There’s no better way to bring vibrant beauty to your garden than to start a bed of lilies. They’re noted for their hardiness, prolific long-lasting flowers, disease resistance, and ability to multiply rapidly. One of the most spectacular perennials, they provide constant color in the garden from early summer to September. Any of the varieties can be planted together in a bed or can be interspersed throughout the garden to brighten dull spots. Lilies can be planted in containers as well.
Lilies are very popular among florists for upscale bouquets and wedding arrangements. The long, strong stems of all varieties make them ideal for cutting.
Asiatic Lilies: The first lilies to bloom each season, versatile Asiatics are great for beds and borders, especially when planted by shrubs, walls, or fences. These long-lasting flowers are perfect for patio containers and indoor bouquets. Standard Asiatics produce multiple blooms on a 24"–36" stem in early to mid-summer, while Asiatic Dwarf Pixie Lilies bloom on 18" stems. Plant 6"–12" apart.
L.A. Hybrid Lilies: These are a cross between the Longiflorum and Asiatic Lilies, possessing the best qualities of both. They flower longer, like the Easter Lily, and have sturdier petals that can handle wind and rain much better than Asiatics. It's the Asiatics, though, that bring the variety in colors. L.A. Hybrid Lilies are very strong and have a terrific vase life. Their flowers are also larger than Asiatic Lilies. They bloom on 2'–3 1/2' stems in June/July. Plant 6"–12" apart.
Mixed Tiger Lilies: A unique variety that shines in the mid-summer garden as well as in cut-flower arrangements. Flowers are up to 4" across and speckled with purple-black spots on curved petals. Hardy bulbs multiply annually and are perfect for naturalizing in borders and beds. Plant 9"–12" apart in full sun to partial shade. Multi-floral stems grow 3'–4' tall.
Trumpet Lilies: Hardy and long-lasting Trumpet Lilies fill the early summer garden with glorious fragrance and eye-catching color. A balanced mixture of these pink, yellow, white, and salmon blooms is lovely in bouquets. These easy-to-care-for plants multiply every year. Plant top quality bulbs 9"–12" apart in full sun to partial shade. Spectacular variety grows 4'–6' tall.
Oriental Lilies: This includes Stargazer Lilies and the Oriental Rubrum species. Enjoy an incredible display of the largest and most fragrant of all lilies. Each stem produces beautiful 5"–6" blooms that appear in shades of pink, red, and white in late summer. Strong, graceful stems grow 36"–48". Plant 12" apart.
Orienpet Lilies: Bred for American gardens, Orienpet Lilies are the newest and most spectacular members of the lily family. These bulbs are a cross between Oriental and Trumpet Lilies — a breakthrough in lily hybridizing. In late August and beyond, they will produce vigorous and extremely sturdy 1" diameter stems that grow 4-1/2'–5'tall. Each stem will bear 8 or more 7"–9" fragrant flowers in shades of yellow, red, gold, and various red/yellow combinations, many with striking markings of stars and various splashes on petals. Plant 12" apart.
Quick Reference Planting Guide
- Location: Full sun to shade.
- Hardiness Zone: Hardy perennial bulbs from zones 3–8.
- Planting Distance: 9"–12" apart.
- Mature Height: The first year as noted above. In following years, the number of blooms per stalk dramatically increases.
- Bloom Time: Asiatics: early summer; Tiger, Trumpet: mid-summer; Orienpets: mid-August; Orientals: mid to late August.
- To Plant: Dig a hole deep enough to cover the dormant bulb with 1" of soil. Place bulb in hole and cover with soil, firming soil with fingers. Water thoroughly.
Lilies do well in most garden soils, but for optimum results, improve your soil as follows:
- Thoroughly spade or till the soil to a depth of 12"–15".
- Mix in a generous 2"–4" layer of dehydrated manure, garden compost, or peat moss. Always mix amendments thoroughly with your existing soil. Feeding your lilies periodically with a plant booster will promote lush growth and more bloom performance — especially when grown in containers.
- Watering: Your plants require at least 1" of rainfall, or equivalent watering, each week. Whenever rainfall is minimal, be sure that you water well at least once a week. Water more frequently during drought or extremely hot weather.
- Mulching: Apply a 2"–4" layer of shredded bark, compost, or other organic mulch around your plants to promote moisture retention, maintain even soil temperatures, and discourage weed growth.
- Weeding: Keep the area around your plants free of weeds. Weeds compete with plants for food, water, and light. Walk around the garden periodically and pull weeds, including the roots, as soon as you see them. Mulch also assists in keeping weeds down.
- Deadheading: Remove spent blossoms to promote additional blooming. Pinch or cut off when they fade, but leave as much foliage as possible.
- Grooming: Clip off unsightly or dead growth to maintain the plants in good form and shape. Cut flower stalks between the bottom blossom and the uppermost leaves.
- Feeding: Discontinue any feeding after September 1. Your plants want to harden off for winter.
- Winterizing: After frost has blackened the foliage of your perennials, you may apply a 4"–6" layer of mulch. As soon as the weather warms up in the spring, remove any mulch from in-ground plantings. At the same time, be sure to clean up the garden and remove dead or damaged parts on any plants.
- Containerized Plants: Move your containers to a sheltered location in northern zones, such as an unheated garage or shed, over the winter. You can also move containers to the south side of a foundation and mulch for the winter. Such warm locations can actually increase the hardiness factor by two planting zones. You can also bury or plant either the plant itself or the entire container in the garden and mulch after the ground has frozen. As soon as the weather warms up, remove any mulch from the container and bring it back out into the garden sunlight.