This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V18", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
How often is the question asked, "Why is it my lilies do not bloom, but produce a cluster of small setts round the old bulb?" To which I would reply, that you must first learn what is the cause, and then endeavor to remedy it. It may have been bruised at the crown in the transfer, or what is more likely, to have rotted at the nose after planting. Knowledge is power, and so it must be admitted that we cannot produce flowers of any kind without knowing the peculiar character of seed or bulb which produces them, and the exact treatment it requires. Now the general cause of the lily failure is, they are planted without a proper provision for them to be kept constantly moist, without suffering from lying in cold, damp, undrained ground, so that if you have a soil that is made good by annually manuring, you are not certain of success on lilies, for the under soil may be hard pan clay, or churly, tight-bound gravel, which is so unsuited for them. We will suppose, then, you intend to put in a small group of lilies (any variety), from one foot to two feet square, or circle; get out the good soil larger than you intend the group to be; lay that aside by itself.
Then dig out at leasf two feet deeper the raw soil; haul it away and fill the hole with half bricks, old plaster, stones, etc, - a few broken bones mixed in would help the lilies too. When filled to within a foot from the surface, a few shovels of chips from the wood-pile, or leaves, or a covering of stable manure put on, would prevent the soil from going down through. Then take your good soil which you first took out, mix a little chicken manure and wood ashes with it, fill up rather above the level of the bed, and plant your lilies, taking care to have them three to four inches from the surface to the top or crown of the lily. If your lilies are sound when you plant them, they will keep so, and you will not regret the extra pains you have taken with your lily bed. In the fall caver well with dry leaves, and put brush on to keep them there.