seed germination and planting lily seeds
Darm CROOK, Canada
= above - cotyledon grows above ground.
= below - cotyledon never appears above ground
= the first growth stage of the lily seed's embryo. An epigeal
germinating lily's cotyledon looks much like a blade of grass.
- as it refers to a species lily = The species lily known by it's given
name - example L. davidii
= type. L. davidii variety willmottiae
and L. davidii variety unicolor,
are not considered “type” they are varieties of the species.
are basically four various forms of lily seed germination patterns.
Inside of those forms there are variations that affect the seeds ability
where a seed germinates reasonably quick at temperatures of about 18°C.
[65F.] and upon germination sends up a cotyledon which is followed
shortly by true leaves. Some lilies can germinate and send up a
cotyledon within nine days of planting others can take over ninety days
to do so. Lilies that take a long time to germinate and send up a
cotyledon generally take another forty five to sixty five days before
they start sending up true leaves. Lilies that germinate quickly will
generally start sending up true leaves within thirty to forty five days.
of immediate epigeal
lily species will germinate reasonably quickly but the cotyledon will
die back before any true leaves are put forward. For these, upon the
cotyledon die back, give them a three month cold period [can be longer]
at 2C.[35F.] When planting out after the cold period they will send up
true leaves in about three weeks.
simply encase the four and a half inch geranium pot, which I grow the
seedlings in, in a zip-lock baggie, seal the baggie and place it in
the lily fridge.
where a seed germinates only after an extended length of time in a
reasonably warm, just moist, incubation period followed by a cold period.
Some species may even
require a second warm
period to germinate and a second cold period before they sprout their
cotyledon. These alternating warm cold periods are around three months
each, but can be longer. Some specie types that have this form of
germination have varieties that germinate as immediate epigeal.
where a seed germinates in temperatures around 18C. [65F.] and the
grows above the soils surface. Some of
the lilies that germinate in this manor will send up their first
true leaves within 30 to 45 days of planting. Other lilies can take 6
months or more. No cold or
dormant period is needed by these type of lilies before they send up
of immediate hypogeal - cool germination
where lilies require cool
temperatures of 9C. [48F.] to 11C. [52F.] to germinate and send up
their first true leaves. Lilies that require these type of germination
conditions may never germinate if held at other temperatures.
where a lily seed germinates at temperatures of around 18C. [65F.] in
dark conditions. After a three to four month incubation period and
before they will send up true leaves, these lilies require at least a
three month cold [dormant] period at a temperature right around plus
2C.[35F.]. I have found that delayed hypogeal seeds which are given a
four month incubation period have more
foliage growth there first summer and much better first winter survival
rates then delayed hypogeal lily seeds that are given only a three
months incubation period. The ones that receive a four month incubation
period also come to flower a year or two ahead of the ones given a three
month incubation period.
of delayed hypogeal
this group there are species where seeds from the same pod
will germinate as immediate as well as delayed hypogeal. Some years from a lily
that should be delayed hypogeal germination I have had up to seven
percent of the seed germinate as immediate hypogeal other years as low
as one percent. The delayed hypogeal seedlings that germinate as
immediate hypogeal usually out grow their siblings and flower a year
or two earlier thus they are well worth watching for when germinating
delayed hypogeal lilies.
Depending on which species it is; delayed hypogeal germinating lilies can take three to seven
years from seed to first flower.
and germination of the various lily
out door sowing
on your climatic ratings good germination rates can be had by direct
sowing about a week before
your spring`s last expected frost date. Plant the seed 1/8th. To 1/4
inch deep and keep the soil moist. In my zone 1 Canadian scale, very few
immediate epigeal lily seedlings mature enough in one growing season
from directly planted seed to survive their first winter. Using this
method the immediate epigeal seedling survival rate for me is one out of
sowing in pots under lights over the winter
soil I use for starting all of my lily seedlings is our regular top soil,
very high humus well draining, 6.5 ph. For lilies that require an
alkaline based soil I amend this soil with the addition of lime. Other
planting mediums can produce good results as evidenced by other peoples
success but I can't comment on these other mediums as I have never used
them. The draw back with the soil I use is it does grow a covering of
peat moss which can prove difficult if not impossible for late
germinating seeds to push the cotyledon through it, the same difficulty
can be had by the first few true leaves
a seedling sends up. The growing of peat moss on the pots can be
controlled some what with a thin coat of canary or budgie gravel placed
over the planting mediums surface.
