We have set out here a simple way that lilies cam be grown from seed. Fred Dolan has promised information on another method of growing. We’ll include this as soon as it comes to hand.
This simple method is passed on after a talk to members by Rob Dalby a year or so ago. Your scribe did a trial run in 2014, using Rob’s method, and after just one year, had 7 bulbs flowering (Early December 2015).
When Rob explained his method, he indicated that damp Sphagnum moss could be purchased in a sealed package, with no further water addition being required. I found this product difficult to obtain, and ended up by purchasing from Bunnings (a 500gm “dry” pack). I understand that Thrifty Link may have the pre-dampened version in stock.
Briefly speaking, the aim is to add some lilium seed with some damp Sphagnum moss, and temporarily seal it in a plastic bag, or used (washed) takeaway food container until the seed begins to germinate.
OK then, so now the first few steps concern “conditioning” the Moss to a useable damp state. In my opinion, the “raw” moss in the purchased pack is too coarse for our purpose, so we need to perloin the family vitamiser, and, using a food container full (see image below), “wiz it up” for a couple of seconds only. The result should be a much finer consistency. To this, we need to add a bit of water (maybe half a cup or so), and stir it up with our fingers. (the amount is fairly non-critical, because now, we’re going to squeeze most of it out!
I wrapped my batch in a tea towel that was folded in half, then rolled up in a hand towel. The drying process is very rapid, and consists of placing the bundle on the floor, and stomping all over it! This forces most of the water into the surrounding cloths, and leaved us with a slab of just damp moss.
The next step is to 2/3 fill the food container with the damp moss (you’ll have some left over because the moss has swelled up significantly), and sprinkle your pack of seeds over the moss in the container. (If you have bulk seed, then a heaped teaspoon will be plenty). Now carefully stir the seed and moss so that a significant quantity of the seeds is now just under the surface. It’s important that a few seeds remain on the surface so that you can see the initial signs of germination as easily as possible, without needing to disturb the bulk material. You may like to sprinkle some of the remaining moss over the surface so that only a few seeds remain visible.
Nearly done! Now snap the cover over the pack, and with a permanent marker, record the species (if known), and the current date, and place the package in a location that is easy to see, and that remains at a comfortable temperature (say 20 - 25c) - we use our kitchen, no A/c in there. We try to keep it reasonably cool in summer, and it is naturally warm in winter.
Now comes the nail-biting part! After about a week (depending upon the temperature) there’s a possibility of germination. Usually by day 10 there’s movement. You’re looking for a minute white filament moving away from the central area of the seed.
Day 9, and the first very small filament has appeared on one of the surface seeds. I’ll watch this container for a couple more days to confirm that other seeds are germinating before transferring to my bulk growing-on foam box
I understand that it’s not normal to plant seed so early in the year (my previous plantings have been in July - and in this case, the germinating pack is somewhere near the pot belly stove), but I need to have the images of this critical stage available for you to see.
As soon as you’ve confirmed that the seed is producing shoots, it must be transferred to the “growing on” container. Any delay could lead to damage to these very fragile growths, and death of the new plant.
Most people here use foam vegetable market boxes. Fill them to about 3/4 full with a good well draining potting mix (I also cut off some of the top edge of the container so that I have a smooth top edge that will partly seal when I lie a sheet of old picture frame glass over it (to keep the babies warm, and reduce the chance of the surface drying out).
Once the box is organised with the potting mix etc., carefully shake the contents of the germination box over the surface, (you may have to carefully spread the “sprinklings” a bit with a finger… then (just) cover the lot with another layer of fine sphagnum (use the vitamiser again).
Keep the surface moist (I spray with something like a laundry spray bottle). Keep the box in a warm sheltered place. You should see some very fine grass-like filaments begin to appear in another week or so.
My test batch took about 8 days before the first green shoots began to appear. One has to look very carefully to spot them. I thought that I had 2 shoots emerging, but my wife spotted another 5!
From time to time, I add some “Thrive for flowers and fruiting” to the spray water because there’s probably not much nutrition in the potting mix. I also use a dilute solution of seaweed extract instead of the Thrive to maximise trace element inclusion.
In the “Mid November” and later pics below, you may see some brown stains on some of my broader leaves. This is due to a recent watering with liquid Kelp (a teaspoon of powder added per 9 litre watering can to keep the plants growing and healthy). The stain washes off after the next watering with plain water.
At this stage my boxes are sitting on some plastic outdoor chairs under the eaves on the Eastern side of the house. Watering is with a fine rose watering can - usually every 3 days or so - taking care to keep the mix damp, but not sodden.
Since publishing the above information, Martin Fidge, a long time member of the Society has suggested that we might like to try the Scottish Rock Garden Club generic method of growing bulb seeds for our lilies.
“Fill pot to 40mm below top with potting mix, put in seeds, cover with 10mm of potting mix and 10mm of 2-5mm gravel to stop water dislodging new seedlings and reducing drying out.
Seems to work pretty well.”
A very simple and low cost method (no digs at the Scots intended). I’ve just set up a 20cm single pot with the same batch of seed used in the lot that was planted yesterday. We’ll see how they compare.
The pot is located with the other growing-on boxes along the Eastern side of the house, but I’ve placed a poly bag over it, secured with a rubber band to keep the humidity up, and further reduce drying out of the surface.
Well today (Feb 11), we saw the first germination in the pot… after 13 days. I was scratching around near the edge of the pot, checking gravel depth, and noticed what looked like a germinating shoot. I covered it, and took a closer look at the overall surface. Right in the middle, I noticed a tiny green shoot!
More later as progress permits!