-sized lilies, but with the cost of Asian or Oriental lilies in garden stores, the wait seems to be well worth it.