How To-Lily Bulblets

As spring marches forward, lion or lamb like, the plants growing in the Fairegarden keep the step (photo taken June 4, 2008, Lilium ‘Royal Fantasy’). We love the lilies and have a nice variety, adding more each year. This is one plant of which you can never ever have enough. Because more is always better, and these beauties can be expensive, free is fabulous. We have saved and sown seeds of the trumpet class with some success. There has been germination and planting out, but no flowers just yet. Some lilies produce bulbils that grow along the stems at the leaf axil. These can be planted like seeds to grow new lilies. Another way to propagate them is to plant the little babies that the larger bulbs produce. These are showing right now, and some are so close to the surface that the entire bulb, small as it is, is exposed. These can be plucked ever so gently and replanted wherever you want some lilies.

On the beds where lilies grow that were not mulched, these little babies are very visible, there for the gathering. This year it is the Longifolium asiatics, also called the LA hybrids that are shouting ‘Plant Me!’ at the top of their lungs as we peruse the garden on hands and knees. What is that? You don’t go around in that position in your own garden? Although a nice waterproof pad makes it more comfortable, and gloves will help protect that manicure, getting very close to the sweet earth is the best way to see what is REALLY going on in the garden.

Last year we planted some of these LA hybrid babies, Lilium ‘Royal Fantasy’ in the newly enlarged Fairelurie behind the row of Muhlenbergia capillaris by the driveway. I had forgotten all about doing that and was surprised to see what looked like lily foliage appearing in that heavily mulched bed. While we were spreading the tommie crocus (seen above the emerging lilies in the photo), again on hands and knees, we noticed the tips and studied them carefully, then went to the edge of the daylily hill bed where the initial planting of the LAs lives, shown in the opening shot of this post. There was a faint stripe on them, and a million more babies. That will be the task, and a delightful one it is, of the day, spreading more lilies in the Fairelurie.

We must be careful to not plant them where other things are growing and have not appeared yet. There are swaths of Salvias, including S. sylvestris ‘May Night’ shown, Amsonias and many other things that were stuck into this new bed last year. Some were noted in the journal, some were not and will be a surprise.

Though the title is a How To, there is really nothing to teach about it, just use a tool of some kind, spade, weeder, screwdriver, stick, finger or a dibber like I am using. I do love that dibber and use it for so many things, but the planting of small bulbs is where it excels. The T shape of the handle makes it very comfortable for aging hands that have dug one too many holes, just poke and plant. A few babies were dug to be photographed, to show what they look like. The dibber was used to gently pry the uppermost babies up and out, trying to include as many roots as possible. More will be teased out and spread after the camera is safely back in the house, we don’t want to get it dirty.

This shot is to remind me where the baby lilies were planted, between the blue fescue and the Salvia guaranitica ‘Argentine Skies’, marked by the white tags, beginning at the end of the Camassia row.

Do check out the surface soil around your own lilies and look for offspring. They will show their gratitude by living long and prospering, and flowering in the future.

Anyone interested in learning more about the Fairelurie, click here-Fairelurie-Someday.


We are still in the process of adding the names of the plants growing here as pages in our sidebar. Thanks to anyone who has viewed these. Some have photos, but most will just be lists until the time and inclination becomes available to illustrate each plant, if it ever does. The category of bulbs is a large one. It has yet to be decided whether to keep it as one page or break it into smaller bits for each species. For now, the lilies will have their own page.

For other How To posts written by Fairegarden, look for How To on the sidebar page listing or click here.


This entry was posted in How To, Plant Portrait, Tightwad gardening. Bookmark the permalink.

32 Responses to How To-Lily Bulblets

  1. gittan says:

    It’s great to learn more about how to make my own plants for free. I’ll keep my eyes open for those bulblets. Happy Easter / Kram gittan

  2. gardeningasylum says:

    Hi Frances, Love lilies, free ones even more so. Sounds like you are not affected by the lily beetle that’s been attacking us in Connecticut, lucky you!

  3. Sylvia (England) says:

    Frances, I have increased my lilies like this but no more. We have a real problem with lily beetles now, I don’t have time to hand pick them so it is a choice between spraying or not growing lilies! I compromise and have reduced the number of lilies I grow and spray them, which I hate doing. Now I read that lily beetle has got to Connecticut (comment above)- I do hope that is a long, long way from you but they have spread around the UK so I think they will get to you one day.

    Best wishes Sylvia (England)

  4. lotusleaf says:

    I love lilies and I too increase lily population by the same way. It was perturbing to hear about the beetles, though. Have a happy Easter!

  5. Les says:

    This is a timely post with Easter being this weekend. I have Lilies on the brain as we of course have a bunch in the garden center with their sweet fragrance almost a distraction. I am also filming my TV garden spot later this morning with “what to do with your Easter Lily” as the main topic. I will include a word of warning to the cat lovers in TV land about the plant. Have a good day!

