Growing lilies from seed is the simplest, most satisfactory way to produce many lilies in a short period of time.  Whilst the process is fairly simple, there are some things you need to know.

Background:

Only seed of species lilies will come true to type, and even then there may be some minor variation. 

Seed from hybrid lilies will seldom, if ever, produce plants identical to the parent. 

There will be considerable variation. This is how new lilies are produced.  

The prospect of new lilies is very enticing. However, the chance of producing a new lily of significant merit is likely one in thousands.

A major advantage of growing Lilies from seed is that they will commence life free from disease.  Take great care in controlling aphids and other sucking insects, as they can quickly become infected.

As with all gardening, a little patience is necessary.  Some lily seeds may take many months to germinate, and some years to flower.  Notwithstanding this, it is possible to grow some lilies to flowering stage in less than twelve months.  More often, you will see flowers in two to three years.  For a beginner, this may seem a long time. Sowing seed each year, after the first couple of years you will have new lilies flowering every year. Exactly when they were sown becomes irrelevant as you begin to appreciate the fruits of your labours.

Two Types of Lily Seed:

Lily seed is divided into two broad groups – known as epigeal or hypogeal.

Epigeal seeds (quick) send up a narrow cotyledon (seed leaf) immediately after germination, usually a few weeks after sowing.  Under the soil, a tiny bulb begins to develop.  The ideal time for this is in early spring. Fresh seed can be sown at any time of year, given suitable shade or shelter for the emerging plants.

Hypogeal seeds (slow) require a warm period to germinate, followed by cold, then another warm period before producing leaves.  This means that no leaf will be seen for well over a year. 

Making Slow Seed a Little Quicker:

1 To expedite the process with hypogeal seeds, they may be mixed with damp peat moss and sealed in a plastic bag. 

2 Place the bag in a warm place (about 21ºC – such as above your hot water cylinder), until most of the seeds have germinated. These will form a small bulb, about the size of a grain of rice.  This will usually take around six to twelve weeks. 

3 Transfer the bag to the crisper of your refrigerator for a further 6 to 12 weeks. Not the freezer !  

4 Plant out into a seed box where they should grow on normally.

Simple Steps to Growing from Seed:
· Seed may be sown directly into open ground with some protection. More often, it will be more satisfactory to sow your seeds in seed boxes.  These need to be several inches deep – especially if you plan to leave them there beyond the first year.  Poly-foam fruit boxes are particularly suitable for this purpose. Beware of black plastic pots that overheat in the sun.

· Combine 2 parts of perlite, 1 part of coarse, sharp, gritty sand, & 9 parts of fine, well-matured pine bark. This is the kind used by nurseries in their potting mixes. Any potting mixes must offer perfect drainage. Most commercial mixes contain fine sand, which blocks essential drainage – especially in higher rainfall areas.  Good quality leaf-mould can be quite useful. Coir (coco) peat (used straight) is also a possible substitute medium.

· Fertiliser in a seed raising mix can destroy germinating seeds and must be avoided.  Commercial potting mixes usually include fertiliser.   However, once the tiny bulb has developed and the roots have emerged, it will require some feeding.  Placing your fertiliser in the bottom half & leaving it out of the top half, you can have it both ways.

· Plant seed in rows or scatter sparsely.   Lily seed is very flat. Pressing furrows across the surface of the mix will ensure all seed falls on an inclined surface. This will be less likely to rot before germinating. 

· Cover seed with another centimetre of mix. A centimetre of coarse, gritty sand will also serve to deter slugs & snails, keeping the surface open for easy watering.

· Place seed boxes in filtered sunlight or light shade, and keep reasonably cool and moist.  Most Tasmanian winter conditions are not detrimental to lily seedlings, but protection against severe frosts would be advisable.   Covering the boxes with shade cloth, preferably on a suitable frame. This will provide suitable shade, & keep out blackbirds, which often try to scratch out developing seedlings in their search for worms & insects.

A packet of seed will provide you with a generous supply of healthy, disease-free lilies at minimal cost. There is nothing quite like being able to wander around your garden throughout the summer with a unique sense of anticipation, knowing that there will be something completely new appearing on an almost daily basis. 

Try some seed now – and reap the benefits for years to come !!!
If you are like many of us & enjoy your lilies, consider joining a Lilium group & share your interest with others.  That way we can all enjoy more of these wonderful bulbs.