1. Place guard stakes around lilies.
2. Prepare seedlings for transplant into garden beds.
3. Fill grow-bags and other containers.
4. Plant summer-blooming container bulbs and tubers such as begonias and achimenes.
5. Move houseplants outdoors for their summer vacation.
By May, the gardening season has shifted into high gear for most gardeners. In the rush, don’t forget to place your own version of Maypoles around your Asiatic, Oriental, Trumpet, and Orienpet lilies.
Position bamboo stakes close to those lilies’ tips as soon as they emerge from the ground in the spring, encircling the whole patch with those stakes if you can. Even though the lily shoots won’t be tall enough to attach to anything at that point, those bamboo uprights deliver the same message a Revolutionary War flag once did: “Don’t tread on me.” When spaced closely enough together, they also should deter pets from gamboling over that patch.
Should the tips of lilies which grow from bulbs get broken off for any reason, they won’t return during the same growing season. That means your garden could be lamentably low on lilies for one summer at least! Actually, since bulbs derive much of their energy from their foliage absorbing light during the summer, it’s possible that broken-off lilies may not survive to try again.
Speaking of protection, if you started seedlings indoors under a grow light, you’ll need to adapt them gradually to real rather than simulated sun. Otherwise, they will burn like your own winter-wan skin does under spring’s rays. It’s a good idea to first place those seedlings in a protected outdoor location, such as towards the back of a south-facing porch, where they will receive only bright indirect light. Once they have adapted to that, move them gradually forward until they are receiving sunlight for several hours per day.
At that point, you may want to shift them completely outdoors, perhaps to a table positioned partially under a tree where they will receive sunlight in the morning and shade in the afternoon. You then can edge the table further and further out from under the tree’s canopy until the seedlings are receiving sunlight all day. Although you should start the acclimatization process a couple weeks before your last frost date, remember to take the plants indoors on nippy nights or you could end up with frost-burned rather than sun-burned seedlings.
You may want to wait until after that last frost date to plant your grow bags and other containers too, but that will depend on what you are placing in them. As mentioned in a previous article, you can start slow-maturing species early indoors to give yourself a head start on the planting season. Or you actually can slow things down for certain plants which tend to bolt easily—such as salad greens—by planting them in grow bags or pots which you can move into the shade during the hottest days.
Such containers often are the best choice for the bulbs of summer-blooming shade plants such as achimenes and tuberous begonias also. Since they may burn if exposed to too much sunlight, you simply can move their containers to a more shady position if you notice that their foliage is becoming scorched.
If you bring your houseplants outdoors for the summer, most of them probably will be happiest in bright shade too. Because they tend to be rainforest species that prefer indirect light like that under the forest canopy, you often can place them beneath a high tree for their vacation. Like gardeners who have been cooped up for too long, plants which work hard all winter to adapt to the dim and arid environment indoors will appreciate the chance to be back in their natural element!