  6. Thanks for the tips, Frances. Do you have any tips for dealing with the beetles? Other than squishing with you nails (yuck)

    Thanks Heather. We have never seen or even heard of these beetles before, knock wood! I am guessing that hand picking is the least chemical involvling method to deal with the beasts.

  7. Liisa says:

    Your lilies are always such a treat to see. They are indeed one of my favorites, and you have some great information here on how to up my inventory. I don’t think I could ever have enough of them. I do remember a post not too long ago that showed your lovely ‘Lady Alice’ which was promptly added to my wish list. I do have to put up with the dreaded lily beetle, but this is one pest I am willing to take the time to hand pick. Have a wonderful day! 🙂

  8. Janet says:

    I do love lilies, the voles ate all that I had here. I suppose I will battle deer in SC. I love the fragrance of the various lilies.

  9. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I will be out there soon looking for babies around my lilies. This spring I found a whole big bulb above ground. I don’t know if a mole uprooted it or a possum or a racoon looking for something to eat uprooted it. It looked ok except it was out of the ground and it appeared to be two stuck together. I planted them in a different place so I could have some spread around the garden. I can’t wait to see them grow. I like your dibbler. I have never had one of those. It looks mighty handy.

  10. Darla says:

    Of course I can be found on hands and knees in my gardens, how else do you get up close and personal with the earth and all it has to offer? Glad I know an experienced gardener that forgets where things are planted. Great post Ms. Frances.

  11. I wish that I had more space inside the cottage garden for the lilies. Good advice on increasing the supply!

  12. Free plants area great! I hope to make quite a few lilies through the leaf propagation I did last year. I ended up with 7-8 new plants that have sprouted in the garage. It will be a while before they bloom, maybe next year, but free plants are very cool!

  13. commonweeder says:

    Great post. One of the biggest problems I have is adding plants – and not always being sure where other plants already exist. I haven’t had trouble with lily beetles, but I have been told that products that include Spinosad is safe and effective. I know it was a plant saver when our area had a caterpillar explosion a couple of years ago.

  14. I must remember to do this, every summer I forget. Free plants are wonderful.


  15. I’ll have try relocating some bulblets here. We have a rather awkward clump of lilies left here by the previous owner. Spreading them around a bit I think would make them look much better. Thanks for the tip!

  16. This is the second time I have stumbled across the wonderful word ‘bulblets’ this evening! Sadly, I have just about given up on lilies due to the dreaded lily beetle.

  17. Jenny B says:

    Oh dear, from reading all the posts, the Lily beetle sounds terrible. I hope we don’t get it down here. I love your dibber–I could really use one. I usually use a stick or my finger. The stick works better if it doesn’t break off. Your lillies are lovely. I am going out right now to look for bulblets! Happy Easter!

  18. Kathleen says:

    I’m just acquiring some lilies so I’ll tuck this info away for future reference. Swathes of lilies ~ that’s a beautiful image ~ even in the imagination.

  19. Nell Jean says:

    Aren’t LA lilies wonderful? They have all those bulblets like an Asiatic, and they’re bigger! I love all those secret things that go on underground where lilies grow.

    I’ve dug and discarded lilies before because I thought they were virused. I figured it was better to get rid of them, just in case.

    Oh, I can hardly wait for lily season, which comes earlier here than most places, but lasts because of the different kinds of lilies. They’re all my faves.

  20. Lola says:

    I have some lilies that I inherited when we bought this house. I have no clue what name they carry. I do know that they can reach 10/12′ high. One yr. they were as tall as my neighbors roof. I have little babies everywhere. I think I’ll move some of them elsewhere. Of course they will need some kind of support. Got any ideas besides those skimpy little rods with a curly cue at the top. lol

  21. Ah, yes, that minor detail of planting things on top of each other… I have to get better at that.

  22. I’m so glad to get this information today off your blog. I never even thought to look for baby lilly’s before. That will be my first garden chore when I get up to my garden in NC.
    It’s so nice to get these little tid bit’s of info from you Frances

  23. cpollen1 says:

    I will try this! I have always been sort of a lazy gardener and neglected those little bulbettes.(?)
    I liked the Zen garden post too! Very fun. My daughters love all things Japanese. Me too.

  24. Rose says:

    I do love free plants! I don’t have many Asiatic lilies, so it will be awhile before they reproduce, but I’ll definitely be on the lookout for the little babies one of these days.

  25. joey says:

    You are a wise woman, dear Frances, and why we love you. You often remind us that ‘the best things in life are free’. Thank you. Easter blessings and (hugs)!

  26. eliz says:

    Interesting. I knew about bulbils, but have never really noticed the babies you mention. I have also heard that you can propagate them from scales taken off the mother bulb.

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