plant nine* seeds 1/4 inch deep
per each four and a half inch
geranium pot. Very seldom do all nine germinate, plus there is generally
some loses upon planting out and some first year winter kill. But even
if there isn't any losses nine seedlings can grow in this crowded
condition quite comfortably until the fall of their first flowering.
When planting the seedlings out do not disturb the bulblets or root
system, to do so sets the first flowering back at least one full year.
If planted as per my system, most immediate epigeal seeds planted in
November of 2008 will flower for a first time in 2010.
prior to planting the seeds, an initial watering is done in a manor that
will totally saturate the planting medium. After that they get watered
every second day, but not to a saturation point. Starting three weeks
after the first true leaves have been sent up a fertilizing program is
embarked on. Using 10-10-10 or 20-20-20 water soluble fertilizer at one
half the manufacturers recommended dosage for indoor plants the
seedlings are fertilized once every three weeks. If your seedlings true
leaves start yellowing it is usually caused by over watering. Once the
seedlings get planted out here is no further fertilizing for that
my growing conditions planting the seeds in early to mid November gives
me the best results for first winter survival rates. Planting the seeds
a month earlier and the seedlings get to large by the time they can be
planted out, planting a month later and my first years winter kill
increases substantially. To fine tune your planting time some
experiential sowing should be conducted and detailed records of the
results kept. People in zone 2, Canadian scale, have good first winter
survival results planting their seeds in early January, in zone 3,
Canadian scale, people have good first winter survival results planting
in late February early March. My seedlings are planted out starting the
day following our last expected frost date,
Using this method of planting my immediate epigeal first winter
seedling survival rate is eleven out of twelve.
For any new cross that has been tried by me the initial planting
will only be nine seeds, other seeds from the cross will be frozen as
back up. Once the seedlings flower if I like the results more of the
seeds will be planted, if I don't like the results the remaining seeds
may never get planted.
this system for immediate epigeal germinating seeds the initial seed
sowing is less work but
over the long run it is more work. However with this system you will
know every seed in your pots are growing when you pot the germinated
seeds up. Thus I generally only pot up seven seedlings per four and a
half inch geranium pot.
sowing place a hand full of planting medium in a zip-lock baggie, make
it just moist by dribbling in a little water. Once your satisfied with
the moisture content of your planting medium drop your seeds in on top
of the medium, seal the baggie, roll it up and lay under lights. Keep a
watch on the baggie contents to ensure mildew isn't growing and to catch
your seeds once they germinate. If your planting medium is to wet the
seeds will swell but will not
germinate instead they will simply disappear. If condensation forms on
the inside of your baggie it is a sign that your planting medium is to
wet. Two to three days after a seed has germinated pluck it from the
baggie and pot it up with the cotyledon exposed to the light. In this
type of planting ensure your potted medium which the seedlings will be
planted in is moist but not
saturated. The advantage for me with this system is all the seedlings
which are potted are up and growing before any peat moss starts to form
on the planting mediums surface in my pots; in many cases the first true
leaves will also have started to surface before the peat moss grows.
Plus the seeds generally germinate a bit quicker in a baggie verses
planting in a pot.
type of germination pattern I have found to be the most problematic. The
only way I have managed to germinate these seeds is as follows.
a zip-lock baggie as per immediate epigeal germination above except with
these kind of seeds you want to ensure they are embedded in your
planting medium not on top of it. This seems to help prevent the seeds
from rotting. Place the
baggie under lights or in the dark at temperatures of about 18C. [65F.]
for a three to four month incubation period. Check on them periodically
to ensure your baggie isn't growing a mildew culture and to provide an
air change. After this incubation period give them at least a three
month cold period at about 2C. [35F.] then plant them out. Ensure you
plant any ungerminated seeds as well as those that have germinated.
