It is not only at Easter or Christmas or Decoration day that we want the lilies. From November on till June there is use for them. At weddings they are often a leading feature and at funerals they are in constant use.
Although lilies are in demand from November to June, and for that matter the entire year, it is at Easter we most desire our main crop. The Japan bulbs are usually grown singly in 6-inch or 7-inch pots, yet within a few years there is a liking for a deep pan or pot (say a 9-inch) with three or four handsome plants. Many of our customers will pay handsomely for such an arrangement. The ordinary pan is too shallow and the common pot is unwieldy. What is known as the azalea pot is just the thing for this purpose. It is made by all the leading manufacturers.
Now if you planted three bulbs in this 9-inch pan in October there would be a strong probability of their flowering at different dates and a good chance that it would not be a success. You can adopt a much surer and easier plan. When the 6-inch pot plants are just expanding the buds, or even if some are wide open, select three or four plants of uniform size and after removing the pot take a large, sharp knife (your wife's carving knife is the thing) and cut off two-thirds of the soil and roots of the 6-inch ball, or reduce the ball of earth till you can get them into the azalea pot. You may think this is brutal treatment, but experience will teach you that there is no ill effect resulting. All the buds will open and the plants will remain in apparently perfect health. There is no fraud in this, for ninety-nine per cent of all lilies sold are thrown in the garbage barrel as soon as done flowering, and these you have doctored will last as long as the undisturbed. For this purpose the dwarf-growing Japan variety is much the best.
When we forced entirely the Bermuda-grown lilies for Easter we tried for several seasons the plan of first potting them in 4-inch pots and later after they were three or four inches above the pots shifting into 6-inch. It saved space and perhaps pots if short on them at that time. We heard several growers report that it retarded their plants at least two weeks. If carefully repotted we doubt whether it would do so. However, eventually there is no saving in space or pots and for the average grower I would not recommend the plan, but would rather put the bulb at once into its flowering pot, a 6-inch or 7-inch, according to size of bulb, for some growers force the large 9x11 bulbs.
Field of Lilium Harrisii in Bermuda.
If let alone in one house at one temperature a batch of lilies would vary in time of flowering a month or six weeks. It is entirely by moving them about into different degrees of temperature that you can get 900 out of a thousand lilies to be in flower the same week.
We will go back to the 7x9 bulbs we left in the frame in 6-inch pots. If you leave them there till middle of December, which for want of room you may have to do, don't let a sudden hard frost sweep down on them. Though almost or quite a hardy plant they have been grown somewhat artificially and 10 to 15 degrees of frost without any covering will hurt the foliage and greatly disfigure them. I can speak from experience on this and would rather the lilies had little or no frost.
If Easter is early you will want to bring them in by the first of November.
We start in with a night temperature of 45 to 50 degrees and increase to 60 later. I think a night heat of 60 in a light house - and this is what lilies should always have till they open their flowers - grows them nicely, and can't be called heavy forcing. There are times frequently when to get the backward plants in bloom we have to give them 70 degrees at night and 85 to 90 in daytime.
You cannot get your Easter crop of lilies in without a great deal of labor in moving them around, and with the experience of years you will yet be anxious as to getting all at the right time. No possible rule can be laid down, as Easter is a changeable date. It is sure that if Easter is in the last days of March you will have to force much more than if it were April 24. Be in time and before you move lilies into a cool house let them be opening the flowers. I have noticed that when moved, say from a night temperature of 60 degrees to one of 45 degrees, when the buds were not fully developed, they would stand about still. It is too great a check at a time when they need heat, but when just expanding, they can be put in a very cool house and if shaded will keep for two weeks after being open.
When the lilies are a foot above the pots they want a stake or they swing about and often get loose and frequently break at the neck of the bulb.
The soil we use for lilies is a good loam, to which has been added a fifth of old hotbed manure, and we pot rather firmly. For the early crops which are cut during winter and are flowered in 6-ineh pots we do not trouble to put any drainage in the pots, but with the 6-inch and larger we always use a crock and a thin piece of green moss. Lilies have to stand on all kinds of material and when this little precaution is taken they are less likely to get stuffed up.
We frequently notice the tips of the leaves of the Harrisii, and sometimes of the longiflorum, turn brown for half an inch or so. Many times every leaf is so affected. The cause of it we don't know unless it be the effect of fumigating, which the lilies need so much. Therefore we think it safest to evaporate some of the tobacco extract rather than burn it. The vapor cannot possibly harm anything, and it penetrates into the thick rosette of leaves which is formed just before the buds are seen.
Lilies are much troubled with aphis, in fact against them it is a continual fight, still if the house is vaporized once a week regularly, it will save you much annoyance. The fly is always deep down among the small and tender flower buds, and if undisturbed will puncture the small bud, which causes a deformed and twisted flower. So in addition to tobacco fumes or vapor you should go over the crowns of the plants occasionally and in the center of them with a rubber plant sprinkler squirt in some nicotine diluted 200 times. This may seem tedious, but it need not cost a quarter of a cent a plant and will surely pay at that price.