Stargazer lilies bring fragrance and beauty to the home or patio with their large, showy pink-red flowers. They make good potted plants that will usually begin to flower during June and July. Whether grown from a bulb or purchased as a plant, a potted lily can grow 2 to 3 feet tall and produce flowers 6 to 8 inches long. The pot gives the gardener a choice to keep the lily inside or outside, depending on the season.
To grow a potted stargazer from a bulb, first choose a container of appropriate size. One bulb will need an 8-inch pot; five bulbs can be potted in a 16-inch pot. The normal depth to plant the bulb is 2 1/2 times as deep as its diameter. This lily likes organic, acidic soil with good drainage. Water well and keep the pots in a cool, dry space such as a garage or dark room until the roots form.
Bulbs need moderately moist soil when roots are forming. Water the soil when the top 2 inches dry out, but don’t allow the bulb to dry out. Too much water will rot a bulb. When the plant flowers, keep it moist, but don’t let the pot stand in water; if using a plant saucer, empty it after watering.
Bulbs and plants have different fertilizer requirements. "The bulb itself is an excellent food reservoir, and will provide sufficient nutrients to support the initial plant growth up to shoot emergence," according to information in a fact sheet written by Tina M. Smith, regional floriculture agent of the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Once the shoots are 2 to 3 inches tall, Smith advises, "the stem root system is well formed and the increased rate of plant growth will require supplemental feed." At this point the plant will thrive with a liquid fertilizer applied "at the rate of 200 parts per million nitrogen and potassium," she says.
Eventually the stargazer flowers will fade, the leaves will turn yellow and fall off and the plant will die back naturally. At this time it needs a dormant period so the bulb can rebuild and bloom again. Keep the bulb in the pot or in a plastic bag at around 35 degrees Fahrenheit. Many people store the bulb in the refrigerator. The bulbs can also be stored outside in the pot if the temperature does not get below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. After eight weeks, repot the bulb and it will start to grow again.
Buy healthy bulbs or plants from a reliable source to avoid an incurable aphid-related infection. Another risk is a fungal disease caused by poor air circulation. Keep the lily leaves dry to avoid it.
- Photo Credit stargazer lilly image by Alan Pickersgill from Fotolia.com
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