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Lilies are undoubtedly one of the finest plants in the garden, in pots or vases. Its extravagant flowers come in different sizes, colours, shades and with a more or less intense, beguiling scent. Most varieties are hardy and can easily overwinter outside. Nevertheless, there are lily species that should be dug up in particularly cold locations and overwintered indoors or should be protected from severe frost with an appropriate cover.


Cut back before winter

Before you start digging up and wintering, the withered inflorescences should be cut out immediately after flowering to prevent the plant from putting too much energy into developing the seeds. At this point, both the stems and leaves are still lush green. Neither should be cut off early under any circumstances, but only when the above-ground parts of the plant have completely dried up.

When the time comes, you can cut the herb back to the ground. This applies equally to lilies in the bed and in the bucket. The withered herb is an indication that the onions have drawn all the important nutrients from the green parts of the plant and are therefore optimally prepared for overwintering and a new start in spring. Now the bulbs can be overwintered according to their frost sensitivity.

Tip: If the herb is cut off too early, i.e. when it is still green, the lily will lose many vital nutrients. On the other hand, if the wilted herb remains on the onion, this increases the risk of rot in the winter quarters.


Dig up and store lily bulbs

If you are not sure about the winter hardiness of your lilies, you can take them out of the ground before the first frost as a precaution and overwinter them in a frost-free area. After cutting off the withered leaves and stems, carefully dig up the bulbs.

  • use a spade or digging fork to dig
  • Try not to damage the onions
  • to rule out injuries, dig a much wider hole than actually necessary
  • then remove the adhering soil as much as possible
  • Ideally, let the onions dry well in the air for a few days
  • this is to prevent rot and mold growth
  • Air dry onions only and not in a heated room
  • sudden changes in temperature could cause onions to suffer thermal shock
  • after drying, sort out diseased and damaged bulbs
  • Damaged flower bulbs should not be stored with them
  • If necessary, dust with a fungicide before wintering
  • Wooden crates very suitable for storage
  • Line boxes with wood shavings, straw, sawdust or Styrofoam balls
  • Scatter the flower bulbs on top
  • then cover with wood wool or straw
  • Do not put onions close together in the box
  • sufficient space in between ensures optimal ventilation
  • Air should be able to circulate well at all times

The whole thing is then stored or overwintered in a dark, cool and dry room at temperatures of around 5 degrees. This can be a dry basement, an attic, a frost-free shed, a garage or another unheated but frost-free room. The bulbs should not be exposed to direct sunlight during the entire winter period.

Tip: Diseased and damaged bulbs that have been discarded prior to storage should not be discarded on the compost to prevent the spread of infection to other plants.


In the bucket

Overwinter lilies in tubs

Overwintering lily bulbs in tubs is much less complicated, because they do not have to be dug up and can remain in the planter over the winter. In order to prepare them for the winter, fertilization is stopped completely as early as August. As already mentioned, the lily gets the nutrients it needs for the winter from the parts of the plant that are still green.

The soil or the substrate in the pot should be well dried before wintering. In autumn, before the first frost, sensitive lilies are placed in a bucket in a suitable winter quarters. It should also be dark, dry and cool here, with temperatures of around 5 degrees. Even with potted plants, the foliage must be completely withered before pruning. If you hibernate in a tub, not only does fertilization not take place completely, there is also no watering during the resting phase.

Well hardy lily varieties that are kept in tubs do not necessarily have to hibernate frost-free. In mild climates, with appropriate protection, they can be left outside over the winter without any problems, as long as they have good drainage in the pot. You wrap the respective planter with a jute sack or fleece and place it away from the ground on a styrofoam plate, wooden pallet or similar. The substrate can also be covered with dry leaves or straw. It is best to place the pot in a place that is protected from wind, blazing sun and, above all, rain.

Tip: Only clean, ideally disinfected cutting tools should be used to cut off the withered parts of the plant and to prevent the bulbs from being infected by pathogens or being transferred from the scissors to the bulbs.

In the bed

Hibernation in the bed

In rather mild regions of Germany, most types of lilies can easily overwinter in the garden, provided they are not planted in pots or tubs. In sheltered locations, for example between shrubs or under larger trees, most of the commercially available lilies can overwinter well outdoors. They have a good chance of getting through the winter unscathed, especially in mild winters with little snow, without constant rainfall and no severe frosts. The condition of the soil also plays an important role.

  • Most importantly, soil must be well-drained and well-drained
  • there should be no waterlogging
  • It is best to work in plenty of gravel, perlite or other coarse fractions when planting
  • at the end of the flowering period, remove the dead inflorescences and stop watering
  • In addition to waterlogging, also avoid dripping moisture from surrounding shrubs or trees
  • also let the leaves and stems wither completely in the garden
  • then cut back to ground level
  • then pile a small mound of humus over each lily bulb
  • it supplies the onion with nutrients and offers additional protection against the cold
  • alternatively cover the ground with a thick layer of mulch, straw or pine sticks
  • or place a flower pot upside down over the flower bulbs

Tip: Too much moisture is more dangerous for lily bulbs than frost, because it increases the risk of rotting, regardless of the prevailing temperatures.


Problems with hibernation

Unfavorable conditions during wintering often lead to bulbs dying, rotting or drying up. To prevent this, you should let them dry well before storing them. In addition, it is advisable to let them overwinter in air-permeable containers, such as a wooden box. The air should also be able to circulate between the individual bulbs at all times. Outdoors, it is important to ensure a rain and wind-protected location and indoors dry storage or a dry substrate.

In contrast to most other flower bulbs, lily bulbs do not have a protective outer skin, so they are more easily damaged than others, e.g. by rotting or drying out more quickly. They should therefore not be overwintered or stored for longer than is absolutely necessary and should be planted again as early as possible.

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