Many plants are called Lily, but only members of the genus Lilium are “true lilies”. Lilies grow from a bulb and have stems with horizontal leaves. Other plants named lily may be similar in some way but not entirely. For example, daylilies have a thick root system instead of a bulb and the foliage emerges from a crown.
The many types of Garden Lilies are all hardy in Missouri and add height and a vertical element to a planting area. By selecting different varieties of lilies, it is possible to have their bright color and wonderful fragrance in the garden from early to late summer.
Lily means “Forever in Love” and is the symbol for purity. Lilies have been found in cultivation since 1500 BC.
Over 8000 varieties and species of lilies are available, but the groups listed here are the most popular in Missouri gardens.
The earliest group of lilies to bloom are the Asiatics, flowering right after peonies have finished. Growing 3-4′ tall, these non-fragrant lilies come in a wide range of colors including pastel and hot colors. The flowers are borne at the top of strong stems, facing upward for a good show. Several varieties are available with double flowers. Even very short varieties are available, perfect for forcing early in spring or growing in containers.
Asiatics have been crossed with Easter lilies to form what is called the LA Hybrids. The flowers are upright and lightly fragrant. Varieties range in size from 1 to 6′ tall. LA Hybrids bloom later than Asiatics.
Between early and mid-summer, several types of lilies will begin blooming. The first are the Turk’s Cap Lilies, or Martagons. Growing 3-5′ tall, martagon lilies host long panicles of medium-sized blooms, as many as 20 blooms at once. The petals are recurved (facing backward) and usually are spotted.
Tiger Lilies or Tigrinums are best known for their spotted recurved petals on 4-6′ tall stems in early to mid-summer. Tiger lilies spread easily in the garden and add a pleasant fragrance. Of all the lilies, only tiger lilies have bulbils that form along the stem, another way to start young lily plants.
Trumpet lilies can grow 5-6′ tall, are wonderfully fragrant and have large 8″ flowers that face downward.
The queen of the lilies, the Orientals, start to bloom mid-summer, with their wonderful penetrating fragrance travelling throughout the garden. The most recognized variety is Stargazer, but all Orientals have large (6-8″) fragrant blooms on 3-5′ tall stems.
Oriental and Trumpet lilies have been hybridized, bringing the best features in what is called Orienpet or OT Lilies. Large, fragrant, and brightly colored flowers are borne on tall, sturdy stems in mid-summer.
Garden Lilies can live for years in Missouri gardens if planted in well-drained soils, rich in compost. Periodically add bone meal or superphosphate to ensure flower development. Mulching annually will reduce drying, keep the soil cool, and ensure sufficient organic matter to maintain a healthy soil.
Plant lily bulbs 6″ deep. Roots develop along the stem below ground providing more support so that the tall stems stay upright.
Lilies grow well with other perennials and small shrubs, especially mounding types that will shade the roots of the lilies, like catmint, salvia, daisies, spirea, and hydrangea. Though all garden lilies grow in full sun, they often do best in light shade or morning sun.
Lilies can be bothered by Red Lily Beetles, aphids, virus, and botrytis, but good gardening practices usually keep these problems under control. Unfortunately, its the deer, rabbits, voles, and birds that seem to wreak havoc. In spite of this, lilies have a place in the plant world and are a wonderful addition to our Missouri gardens.
Daylilies are another topic entirely. They tolerate poorer soils and harsher conditions than Garden Lilies, making them the better choice for landscaping situations. For a quick list of Daylilies that we offer at Longfellow’s, click here.