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How to Clone a Lily Bulb

How to Clone a Lily Bulb

Lilies are very popular with hobbyists and florist shops alike.  They’re beautiful and, with the proper care, grow and multiply year after year.  It takes a little while, but it’s entirely possible to grow an entire bed of lilies from just a single starter plant.  Propagating lilies from a bulb is fairly simple, and cloning can help to speed up the spread of a slowly propagating plant.  A word of advice:  cloning a lily bulb means you’ll also be cloning any viruses currently active in the plant, so be sure to check for viruses before cloning to ensure you have a healthy plant! Let’s start with a few important terms:

Anatomy of a Bulb
Anatomy of a Bulb
  • Cloning – Growing a new plant from a cutting or other piece of an existing plant. The new plant has the same genetic code as the older plant.  Typically used when you have a genetic strain you particularly favor.
  • Division – Asexual reproduction of a lily or other bulb-plant through splitting of the bulb to create a new plant.
  • Bulblet – A small bulb, typically produced from a larger bulb.
  • Basal Plate – The base of the bulb where roots grow through the soil.
  • Scale – The primary storage tissues for a bulb. Scales are the developing “leaves” within the bulb.  Scales connect together at the basal plate of a bulb.

Scaling

One of the easiest methods for propagating a lily is through scaling.  When you scale a plant, you use the scales from a bulb to grow multiple plants.  The best time to take scales from a bulb is in mid- to late-summer, after the plant has finished flowering.  When you’re ready to clone the plant, all you need is the plant, a planting medium, a sealable bag (or humidity dome), and fertilizer.

  1. Take some vermiculite moistened with water and some light fertilizer and place it in a sealable bag.
  2. Remove several scales from the plant you wish to clone by peeling the outer scales away from the bulb like garlic cloves. This will weaken your plant, but it should recover over the next year.
  3. If you’re worried about fungus, you can pre-soak the scales, once removed from the original bulb, in a systemic fungicide for 15 minutes before planting.
  4. Place the scales into the bag with the vermiculite, then seal it shut.
  5. Let the scales sit in the light.
  6. Bulblets should begin to form where the scales connected to the original basal plate (roughly two weeks later).
  7. After the bulblets grow roots and increase in size, open the bag to reduce humidity and acclimate the lilies to lower humidity levels.
  8. Once the roots have taken, or a shoot starts from the bulblet, replant them into soil or your hydroponics system.

Growing and Care

As with growing Easter Lilies, growing a lily hydroponically requires care and attention.  The rules for Easter Lilies will mostly apply to lilies in general, but exact temperatures and needs will change from plant to plant.  To summarize:

  • Fast draining medium such as vermiculite or clay rocks
  • Top-feed watering or drip irrigation watering systems work well
  • Keep the roots wet, avoid total immersion
  • Temperatures should be between 65 to 75 F
  • Indirect sunlight keeps your lilies healthy, without scorching them

Cloning new lilies from a current plant is simple and easy.  The process of scaling mentioned in this article is one of the easiest methods to duplicate your existing plant.  Multiple lilies can be grown from a single bulb, speeding up propagation and saving you money on buying starter plants.  Feel free to try your hand at it and let us know how it goes.  If you have any other questions (or perhaps you have a favored method of cloning), then leave them in the comments below.  We’d also love to see any progress you’re making on new gardens this year, so send us images through our social media.  And don’t forget to follow us on FacebookTwitterGoogle PlusLinkedInPinterest, or Instagram to stay up to date with new articles!

Header image courtesy of

Andrew Writer.

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