Lilies Add an Exotic Look
to the Garden
By Judy Feather, Colorado Master GardenerSM,
Colorado State University Cooperative Extension, Denver
Look to oriental and Asiatic lilies for help in adding a spot of summer color or
refurbishing bare areas of a garden. Bulbs are readily available for planting in late
March and April.
The lilies grown today are the offspring of species that once grew wild in parts of
Europe, Asia and North America. These new hybrids are healthier and hardier than the
Asiatic lilies are the easiest and most reliable in the average garden. They bloom early,
usually in June and July. Stems are strong and erect, ranging in height from 1 ½ to 4 ½
feet. Most are hardy enough to grow in USDA zones 3-10. Bulbs can be left in the ground
and multiply readily when planted in an ideal location. This is a great benefit and
requires no work on the part of the gardener.
Plant lilies in loose, well-drained soil in an area with partial shade. Keep the roots
shaded by planting between other plants or covering with mulch.
After blooms have faded, pinch them back to prevent seed pod formation. This will increase
the number of flowers in future seasons. Lilies planted in late instead of early spring
may not bloom or grow much foliage. If left undisturbed, they will perform well in years
One of the most beautiful Asiatic lilies is "Connecticut King." This lily
naturalizes easily and is a great cut flower. Stunning bright yellow 4-inch blooms in June
and July make this a garden favorite.
Another Asiatic is "Enchantment." Its blooms are orange-red, spotted with black.
In pastels, there's "Pink Floyd," an ivory pink banded with rose pink, and
"Sancerre," pure white and unspotted.
Oriental lilies are the latest to bloom (late July or August), and also the most exotic.
They bear big (up to 9 inch), fragrant flowers. Most orientals are tall, with nodding
flowers, but a few species are dwarf and have upward facing blooms.
A popular oriental lily often seen in Colorado is the Tiger Lily (Lilium tigrinum). It
blooms in summer (July-August) and grows 30-40 inch tall with beautiful, bright orange,
curled flowers with speckles. It thrives even in poor soil, although most lilies benefit
from an amended soil that is loose and well drained.
Another popular oriental lily is Star Gazer. This July/August bloomer has stunning rose
red blooms with white margins. Flowers are about 5 inches in diameter and last well both
in the garden and as cut flowers. Its fragrance is an added benefit.
A fragrant, exotic-looking oriental lily is Nippon. Its pure white petals are marked with
a band of yellow and are edged in pink with dots. Its height of 35-40 inches makes a
fantastic display among shrubs or perennials in July and August.
If space for lilies in your garden is a concern, consider planting them as container
plants. Plan on one bulb in a 5-7 inch pot, or five bulbs in a 14-16 inch pot. Fill the
pot 1/3 full with potting mix. Then plant the bulbs with roots spread and pointing
downwards. Cover with about an inch of soil, water thoroughly and move pots to a cool
place that is protected from frost. Keep the soil moderately moist during this
root-forming period. When top growth appears, add more soil and gradually fill the pot as
stems elongate. Leave a 1-inch space between the surface of the soil and the pot rim for
When the weather is reliably warm and pots can be taken outside, move them to a partially
shaded terrace or patio during the blooming period. Later after blooms are expended,
re-pot bulbs in either the late fall or early spring.
Whatever your needs, remember Asiatic and oriental lilies. They're easy to plant, easy to
grow and reward you with reliable blooms every year.
Photograph courtesy of Judy Sedbrook.
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