Bulbs and Plants of the World – Growing Lilies from Seed

Lilium can be grown from seed. This is the most satisfactory way to build up a collection quickly. Seed from the species will come true to type; but there can be some variation within the hybrids. Hybrids are doubtful to produce flowers which look like the relative plant, and most likely there will be some variation such as colour, height or even form.
Recently, I have had the opportunity to get some Lilium seed from two sources.
The first is the New Zealand Lily Society and then also the Victorian Lily and Bulb Group, which is an aftermath of the old Australian Lilium Society. This was a wonderful Society of which I was a member for a few years, before I took ill. Unfortunately they no longer exist, which is sad, as their Monthly Bulletin/Newsletters were always full of useful and interesting tips from some of the best Lilium growers in Australia.
It is always a pity to see good organisations go down but the Victorian Group has continued to maintain monthly events and so in December I am off to have a look at their Lilium show, which is being held at a member’s home.
In the meantime I experimented with different ways to get seed to germinate. Their has been some discussion on the Lily Site about germination and although I have successfully used the “Flotation” method with other species through the years, I had never sown Lilium in anything other than potting mix. I set about using a few different methods and mediums which included:
Peat Moss
This method was very successful and the seeds, roots and leaves were very easy to see and extract.
Sphagnum
This method was also successful but I found that it was possible for the roots to get entangled in the moss and it was difficult to extract them without breaking. If using Sphagnum, make sure it is chopped up very finely.
Water (flotation) This is an excellent method to use. Some of the seed may not germinate and some may even develop a fungus growth. It is easy to see this and remove any seed not wanted.
Wet paper
This was also an interesting way to germinate the Lily seed. It is important not to let the paper get dry and there is the chance that the root might grow into the paper. It is very important that you do not break the growing roots as you inspect or remove the seed.
Under Wet paper.
This was similar to above and gave the same results. The paper was stained with brown colour after a few days which had leached out of the seed coating because of the water. It may be that the coating is a germination inhibitor and that soaking removes this possibility. This is only a personal comment;some types of seed do need soaking before germination but I doubt that this is the case with Lilium.
Potting mix.
This is by far the easiest method to use, especially with Trumpets, Aurelians and Asiatics, as they germinate very easily. With the delayed hypogeal species like Orientals and Martagons, it may be best to start them in some type of medium like peat or sphagnum moss.
Although all methods did work, the conclusion is that potting mix is the favourable way, because eventually they will have to grow on in potting mix anyway.
The exception to the rule would possibly be the Martagon species and the harder species which are slow. With these methods, you can actually watch their progress as they grow. To show this, included is a photo of a Martagon seed that germinated on wet paper within 4 weeks and it has developed a nice little bulb.
With the peat moss and sphagnum moss, moisten it and then squeeze out the excess water and put about a cupful in a zip lock bag. Then add a small quantity of seed to each bag and seal them; mine were then stored inside in my seed room, on shelves.
They were checked regularly until most had germinated, then transferred to normal pots. I have read that it is better to keep the bags slightly open but my experience was that it really doesn’t matter. The only seeds I haven’t potted on are the Martagons, which I will continue in the moss to watch the bulbs increase in size. It is also recommended that the Martagons be given a cold spell of 12 weeks in the fridge to help maintain their growing pattern. After they have developed a nice little bulb, it is best to give them a small amount of Liquid fertiliser to help them grow on. Lilium seeds are divided into two groups, generally referred to as slow or quick germinating (hypogeal and epigeal, respectively). Slow germinating seeds require a warm period to make them germinate (summer), a cold rest period (winter), then another warm period to initiate them into leaf production (spring). It could take eighteen months or more before the first tiny leaf is produced. It is probable that this will be the only leaf produced in that season, so it should be carefully protected, as it will be helping to develop the first tiny bulb.
Quick germinating varieties on the other hand, send up a narrow seed leaf [cotyledon) immediately after germination, at the bottom of which the tiny bulb develops. This should take only three to six weeks in spring time, and true leaves will follow fairly quickly.
And then, of course, we could use Tissue Culture or Scaling to increase our stock of plants. We will leave this to discuss another time.
I hope you learned something new from this article. If you need yard maintenance, check out Portland Tree Trimming services.

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