Benefits of Mulching Lily Beds
• Keeps soil cool during hot weather
Oriental lily bulbs have wild lilies native to Japan in their breeding background and do best in areas where the bulb can stay cool during summer. Planting in afternoon shade is a must in hotter climates. Oriental-Trumpet Hybrids are more tolerant of temperatures over 90 degrees F., but still appreciate a cool root run.
• Evens out moisture and reduces watering cycles
Just a slight bit of mulch will help keep your soil surface from drying out too quickly during hot summer days, especially if your soil is sandy. Clay soil is a different matter, it is not as important to keep the moisture within the soil, as it is to keep the soil from crusting on the surface. A light mulch, even as little as an inch or so deep will help to encourage earthworm activity close to the surface, bringing up nutrients, adding worm castings (fertilizer) and helping to lighten the overall soil structure.
• Suppresses weed germination
Weeds can simply be strong growing, exuberant plants in the wrong place. Weed seeds need soil, water and (sunlight) warmth to germinate. To slow down the number of seeds germinating on the surface, you can either scrape (cultivate) the top inch of soil whenever a bit of green appears, dislodging tiny root systems to dehydrate seedlings, or covering the surface to prevent germination in the first place. We do not recommend the use of pre-emergent chemical formulations; it is too easy to overuse chemicals, and sterilize your garden.
• Gives a neat and tidy appearance to garden
Who doesn’t enjoy stopping to admire a beautiful landscape? Even if your blending of plants is not quite to your liking or the Master Plan is light years away, by simply refreshing mulch throughout the garden, you will essentially be adding a unifying “frame” to your flowers.
• Adds nutrients to top layer of soil, as the material decomposes
Lily bulbs have contractile roots, they will actually “pull” themselves deeper to seek water (L. Superbum comes to mind here) and to help anchor against wind. Nutrients in nature are found within the top 4 to 6 inches of the forest, in decomposed leaves, grasses, branches and other duff. Lily bulbs produce roots between where the stem emerges from the center of the bulb to just below ground level. Plant an Oriental or Trumpet lily too shallow and you can see little white “bumps” near ground level, these are stem roots that were exposed to air and not allowed to develop. Basal plate roots, at the bulb bottom, help to anchor against toppling and take up additional food and water.
When planting in containers, it is important to place lily bulbs deep enough to allow the feeder (stem) roots to form immediately. In the garden, if years of pulling larger weeds from around stems, the soil has gotten a bit thin on top, adding a nice layer of well-rotted manure or compost will help to restore balance. However, if lily stems are becoming crowded and there is an overall decrease in size of stems two years in a row, then it is time to dig and divide your extra bulbs in October.