"...but I tell you that not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed as one of these." -Matthew 6:29.
Lilies are magnificent flowers that command attention wherever they are planted. Lily flowers are valued for their very showy, often fragrant flowers. At home in both formal and naturalistic settings, lilies also can be grown in containers.
Lilies are one of the truly great garden plants for their flower form, diversity, extended season of bloom, graceful stature, and reliable disposition. Their bulbs can be planted in spring for bloom the same year, or in fall for bloom the following year. The sequence of bloom begins in early summer with the colorful Asiatics, Martagon Lilies (also called Turk’s Cap Lilies), and pure white Lilium candidum, and then continues until late summer with other species Lilies and three tall, fragrant groups: Orientals, Orienpets (hybrids between Orientals and Trumpets), and Trumpets. They all make wonderful cut flowers.
By carefully blending early, mid-season, and late varieties into your garden, you will enjoy their bewitching blooms and seductive scents from spring through frost.
- Plant bulbs in autumn. Loosen the soil to a depth of 12 to 15 inches. The deep planting encourages the developing stem to send out roots to help stabilize the plant and perhaps eliminate the need for staking.
- Note: Lilies do not thrive in Zones 9 to 10 without a period of refrigeration; they need a cold, dormant period.
- For dependable blooms, lilies need six to eight hours of sunshine a day, yet they prosper in the presence of other low plants that protect their roots from drying out.
- Water trapped beneath the scales may rot the bulb, so a well-drained site is essential.
- Most of the popular varieties prefer acidic to neutral soil, but some are lime-tolerant or prefer alkaline soils (e.g., Madonna lilies).
- Grow in soil enriched with leaf mold or well-rotted organic matter.
- Dig a hole 2 to 3 times as deep as the bulbs are high and set the bulb in the hole pointy side up. Fill the hole with soil and tamp gently.
- Space bulbs at a distance equal to 3 times the bulb's diameter.
- Water thoroughly.
- In active growth, water freely and apply a high-potash liquid fertilizer every 2 weeks.
- Keep moist in winter.
- Apply a thin layer of compost each spring, followed by a 2-inch layer of mulch.
- Water plants in the summer if rainfall is less than 1 inch per week.
- Stake tall lilies.
- As flowers fade, cut back the stalks to the base of the plant.
- After bloom, divide lilies. Replant using compost and bonemeal.
- Gray mold is sometimes a problem, especially in a wet, cool spring or summer.
- Viruses, spread by aphids, may be troublesome, although some cultivars are virus-tolerant.
- Red lily beetles, slugs, and snails may occur.
- Deer, rabbits, voles, and groundhogs may eat entire plants. Consider a wire cage for bulbs if this seems to be an issue where you live.
Soil type: Loamy
Of the nine divisions of classification, Asiatic and Oriental are the most popular with gardeners.
- Asiatic lilies are the earliest to bloom and the easiest to grow. Hybrids come in pure white, pinks, vivid yellows, oranges, and reds; heights are from one to six feet. Intense breeding has erased much of the Asiatics' fragrance, but in spite of their lack of perfume, they are a favorite with floral arrangers.
- Oriental hybrids bloom in mid- to late summer, just when Asiatic lilies are beginning to fade. From tiny two-footers to towering eight-foot-tall giants, Orientals are always a striking choice (the shorter ones are great for patio beds or container gardens). Adored for their intoxicating fragrance that intensifies after dark, Oriental lilies produce masses of huge white, pink, red, or bi-color blooms. They make wonderful cut flowers that will fill even the largest of rooms with their spicy scents.
Special Features Attracts Butterflies
photos: J. Kopittke
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