Friday, October 5, 2012


I love lilies of all kinds - they are perfect for adding height, color, and drama to the garden. Most of my favorite plants tend to be roundy-moundy spring bloomers, so lilies provide much needed contrast for me with their spiky shape and flamboyant summer flowers.

Asiatic lilies

Asiatic lilies are the most common (at least in my area) type of lily. They are quite unfussy and will return and spread from year to year if given a sunny spot and reasonably decent soil. They are the earliest lily to bloom - late June in my area, and are relatively short (usually 2-3 feet, depending on the cultivar). They common in a huge array of colors, including bright and dark oranges and reds.

Asiatic lily - dark red

LA hybrid lilies (Longiflorum-Asiatic hybrids)

LA hybrid lily 'Golden Tycoon'
LA hybrids are harder to find than Asiatic or Orientals, but they are well worth seeking out. The petals have incredible substance, so the flowers last for an amazingly long period (at least 4 weeks for me). The colors are very bright and intense, yet deep and inviting. They are tall but incredibly sturdy - I've never had one topple or even lean. Best of all, in my garden at least the rabbits do not seem to like them! They are supposedly fragrant, but I detect only a faint aroma at best on mine (maybe it varies with cultivar though). They bloom after the Asiatics but somewhat earlier than the Orientals. Like Asiatics, they prefer full sun.

Oriental lilies

Oriental lily 'Acapulco'
I would grow Oriental lilies for the fragrance alone, even if they were not stunningly beautiful. They are tall and bloom late - end of July into early August here. The flowers are large and exotic looking, and I love how the gigantic stamens wobble and set off the blooms. They generally have subtler, softer colors than Asiatics or LA hybrids, with lots of intricate spotting on the interior. I do have problems with them falling over in wind and rain - some support is probably advisable. They are also high on the rabbits' list of favorite tasty treats. Next year I plan to erect a small cage around mine so they don't get chomped. Orientals will grow and bloom in part shade, but do make sure they get at least some sun.

Oriental lily 'Time Out'

I have read that Oriental lilies prefer acidic soil, but my soil is quite alkaline and they return year after year for me with no problem. No lily will tolerate poor drainage, so I do amend my heavy soil with compost, of course.

Martagon lilies

Martagon lily 'Mrs. R. O. Backhouse'
Martagon lilies are rather unusual. They will grow in more shade than most lilies and prefer a heavier, moister soil. They also have distinctive dark green foliage which grows in a ruff about the stem. The individual flowers are not large, but are quite lovely. The whole plant has a somewhat sinister quality which I find compelling. The one pictured above was just planted this spring and so is still quite small. Martagon lilies grow very slowly, and often take several years to bloom. Eventually they can form very large clumps with multiple stalks per clump. There is a gentle, spicy/chocolatey fragrance.

Martagon lily growing among hostas at Olbrich Gardens
I am planting more lilies this fall so that there will be more to enjoy next summer!


  1. Rebecca, all lilies are wonderful! I love the oriental lilies like you, for their fragrance and beautiful bud form. Great pics!

  2. I did think most of the lillies preferred acidic soil, which is one reason why I haven't tried to grow them here.The other reason is that summer can be very dry. But I think I might give them a try next autumn, as they are incredibly beautiful. And gardening is really all about risk-taking, isn't it?

  3. Wonderful post topic for autumn bulb planting time! I love lilies, but have more trouble with rabbits than any other critter around here. They ate my new white ones down to numbs this year before I realized it :( Thanks for the photo of Olbrich... that is a new garden to me.

  4. I also have become very fond of Lilies. I like how you can tuck them into spaces between perennials and shrubs where nothing else would fit. They all grow in our area but the Asiatics are the toughest. If you haven't tried the relatively new Asiatics, Pearl Series you should really check them out, look at Pearl Jennifer and Pearl Stacy. Your LA Hybrid looks stunning.

  5. What a lovely garden..! Lilies are indeed the most heart touching exotic flowers..


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