Lilies have long brought drama and beauty to the garden in a way that few other flowers can. Because many species are native to this area they are robust and thrive in Long Island gardens with a minimum of care. They can be grown in full sun or semi-shade, come in a multitude of colors, come up year after year and make excellent cut flowers. It’s important to note that if you are using lilies as cut flowers you need to be as stingy as possible with the length of the stem. The more stem and leaves you take away from the plant the less likely you will get a healthy productive plant the following year.
Lilies are bulbs that can be planted either in the fall or spring, although those that are planted in the fall seem to get off to a better start. There are many types of lilies that are suited to garden life, so this gives the lily lover a variety of color, form and bloom time. Through careful planning the gardener can create a display of lilies that will start in June and go through to the end of August. The types of lilies that are best suited for the garden are Asiatic lilies, Oriental lilies, Trumpet lilies, Tigrinum or Tiger lilies, special hybrids such as Orienpets and LA lilies, and heirloom or species lilies.
Oriental lilies are the florist lilies that most of us are familiar with. The hybrid flowers are large, between 6 and 10 inches, and they are extremely fragrant. They have 6 large petals which are slightly curved back with large stamens and an exaggerated style ending in a dewy stigma. The plants grow between 3 and 4 feet high and look most dramatic when planted in clumps of at least three bulbs. Just a few plants can scent a whole garden. They flower in late June and go well into July. “Casa Blanca” is a pure white hybrid that is popular with florists and creates an impressive cornerstone for any garden. “Stargazer” is a robust older hybrid that has a profusion or vibrant red flowers. “Sumatra” is a deep burgundy color that will draw a lot of attention to your garden.
Asiatic lilies offer a wider variety of colors than the Orientals and are generally odorless. The plants are slightly shorter and more consistently around 3 feet. Colors in the Asiatics also tend to be more vibrant with bright hot reds, yellows and oranges. Stark multicolors also abound in this variety. They flower a few weeks earlier than the Orientals and they start in early June and go into July. Asiatics are reliable cut flowers and make a good substitute for those who are overpowered by the scent of the Orientals. There are a multitude of hybrids, as well as dwarf or pixie varieties for the front of the border.
Trumpet lilies are often called Chinese trumpet lilies because many hybrids came from China in the early 20th century. The flower form is more closed and outwardly recurving at the end producing a trumpet effect, hence the name. They are pleasantly scented, although not as strong as the Orientals. They bloom towards the end of July and through August. They need to be planted in a sheltered area and staked, as they can grow as tall as 6 feet, so they look best in the back of perennial beds.
Tigrinum or tiger lilies are hardy and very floriferous. Their form is similar to Orientals, but the flowers are smaller and more extremely recurred. They grow between 3 and 6 feet and can have as many as 20 flowers on a stem. The most common Tigrinum lily is the one we call “Tiger” lily. It is orange with dark spots and is very hardy and considered an heirloom garden plant and can grow for generations in a garden.
Species lilies tolerate more shade, as many are native to dark forests floors. They are much more fussy and difficult to grow requiring their specific native habitats to be duplicated. Many bloom on large multi-branched bracts with their extremely recurved blooms hanging downward creating an elaborate candelabra effect. Recently they have been hybridized, creating types that are easier to grow in the average garden.
Besides the species lilies, the other varieties are hardy and easy to grow and will reward you with gorgeous, eye-catching flowers. If you grow a few it will only take a season for you to find out why they are often called the “Queen of the Garden.”
This profusion of Casa Blanca Oriental Lilies started with only three bulbs. They divided and surrounded the sign, creating a gorgeous explosion of large, fragrant white flowers every July.
These Asiatic lilies were purchased in a combination package called “Strawberries and Cream” and included a red variety that flowered earlier than the group.
The Oriental Lily “Sumatra” make incredible cut flower displays and until recently were only available as cut flowers at the florist.
The Trumpet Lily “Black Dragon” has interesting coloration as well as a subtle alluring fragrance.
Rows of Asiatic lilies grow trouble-free in the cutting garden.
Orientals and Trumpets have been hybridized to create a hardy combination called “Orienpets.” They have tree-trunk sized stems, grow very tall and have unique colors. Here they are displayed on the dinning room table with flowers from the common weed “Queen Anne’s Lace.”
“Stargazer” Oriental lilies bloom in the center of the perennial garden.
The sun shines through a group of Orienpet Lilies in the cutting garden.