Warning: Be wary of merchants offering bulbs with excessive sprouts at discounted prices in spring. This is usually an attempt to dispose of surplus material not kept under proper refrigeration.
Mistake #1 - Poor quality bulbs
Reject spongy, dehydrated or oddly lightweight lily bulbs that will indicate poor storage techniques. Choose only FIRM, solid lily bulbs that were recently harvested (previous fall, if sold in spring) and kept on a natural cooling cycle that mimics nature. Bulbs should be heavy for their size, indicating a proper moisture level.
Mistake #2 - Pre-sprouted bulbs with long sprouts
Do not purchase smaller-sized lily bulbs that show more than 2 inches of pink (or white) shoots, especially those which do not have the growing tip still tightly compressed. Any lily with sprouts becoming “fluffy” (as shown above) and/or revealing immature buds are nothing more than dumpster trash, as their upward growth has stopped and even if planted and coddled all summer, they will have difficulty taking up nutrients. Bottom roots are to anchor stems, keeping bulbs from toppling in wind, therefore fertilizer should always be a “top dressing” in spring and again just before bloom, not mixed with soil under the bulbs; it is the all-important stem roots that provide nutrients.
TIP: Be wary of lily bulbs with excessive sprouts either at spring plant sales or online. Lily bulbs with sprouts longer than the width of the bulb and beginning to dehydrate may not produce enough stem roots to establish themselves properly, especially if the growing tip is also beginning to “feather out”. Lilies must grow new feeder roots along the underground stem while the sprout is still moist and actively growing.
What others may try to sell you in an attempt to dispose of surplus or dehydrated inventory, we simply toss on the compost pile or feed to the pigs, so don’t be fooled by “bargains”; ask questions before you buy online and hand inspect the quality of lily bulbs offered at stores before making a purchase.
Your BEST BUY is a bulb still in dormancy - all the energy is still present; you’ll never worry about whether the bulb is good. Reject any argument that long sprouts on a lily bulb proves that the bulb is “alive” and instead ask yourself, why do they need to tell you that? Severely sprouted lily bulbs, especially where the sprout is beginning to “feather” can be harmed by late frosts and/or will experience sunburned leaves during bright sunny days, seriously limiting their ability to manufacture food.
Mistake #3 - Delays in planting
Plant bulbs into your garden ASAP, keeping your lilies properly packaged to protect from physical damage and to regulate moisture while out of soil. Should you not be ready to plant, pot up the bulbs and transplant them later to your garden.
One last comment:
Unless you are in an area with mild winters, never freezing below 30 degrees, it is not recommended that you plant lily bulbs much later than after the end of May. Lilies need anywhere between 90 and 150 days to flower under ideal conditions and another 4 to 6 weeks of non-frosty weather to prepare for winter. When a bulb blooms, it loses over 1/2 of it's size and needs time after flowering to grow large enough for the following year's flowers.
This is the reason why B&D Lilies/ does not offer lily bulbs for planting in June, even "fresh" from the freezers, because those bulbs are intended only for the commercial greenhouse grower, not the home gardener. There is simply not enough time for the lilies to properly mature outdoors before winter when planted too late. After the stems of forced lilies are harvested for the floral trade, the spent bulbs and potting soil are recycled; they are ground up and sterilized to make room in the greenhouse for the next crop. More cases of "pre-cooled" (frozen) bulbs are thawed and the cycle begins anew.