This section is from the book "The Florist And Garden Miscellany". Also see: All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space!.
It is a matter of surprise and regret with me that I do riot more frequently meet with these noble autumnal flowers in the collections of amateurs, for they are, in my estimation, the most beautiful of all our autumn flowering plants; and then they are so easily managed, and occupy so little house-room, that they are just suited for persons who can afford only a limited space for one kind of plant. I sometimes meet with persons who entertain the idea, that, because they are so truly beautiful, they must be difficult to manage, and, in consequence, they neglect their culture altogether. Now I find them the least troublesome of all my favourites, and the most certain to reward me for the little trouble and attention they receive. My method of cultivating them is simple and soon told; and I have no doubt that any amateur commencing their cultivation, by attending to the following directions, will be equally successful with myself.
Let us begin with the bulbs in the condition in which they are usually found in the beginning of November, when they have done flowering. Some of mine have just gone out of flower; others are well ripened, and ready for repotting. But as their treatment after flowering is of great importance, we will suppose that they have just dropt their blossoms. Remove them to a rather warm situation, and as dry as you can command, and give them little or no more water. I generally water lightly two or three times after my plants are placed in circumstances to ripen. A warm greenhouse or pit, kept rather close, if not moist, will effect this important desideratum perfectly. As soon as the bulbs are sufficiently matured, which will be known by the decay of the leaves and stems, they had better be repotted; not that this is of importance at present, but it will economise space, and prevent the operation being neglected until after they have made fresh roots. The soil in which they have been growing ought to be entirely removed from the bulbs, and the latter divided as may be thought proper, for there will always be found about the crown of the parent some small bulbs, which may be placed in 4-inch pots.
If the ripening process has been complete, the roots will not be troublesome; but if not, there will be found a quantity of fresh roots remaining. When such is the case, I leave them to themselves for some time longer, for I never pot while I require to cut or break the stronger roots, but merely strip ray fingers through them in order to remove those that are decayed. The pots should be just sufficiently large to receive the bulb and strong roots adhering to it; give a moderate watering to settle the soil, and place them in the greenhouse or a cool pit. They will require no further attention until the season begins to excite vegetation, when they must be regularly attended to. Water as soon as you see signs of growth, but sparingly until they have made leaves, etc. to draw up and give off moisture. March will generally be found to be the time when they will commence growth. As soon as they are above the soil, remove them to a situation where they will be near the glass and have plenty of air, for after success depends upon getting them strong at this stage. Do not allow them to remain in the small pots in which they were wintered until their roots become matted; the best way of managing this is occasionally to examine them.
I always shift into the flowering-pots just as the plants have protruded an abundance of fresh roots against the sides of the pots. For strong bulbs with one stem use 12-inch pots, and for such as produce two stems a size larger. Weaker bulbs, such as produce about seven flowers, will not require pots above eight inches, and offsets of the first year will not require above 5-inch pots. In shifting into the flowering-pots, be careful to place the crown of the bulbs about three inches below the surface of the soil, as they produce a quantity of strong roots from the base of the stem. They ought after potting to occupy a place near the glass; and avoid a warm house if you wish a strong bloom. As regards watering, they must have a careful supply, neither too much nor too little; but if they can be sprinkled overhead with the syringe before shutting up the house, they will not require much water at the roots for some time. Towards the end of May, if the weather is favourable, they may be placed in a warm sheltered spot out of doors, and ought to have their stems tied to a stake, in order to prevent their being injured by wind.
A few plants may be retained in the greenhouse, with a view to have them in flower earlier; indeed, I place some of my bulbs in a moderately close, warm house early in March, and I manage to have them in flower early in August; others I retard, to prolong their flowering until October; but a season's practice will be the best guide in this matter. These Lilies are not liable to suffer from the attacks of insects, but the green-fly will occasionally make its appearance upon such of the plants as may have been kept over warm. If so, fumigate at once with tobacco-smoke, or wash the leaves with weak tobacco-water.
I have said nothing about soil, for they are not very particular in this respect. We use fresh fibrous loam and peat in equal portions, with a sufficient quantity of sand to render it porous, - if peat cannot be had, use leaf-soil. Some say, however, that the flowers are much higher coloured in peat. The only thing requiring further notice is, to be careful of the flowers when you have got them, - syringing overhead, or a damp stagnant atmosphere, will spoil them, just as it would a light-coloured Camellia flower. I once lost a fine head of bloom in this way.
If you are anxious to propagate them, it may be effected by means of the scales of the bulbs. Fill a pan with soil similar to that recommended for growing them in; lay the scales upon the surface, and sprinkle a little fine soil over them; give a little water, and place the pan in a close warm atmosphere. This is, however, a part of the business which had better be left to professional hands, and, except the amateur be proficient in such work, he will not be very successful. If properly managed, they will soon increase by natural means to more than can be accommodated.
I may just state, by way of conclusion, that, in my opinion, these fine Lilies have one fault, - they produce their flowers too far from the surface of the soil. I have tried to remedy this by placing three smaller bulbs in a pot with the principal one at the first potting, and I think this improves their appearance when in flower. With this exception, they are splendid productions, and deserve the most extensive cultivation; grown in masses in large pots, or in conservatory borders, they are surpassingly grand, and they are quite within the means of the amateur. Don't be satisfied with your treatment unless your full-grown bulbs produce from twenty-five to thirty flowers upon a single stem.
Bristol, loth Oct. 1849. Autumnalis.