Storing Lily Bulbs

Storing tender lily bulbs involves a very simple two step process.

The first is to harvest the bulb. This generally involves digging the bulb after it has gone dormant or in the fall (the green leaves will still be evident on most lilies before frost knocks them back). I usually do the lilies in late September or whenever I get to it (leaving myself 6-8 weeks before winter and the ground freezing).

Then clean the bulb under a stream of luke-warm water. The objective here is to eliminate any soil or bits of “stuff” that might provide bacteria that will attack the lily in storage.

How To Store

Tender lilies are then stored in a “barely” most media such as peat moss in bags that are permeable to moisture.

In other words - paper bags are good - plastic bags that hold in moisture are bad.

The lilies don't want to dry right out but they don't want to be wet either.

Store in a cool spot or the crisper of the refrigerator.  Do NOT store in the freezer or you'll kill the bulb.

Some gardeners recommend wrapping each bulb in damp newspaper and then storing in paper bags.

Here's my take on this.

At this time, I'm only growing hardy lily bulbs. And they get to stay in the garden year round in my USDA zone 4 garden. Once planted, they stay until they require division or I want more. Then I dig them up in the fall - divide or do what I need to do and immediately replant in their new home.

I do not store them in any way out of the garden soil. If necessary, I can move them in the spring before they start growing so overwintering in the ground is a lot less hassle than trying to overwinter them indoors.

This kind of practical gardening works nicely on all the hardy Oriental and Asiatic bulbs (plus species bulbs I grow) so I have no need to dig and store them.

Bottom Line:

If a bulb is hardy in your area - grow it in the ground and store it in the ground. Move it in very early spring or mid-fall to it's new spot.

If you're moving - leave the lily bulbs for the new owner or arrange to come back and pick them up at the appropriate time.

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