Growing lily bulbs in crates in a greenhouse to to sell for cut flowers has many advantages and aonly a few problems to look out for. I first saw lilies being grown in crates at Karthauser Greenhouse in Germantown about 2 years ago. Karthauser is a wholesale grower of potted plants and also a cut flower wholesaler. Growing lilies in crates is a cost effective crop for the greenhouse for several reasons, one of the most imporant being that they can be grown in late winter under cool temperatures so heating costs are kept minimal. Precooled bulbs can be planted in late December, soon after the poinsettia crop has moved out so they make sense schedule wise. The market for cut lilies is strong as they are considered a high value flower. With proper conditions and scheduling greenhouse growers should be able to hit the all the major spring flower holidays with a high value crop. We planted the Asiatics pictured in mid to late December. The growing reccomendations suggest planting bulbs in December-January and they will require about 85-90 days at 70 deg day and 50 deg night temperatures to force.
In this picture the Asiatics are in the foreground with the later blooming Orientals planted behind.
Forcing lilies in crates is fairly easy. The first step is to find a good bulb supplier, of which there are many. We purchased our bulbs from the Fred Gloeckner company as they are a very well known company and they could provide small enough quantities for us to trial this process. Some of the other suppliers require minimum orders of 200 bulbs per variety. Gloeckner has several nice collections of 200 bulbs of several different varieties. We chose the ‘Asiatic Hybrid- Economy “Cut” Flower Collection’ consisting of 50 orange Brunello, 50 yelllow Gironde, 50 Red Monte Negro and 50 pink and yellow Toronto. This also takes the guess work outt of trying to figure out which varieties are best for greenhouse forcing. Interstingly enough, the smaller size bulbs are sold for cut flowers.
The bulbs came precooled and were planted by Gateway Horticulture students in mid December. The greenhouse temperature is about 65-70 degrees. This night warmth may be a contributing factor to the stretch we are experiencing. The light levels in this house, and in Wisconsin in winter, are not as high as we might like but we have to work with what we have.
A couple pieces of newspaper were placed over the bottom of the crate to prevent the media from falling though. A layer of media was them spread over the bottom and bulbs places about 15 per crate. Its impotant to make sure bulbs have adequate media over them – at least 2 inches and that too many bulbs aren’t crowded into to crate. The bulbs need to be watered in well after planting to compact the soil around the bulbs but after that they need to dry out between waterings so be acreful not to overwater. Fertilizers are not necessary until the shoots are about 4-6″ tall. We use an irrigation injection system to supply 150-200 ppm fertilizer at each watering.