Propagating Oriental Tree Lilies


My Lily Tree was going to die. I took the upper part into the house, put it in a clear vase, left it on the window ledge. It now has fibrous roots as well as what appears to be 2 sets of leaves forming – one under water.
What do I do to help it become a lily tree?
I have another picture with more detail – how do I submit the second one/



I am sorry to hear that your Lily Tree has been declining. Lily Trees aren’t actually trees, they are a tall growing hybrid perennial made by cross breeding Oriental Lilies with Asiatic Lilies.

Propagating Lilies from stem cuttings is difficult and not often done by home gardeners. The two sets of leaves that you have described are most likely bulbils. These are tiny bulbs which arise from the leaf axil (where the leaf attaches to the stem). This is a sign that your cutting is trying hard to save itself.

If you would like to try to grow your stem cutting,  cut your stem carefully- so you don’t disturb the bulbils, about a centimetre above the shoots with clean sharp scissors.  I can see two sets of shoots in your photograph, but if you have more up the stem you can keep cutting segments so that each piece of stem with shoots can be planted.

Plant your lowest segment – the one that has roots already, into a small pot or planting tray filled with seed growing mixture. Garden centers have a selection of premixed soil-less seed starting blends which drain well and encourage root growth.

Place the second cutting, any any further segments, into a rooting hormone mixture before you plant. Follow the manufacturers instructions on the label.  Place each segment into the growing mixture so that the bulbils are just above soil level. They should eventually send out tiny roots into the soil. The bulbil is the part that will continue to grow into your new plants. The stem will decline and dry up, as it would in the garden when the growing season ends.

Keep the cuttings inside in a sunny location. Water regularly, so that the growing medium is moist but not saturated. By springtime your bulbils should have grown larger and possibly sprouted leaves. They will likely be too small to survive in the garden, but you could try repotting them, with the bulbs under the potting mix, and keeping the pots in a protected position outside- once the weather has warmed up. They will require frequent checking to make sure they are getting enough water and gentle sunlight. Keep them out of direct sunlight during the hot summer days. Bring them back inside in the fall.

Lily Tree Growers usually keep the young plants in greenhouses for the first few years before planting outside. They can take 2-4 years to flower, so are not usually sold until they are ready to bloom.

Lilies grow from bulbs. Each bulb is made up of layers of thick scales. Peeling the outer scales off and planting them in a seed starter mixture is the more common method of propagation. This yields the highest success rates, but still takes time and could be a few years before you see any blooms. I have added a link to a webpage that describes this process, and other propagation methods for Lilies. Good luck!