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My mother has been raising an ever-growing family of lilies of various colors for the past 15 years. In the previous house, they would grow to almost 6-foot tall while in the new one (which gets a lot more sun), they stay around 3'-4'. She is sure that the stunted growth is due to their not needing to “reach” for the sun, so she is not concerned about that. She was a little worried for a while about them going into shock from being transplanted, but then they grew, so they have survived fairly well for quite a few years now.

What she is worried about is the fact that there are deer near the new place. Last summer, she was horrified one morning to find that a lot of her lilies were slashed. She thought it was a neighbor, but when she found clear deer-prints in the dirt (both adult and fawn), she stopped feeling so bad. She doesn’t mind deer eating the flowers, but unfortunately they are “greedy”; that is, they eat almost all the buds before they have even bloomed at all. We tried wrapping the garden in plastic chicken wire, but that didn’t work. I tried looking up a way to spray some sort of repellent but could not find anything reliable.

Her concern now is whether the lilies will survive if the flowers are prevented from blooming and being fertilized by bees (there are plenty of bulbs safely under the ground).

Are the bulbs enough? What role then do the flowers play?

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2 Answers

Flowers do not need to bloom or be fertilized to do well. They do need good soil, light, and foliage. As long as the deer leave that alone the lilies will be fine.

Some plants, like bromeliads, will flower and die so if you remove the flower bud it will last much longer than a plant in the wild. Plants expend an enormous amount of energy on producing flowers and attracting pollinators. If the buds are removed this energy remains in the bulb or roots.

To stop the deer is another matter: hungry, great jumpers and not very fearful of people.

Fencing is one solution but a bit pricy. There are many unusual suggestions on the web. I found that smaller plant eaters like rabbits disappeared for a while when I applied fox or coyote urine in the garden. If you can get over going into a hunting store and asking for fox pee this may work for you.

Edit: you asked about how lilies propagate. They can grow from offsets to the main bulb (you saw those when you dug up the bulb). They can also grow from little bulblets that grow in the axils of the leaves and they can also set seed from their flowers. Lilies have it covered, no flowers?...grow bulblets on the leaves, no leaves?....grow offsets in the ground. It's a wonderful system.

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> If the buds are removed this energy remains in the bulb or roots. It also defeats the purpose of having flowers. :-( When we dug them up from the last house, there were dozens of bulbs on each one’s roots (which were not there when first planted; at least not that many). > Flowers do not need to bloom or be fertilized to do well. If the buds don’t need to bloom or be fertilized, then what role do they play in flower propagation? o.O > I found that rabbits disappeared for a while when I applied fox urine. Here, they eat the dandelions–after eating her strawberry plant that is. –  Synetech Mar 23 '12 at 0:51
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Yes, they will be fine.

As the energy of the plant was exhausted by producing the bud, it need to store the energy again in the coming year.

If the deers didn't ate the whole lily and some leaves are still there, they can do photosynthesis thus storing the nutrient again. And when the next suitable season come, the flower will still bloom.

After all, if the deer hadn't eaten the buds, you would have cut the flower stem when the flowers wilted. So don't worry.

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Thanks, but that too doesn’t explain the purpose of the flowers if the bulbs are the important part. –  Synetech Mar 23 '12 at 17:19
    
Succulent can have flowers and seeds too, but will you propagate them by seed? And the bulb have the gene. –  lamwaiman1988 Mar 25 '12 at 17:22
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