Dividing the Lilies

(ADDENDUM:  LOL, as it turns out…these are Iris, not Lilies.  My instructor pointed out that these are Douglas Iris, Iris douglasiana, and a California native.) I am taking a Propagation class at City College and our first project was dividing up some lilies in a raised bed.  Division is one of the oldest methods of propagation.  It is also the easiest.  Propagating by Division, simply put, is breaking apart a big plant to make more smaller plants.

These lilies have become too crowded for this raised bed.

These lilies are too crowded for this raised bed.

This bed of lilies was started last spring, and now have become overcrowded.  There is a little nasty garlic plant growing amongst the lilies too.  When we were dividing up the plants, we carefully pull out any garlic stems and roots in the lily root ball to prevent it from coming back.

We dug out the lilies (right).   We prepeped the bed for replanting (left).

We dug out the lilies (left). We prepped the bed for replanting (right).

So that we would not compact the soil too much when digging out the lilies, we put down wooden boards .  It is always a good idea not to compact your soil so that drainage, air flow, etc remains intact.  Next, we prepping the soil while trying to eliminate any garlic remnants.  Any little piece of garlic root still left in the bed will likely grow back into a mature plant…which will cause the whole cycle to repeat.

We layed out the lilies doing one last inspection (left).  Next we planted in rows (right).

We laid out the lilies and made one last inspection (left). Next we planted them in rows (right).

We physically pulled the lilies apart by hand.  In order to divide some plants, you may need the help of a sharp knife, shovel, or even an axe.  After a final inspection, they were planted about 4-6 inches apart with rows spanning every foot.  If we had more room in the raised bed, AND if they were not going used soon for the Plant Sale next May…we would have giving them more breathing room.

Frankly, this was not the best time to divide up these lilies.  It is best to divide Deciduous plants when they are dormant, or Evergreen plants after the new growth has matured.  For San Francisco that translates to dividing Deciduous plants when all or most of the leaves have fallen / died back… usually late fall to mid winter; and dividing Evergreens when new shoots / leaves have matured which is midsummer for most plants.

The lily bed is complete.

The lily raised bed is complete.

So what happened to all those extra plants?  We potted them up in one gallon containers which will be sold at the Flower and Plant Sale next May.  NOTE:  Check your plant species before trying to divide it.  Many plants with more than one stem and are herbaceous, e.g. non woody, can be divided.  The plant will need to have at least one stem, one crown (that is the point where the stem and roots come together), and some roots.  Also their roots will probably be tubers, rhizomes, bulbs, or corms.

– Matti Far Out Flora

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