IN THE GARDEN: Taking care of lilies, irises, caladiums, and tulips
Lions, tigers, and bears, oh my! Lilies, irises, and caladiums, woohoo!
Once your lilies have finished blooming, you may cut back the stalk — but do not remove the leaves. The leaves will continue to furnish nourishment to the bulb. You may remove the leaves once they have turned brown and died down. When the stalk has died, it is OK to cut it down.
Once the stalk has died and you have cut it down, ask yourself when you last divided your lilies last. About every 3-4 years, lilies need dividing. If they are crowded, it is OK to divide them before three years.
To divide lilies, simply lift the plant out of the soil and divide the clumps. It’s best to use your hands rather than a spade or a shovel. Your hands are less likely to leave gauges in the bulb. Replant them into the soil.
Each fall, we need to trim our irises. To make the cut for the trim, guesstimate 6 inches up from the ground. Cut the leaf at a diagonal. We have found that scissors work great. (Make sure to clean them afterward.) We tried with the snippers, but since some of the leaves were so wide, we were having to make several cuts, which resulted in a ragged trim.
When your irises become crowded, you may divide them. We suggest no earlier than 4-6 weeks after the last blooming cycle.
Irises are rhizomes (tuber grows horizontally underground with offshoots that become blooming leaf clusters) as opposed to bulbs. Under the soil, they look like the fresh ginger you see in the produce section at the grocery store.
To divide irises, pull the clump out of the soil. You may need to loosen the soil around the clump of plants with a spade or a small shovel. Once you have lifted the clump out of the soil, you may begin to divide. You will break off the rhizome that is attached to the leaf cluster. It is OK to break the rhizome. It’s also OK to trim the roots if some of them are really long.
Continue to break apart the cluster. Once you have divided your clumps, put them back into the soil. Irises don’t like to be buried too deeply. They prefer a small part of the rhizome above ground level. A rule of thumb: Plant the irises three times the width of the leaf distance apart. For example, if the leaves are 1 inch in width, you would replant your rhizome clusters 3 inches apart. Not sure why; it simply works well for spacing.
We are getting to that time of year when we need to either remove or prepare bulbs for next season. Let’s look at caladiums. They need to be harvested after their tops die. They have a natural dormant period in the fall. They should be dug up before the first frost. Do not remove the foliage, as it will nourish the tuber.
Dry the bulbs in the sun by spreading them out on the driveway, sidewalk, or a picnic table for several days until dry to the touch. It is best to bring them in at night, so they won’t absorb the night moisture in the air. When they are dry, pack them in peat moss or similar dry material (or place in a porous sack, onion sack, pantyhose, etc.) and store in a well-ventilated area at about 70 degrees (a range of 65-85 degrees). If we had basements, or access to the Bat Cave, that would make it easier. Keep them warm and dry with plenty of air circulation.
Tulips must be planted in late December or early January. However, there is preparation to be done way before then. Tulip bulbs must be chilled 6-8 weeks prior to planting. Placing your tulip bulbs in a brown bag in your refrigerator takes care of the chilling process. Pick out your colors and types of tulips, so you can begin.
Until next time.
Keep your souls and soles in your garden!
Remember the True Master Gardener: Jesus said, “I am the vine; my Father is the Gardener.” John 15:1
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