These are the true lilies as opposed to the day lilies described in this article which grow from rhizomes. True lilies grow from big, fat white bulbs that are made up of scales and produce magnificent flowers in a very wide range of shapes, colors and sizes. They bloom at various times from early summer to late summer and even into fall. Everybody who has grown a number of different lilies has favorites some of introduction above. The pace here to describe many of them in detail, but here is at least a run-down of the basic lily groups, more or less in order of bloom.

They bloom at various times from early summer to late summer and even into fall.

They bloom at various times from early summer to late summer and even into fall.

The Asiatic hybrids bloom in June in many colors, with heights ranging from 2 to 5 feet and with several different flower shapes. The red-orange “Enchantment” is typical of the upward facing flower types and is a particularly vigorous plant that forms clumps. “Connecticut Lemonglow” has an outward-facing flower; other has a pendent or “Turk S-Cap” shape. The Martagon hybrids are a group that bloom in June, have Turk’s-cap flowers, and are quite tall up to 6 feet. Madonna lilies are white though some of the hybrids are cream or yellow stand 3 to 4 feet tall, and bloom in June or early July. The American hybrids, which can grow as tall as 4 to 8 feet, include the long-lived Bellingham hybrids.

Midsummer lilies include the Easter lily, L. longiflorum, which is forced into bloom for Easter display but blooms later in the normal course of things. Regal lilies (L. regale) are tall, white and very fragrant. The Aurelian hybrids are an important part of the midsummer lily show. They tend to be fairly tall 4 to 6 feet and include such spectacular varieties as the dusty rose, “Pink Perfection” and “Black Dragon”, whose large flowers are dark red on the outside and white within. Tiger lilies (L. tigrinum), with orange, curled back petals spotted with black, grow up to 4 feet tall.

Everybody who has grown a number of different lilies

Everybody who has grown a number of different lilies

The last lilies to bloom, in late summer and sometimes early fall, are the Oriental hybrids, which include the glorious gold-banded lily (white, striped with gold and spotted with red), the Imperial strains, such as “Imperial Silver” (White spotted with brick red) and last of all, the hybrids of L. speciosum, such as “Uchida” mentioned above. Most lilies are hardy as far north as Zone 4 or 5; L. candidum to Zone 8.

Well, you’ve to think carefully about how to use lilies. They have tall stems with rather sparse foliage growing around them, and they may have to be staked, which makes them look a bit like basketball players on crutches. I put some in perennials beds, and I grow the rest in a semi shaded spot where a lush nest of ferns hides at least the lower half of the stems. It is often said that lilies like to have “their heads warm, their feet cool.” Try to plant something around the base of the plants for their health as well as for looks, but choose shallow-rooted plants that will not strangle the lily bulbs.

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How to Grow Lily

The difference between lily bulbs and other bulbs is that lilies never really go dormant their roots are always growing and no hard protective covering forms around them. What this means for the gardener is that you must handle them very carefully so as not to break off the roots or the delicate scale like pieces that make up the bulb, and you should keep them out of soil for as short a time as possible. Local nurseries often sell them potted up. If they’re unspotted, or if you order them by mail, keep them in a slightly damp not wet packing medium such as peat until you can plan them.

Lilies do not need fertile soil. In the areas where they’re native generally in the Orient lilies often grow wild in poor, gravelly ground. Overfeeding causes them to have weak stems that always need staking. They need some moisture while they’re actively growing, but drainage must be exceptional. Adding organic matter will help to provide both. Soil pH is not much of an issue except in the case of the Martagon lilies, which like soil slightly acid, and Madonna lilies. Most lilies will do equally well in full sun or part shade filtered shade is nice because it keeps the colors from fading. Martagon lilies, wood lilies and a few others really prefer some shade.

Though lilies may be planted either in spring or fall, I prefer spring they seem to get established a little better. The only lilies I know of that are always planted in fall are the Madonna lilies. Plant most lilies 4 to 6 inches down measured from the top of the bulb. Madonna lilies again the exception are planted with only an inch of soil on top of the bulbs; you should start to see some of their foliage sprouting before winter. I think lilies should be at least a foot apart to allow for air circulation.

I hold off staking the plants until I think something might knock them over if I don’t. You should also deadhead them but cut off only the dead flowers, not the stems and leaves, which will continue to make food that the bulbs will store. One other word of caution; lilies can be slow to come up in spring, so be very careful that you don’t dig around the spot where they’re planted or might be planted. If your memory tends to be fuzzy, mark the spot. Well to except to see either clusters of pointed leaves or an odd little stub with little pointed leaves arranged around it in concentric layers like a shaggy haircut. These get longer and longer, and are fragile, so try not to step on them and break them off. And don’t be disappointed if your lilies fail to reach their full height the first year. Sometimes they just don’t.

Martagon lilies, wood lilies and a few others really prefer some shade.

Martagon lilies, wood lilies and a few others really prefer some shade.

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