Reach for the stars

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LAST October, some scum stole a huge ceramic pot from my front garden, despite it being too heavy to lift.

They (it was too heavy for one person to manage) tipped out the soil and lilies and made off with it.

Luckily, I’d planted euphorbias round it and hope their skin blistered with the poisonous sap.

Anyway, enough of that spite. I just couldn’t bring myself to sort it out until last week.

The pot was full of pink Stargazer Oriental lilies, which put on a gorgeous show mid to late summer, with a lovely perfume.

I decided to turn misfortune to my advantage and propagate the lilies. Bearing in mind they had been lying upside down all winter, I didn’t hope for much. As it turned out, the biggest bulbs had been nibbled by mice.

However, all of them had produced bulblets and still had healthy scales inside – here’s how to propagate them. They will take a couple of years to bulk up, so be patient.


* Lift and clean a mature, virus-free bulb (you can do this any time of the year but late summer or early autumn is best).

* Discard any damaged outer scales.

* Snap off a few scales from the bulb as close as possible to the base.

* Place in a plastic bag with a 50:50 mix of slightly damp peat-substitute and Perlite/Vermiculite.

* Shake the bag and fill with air before sealing and labelling.

* Place in a warm (21°C/70°F), dark place for six weeks.

* When bulblets appear at the base of the scales, pot them on individually, covered with their own depth of compost.

* If the scales have gone soft, remove them from the bulblets before potting on. If the scales are still firm, or have roots coming from their base, leave them attached.


Some bulbs naturally produce offsets or bulblets (baby bulbs) next to the parent bulb. They will be identical to the parent bulb, making it a suitable method of propagation for cultivars.

* All you need to do is detach the bulblets. Pot up several in a five-inch pot a few inches deep.

* pot on or plant out as they get bigger, but they may take from two to four years to flower.

* If you want to encourage bulblet production, plant a stock bulb shallowly and notch the basal plate to promote formation.

STARGAZERS are easy to grow and love full sunlight.

They have a fast growth rate and should be planted in well-drained loamy or sandy soil.

They can grow to a height of about one metre, with four to five flowers per stem.

This cross were bred in 1978 by a Californian breeder, who called them Stargazer because the blooms faced the sky.

It’s worth noting they are toxic to cats, causing vomiting, lethargy, kidney failure and even death. Cats are the only species known to be affected.

Saying that, I’ve had cats for years and they’ve all co-existed quite happily together, but better safe than sorry.