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Scaling lilies? It's a way to get 20 new plants from a single bulb.

Scaling lilies? It's a way to get 20 new plants from a single bulb Like peeling an artichoke, you can strip a remarkable number of scales from a lily bulb--and each scale will give you a new lily palnt if you handle it properly. The process is fun and, because you can produce 20 or more lilies from a single $5 bulb, it can save you money.

Scaling, the most widely used commercial propagation method, works with most kinds of lily bulbs. Some, including Orientals (a hybrid division--one of nine lily divisions), are harder than others. The Asiatic hybrids are easiest overall, but success varies by variety. You can start any time lily bulbs are commercially available, generally fall or earliest spring; you will have blooms the second or third summer. Many lily hybrids are patented: you can't multiply and resell them.

Start with plump, large bulbs

You can scale your own bulbs or those you buy from garden centers. Choose only large, healthy bulbs: they'll have more big scales, which have the best chance at producing new bulblets. If you use your own, throw out bulbs that produced stunted plants or ones with mottled leaves, since they probably have a virus.

After you've scaled and dusted the bulbs (see the first three steps in the photographs), prepare the incubation bags. One-gallon zip-lock plastic bags work well for this. Fill them with milled peat moss moistened with about 1 cup water per bag. Put about 12 scales in each bag, evenly distribute the contents, and seal the bag.

Store bags in a dark, 70[deg.] to 80[deg.] environment. A water heater closet will work well if it doesn't get too warm. Rooting and bulblet formation should start within a month or so.

From incubator to nursery to garden

After about two months, check your scales. Bulblets should be growing from most of them, and many of the bulblets should have whitish, fibrous roots. Scales with bulblets but no roots can be returned to the bag for another six weeks. Discard scales that haven't grown bulblets, and transplant those with roots; put them 1 inch deep in pots or flats of potting mix. Put the planted containers in a cool, frost-free spot (such as garage or greenhouse) that gets plenty of light. Don't allow the planting mix to dry out completely. Root and bulblet development will continue into spring, and tops may appear. Whether you started in November or February, growth will be roughly the same stage by this time.

As soon as danger of hard frost is past, transplant bulblets directly into the garden. Plant 1 to 2 inches deep in soil amended with plenty of organic matter, and tilled or dug to a depth of about 12 inches. Tops and roots will grow throughout summer, but no flowers will apepar.

Any time during September, you can divide any doubles that appear (leave top growth intact) and replant where you want them to flower. Lilies usually like full sun in mild-summer areas, filtered shade where summers are hot. Because roots should be kept cool, lilies excel between perennials and low shrubs that don't offer much root competition.

If you plant in a container, set lilies 6 inches apart and at least 1 inch from the sides of the container.

In the open garden, put them at about 12-inch intervals. (If your garden has gophers--they find lily bulbs delectable--plant each bulblet in a 6-inch-square basket fashioned from 1/2-inch hardware cloth.) Cover with a 2-inch organic mulch.

Keep plants well watered year-round, and watch for aphids in summer: they transmit the viruses that play havoc with lilies. Flowers may appear the second summer, and all bulbs should produce flowers by the third.
COPYRIGHT 1986 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1986 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Nov 1, 1986
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