About three weeks after being panted out any seeds
that had germinated will send up their cotyledon. Those that had
not germinated will germinate through the summer and send up their
cotyledon the following spring.
these seeds using any of the methods for immediate epigeal
germination, the results will be much the same except it is a true
leaf that appears above the
soil not a cotyledon. If using the zip-lock baggie method the germinated
seeds should be left in the baggie until the true leaf sprouts, but
must be potted up soon there after.
- immediate hypogeal - cool germination
the seeds about 1/4 inch deep three months or a bit more before the
first frost that will penetrate your soils surface. Keep the soil
moist through out the summer watering as required to do so. They
following spring your seeds will send up their first true leaf. I get
excellent germination rates using this method but the first winter
after they have had a summers growth above ground my losses are
extremely high. In a higher zone rating the losses would probably drop
a baggie as per the immediate epigeal germination process except make
the planting medium a little wetter. Drop your seeds on the planting
mediums surface seal and roll up the baggie then place under lights at
18C. [65F.] for a maximum of five days or until the seeds start to
swell up which ever comes first. Once the seeds start to swell up you
have to get them out from under the lights and lower the
baggies moisture content or you will lose the seeds. While under
lights your planting medium should be damp enough to cause a bit of
condensation to form in the baggie, [a friend of mine labeled this
cold steam when he first tried this method].
the five day or seed swelling incubation
period under lights lower the moisture
content in your baggie by adding a little more dry planting medium and
place the baggie in a fridge set at 9C.[49F.] to 11C.[52F.]. Should
condensation continue to form in the baggie after they are place in
the fridge continue to lower the baggies moisture levels by the
addition of more dry planting medium, alternatively you can leave the
baggie open for a day or two in the fridge or seal a Kleenex in the
baggie and remove it a couple hours later. During the time period your
baggies are in the fridge check them weekly to provide an air change
and ensure mildew isn't growing.
two and a half weeks warm
your seeds up at room temperatures for a twelve hour period then
return them to the fridge. I do this by unplugging the fridge and
leaving it's door propped open. You
should start getting germination within thirty to thirty five days but
even when they have germinated leave them in the baggie in the fridge.
Only after your seeds have sprouted a true leaf and have started to
develop roots can they be potted up under lights. This can take
four months maybe longer from the time of germination.
potted up they can be grown under lights until it's time to plant them
out. Ensure to harden them off before planting them out. If you don't
the sun will scorch them and your seedlings will be lost.
method of germination is the easiest one there is.
your zip-lock baggies and treat them exactly the same as the immediate
hypogeal cool germination process for the first five days. After five
days or when the seeds start to swell, which ever comes first, lower
your moisture content in the baggies and place them in a dark area that
is around 18C. [65F.]. If your moisture content is to high your seeds
may never germinate. Once a week check your baggies to ensure no mildew
is growing and provide an air change. After a three to four month
incubation time period [so long as the seeds have germinated] give the
bulblets at least a three month [or longer] cold [dormant] period
at temperatures of 2C.[35F.]. I use the four month incubation
time period as the resulting seedlings do far better then those given a
three month incubation period. Three weeks before your last expected
spring frost date remove the bulblets from their cold period and plant
them about 3/4`s of an inch deep. From date of planting the bulblets out
until the first true leaves start poking through the soil will be about
three weeks. Some types of lilies that germinate as delayed hypogeal are
very slow to germinate, those ones should be given the three month
incubation period counting from the time the given seed lot started to
germinate, not from the time they were planted.
to four months before the frost will penetrate your soils surface plant
your lily seeds about 1/4 inch deep. Through out the summer keep the
soil moist. The following spring your bulblets will send up their first
true leaves. First winters survival rate after the first sprouting will
vary from one species to the next. For example, using this planting
system in my area, L.
martagon, L. canadense and L.
tsingtauense have excellent first winter survival rates, L. hansonii and
L. michiganense have poor first winter survival rates. So if your not
sure about your winter conditions and have a limited supply of seeds it
is best to plant using the baggie method, that way you can ensure your
seedlings have a little more maturity before they have to face their
first out door winter.