What to do when lilies have finished flowering

What to do when lilies have finished flowering

If you own or are considering getting some lilies you must have wondered what to do when lilies have finished flowering.  After flowering, lilies should be deadheaded, pruned, cut back, and mulched to help the plant prepare for the following season.

Lily bulbs grow in a continuous cycle throughout the year and how you treat the plant after flowering determines how the following season will turn out. Lilies are a popular group of flowers because of the beautiful and sometimes fragrant blooms. There are different types of lilies including Oriental, Trumpet, Asiatic, and Daylilies.

Deadheading Lilies

Deadheading is what to do when lilies have finished flowering. The care for lilies after flowering begins with deadheading. Spent flowers should be removed regularly. Lily blooms can be cut off and used as cut flowers for decoration and making floral displays either alone or with other flowers. The blooms that were not cut off wither and become unattractive hanging on the stems.

Each of the spent flowers should be picked as it withers which can be easily done by hand. The flowers can be broken off using just fingers or cut off using a pair of shears. Lilies don’t flower more than once per season, so removing the spent flowers hardily promotes flowering. However, the faded and withered flowers should be removed to make the plant doesn’t waste its energy making seeds. If the lily flowers are pollinated, they shrivel, fade, and make way for seed pods.

If you plan on using the same bulbs the following season, you don’t want the seeding to occur. This is because the seed pods will consume the plant’s energy which could have been stored as carbohydrates in the bulb. Deadheaded lilies show better growth the following season.  

The second reason why you should deadhead lilies is that it cleans up the appearance of the plant and the pot or garden in general. Let’s face it a flower with faded, withered, and dead flowers can be an eyesore.

It is good to note that you should not take off any leaves during deadheading because the plant still needs them to make energy.

Pruning Lilies.

Pruning is also one of the things that should be done after the lilies have finished flowering. You should be careful not to prune lilies prematurely because it can significantly diminish next year’s growth and flowers. Some people prefer not to deadhead the spent flowers and wait to take them away together with the withered leaves.

After flowering, the foliage begins to fade, yellow, and die. Although it’s tempting to cut the leaves off immediately, resist the urge. The leaves are the main source of energy for the next growing season and should therefore not be cut too early.

The leaves should be cut in late fall when they have turned brown and died down. Once a stem has finished blooming and the flowers and leaves have died back, it can be pruned. Use lightweight shears for pruning lilies (they look like large scissors). The shears are useful for making gentle cuts on the delicate lily stems. This is the same kind of shears that are used when picking cut flowers.

Follow the stalk all the way down and make the cut at the base. It is advisable to disinfect your shears in between the cuts. It helps prevent spreading diseases from infected dead and diseased plant parts to healthy plant parts. Disinfecting can be done by dipping the shears in a solution of 2 parts water and 1-part vinegar.

Cutting Back Lilies

Stalks that turn yellow or brown before fall should not be a concern. They will not affect the overall health of the lilies. In fact, they contribute to the success of the coming season by providing energy as already mentioned earlier. After the first frost, the lilies no longer needed the energy being produced by the foliage stalks.

Cut the stalks back all the way down to the ground using shears. Stems with brown leaves should be cut and removed without leaving stubs.

It is also good to note that some people sometimes prefer not to cut back stalks that are just yellow and not brow. The idea is that they might forget where the lily bulbs are buried if they cut all the stalks all the way to the ground. There is also the risk that they might destroy them by digging them up or injuring them with a digging tool without knowing. Therefore, some people cut back during early spring when the new growth begins to emerge.

Mulching Lilies

After cutting back lilies in the fall, it is advisable to apply some mulch. The mulch should be about 4-6 inches spread all across the lily bed. It helps insulate the soil from the winter temperature fluctuations and delay ground freezing. The mulch protects the roots when the bulbs are dormant. Leave the mulch in place until the spring and when the hard frost has passed.

Remember to remove the mulch gradually in the spring as the new shoots begin to emerge.

Dividing Lilies

Dividing lilies should be done only after every three or four years. Although dividing is not among the common practices of what to do when lilies have finished flowering, it is good to know in advance. In practice, some varieties can even last longer without requiring dividing. As a lily owner, you should consider dividing your lilies when you notice them experiencing poor growth and fewer flowers.

To divide the lilies, dig the entire plant up and gently separate the clumps into groups. Each of the groups should have about three clumps. Replant the new bulb groups preferably at the same depth as the original plant.

I hope you found the article useful and now you know what to do when lilies have finished flowering. Whether you are growing your lilies to enjoy them cut and displayed in vases or out in pots and gardens, what you do after they bloom determines how well they grow the next season. Also, don’t forget to look out for new colors of lilies or varieties that you can add to your collection in between seasons.

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3 Comments

  1. Was thinking about vivid colors in plants. Is there a way, such as a food coloring, to help a white flower turn into a colored flower, that has been planted in the ground. I know this sounds absurd but it was just a thought. Appreciate an answer. Thank you. Mary

    1. Hey Mary,
      As far I know you cannot change the color of the flowers while they are growing in the ground. However, you can change the color after you cut the flowers. Just put the food coloring into the water in the vase.

  2. And then, of course, someone had to add that the expression, “Gilding the lily,” is an act of vanity and is not encouraged, right?

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