Paul is Managing Director of the prestigious Van Diemen Quality Bulbs company. His subject for the evening’s presentation was Commercial growing of bulbs in Australia and how it fits into the global scene
He said that the volume of bulbs in general that is produced in Australia does not even put us into the top 25 producing nations (even below New Zealand).
In particular, the major reason for this low ranking is related to climate. Australia is just too hot to enable broad-acre growing of most garden bulbs.
That being said, the major grower of Daffodils in Australia is one single grower in Victoria!
Paul went on to talk about new Liliums that have been bred in America that are expected to be introduced to Australian catalogues within the next 2 to 5 years after they have been proven for Australian conditions, and sufficient numbers of bulbs have been propagated.
Although he simply classifies himself as a “farmer”, he went on to pass on his top tips for successfully growing Liliums.
1. Get the position right:
- Shade: Australia has a lot of bright light, and also increasingly hot summers. In our climate, liliums generally appreciate some shade, especially the roots.
- Air circulation: Planting the bulbs in areas with good are movement will substantially reduce the risk of fungal diseases in your foliage.
- pH - generally Liliums like a pH of around 6.0. Orientals like it a bit more acid, while Martagons grow best at pH 7.0
- Drainage is critical. A lot of liliums are lost due to waterlogging in wet or overwatered situations, even in good soils.
- Fertiliser - do not go overboard. Use a general purpose fertiliser at planting and a high nitrogen fertiliser once as shoots emerge.
- Liliums obtain most of their nutrition and water from feeder roots that emerrge from the stem just above the bulb a couple of weeks after emergence. These are quite shallow and easily dry out.
- Mulching is a great way to keep your lilium roots cool and moist, increasing vigour and reducing the need to water so frequently.
- Liliums grow through the summer and are winter dormant, so while they’re quite tough, they do need regular watering for good performance.
- Watering is especially important from emergence to flowering.
5. End of season maintenance:
- Do not lift the bulbs unless they’re too crowded.
- Cleaning up crop debris will reduce your disease risk next year. Either pull, or cut the old stalks after the crop has died out.