On November 9th, Lynn Slackman took us on a journey from discovering Lilium at a local Lily Show to appreciating, nurturing, and finally spreading the joy of these beautiful cultivars with other garden and bulb enthusiasts.
Lilium (members of which are true lilies) is a genus of herbaceous flowering plants growing from bulbs, with prominent flowers. They have been around for hundreds of years, growing as far north as the Arctic Circle and as far south as the sub-tropics. There are native species that thrive in the North Eastern and Western portions of the US. Many species are also native to China and the Balkans.
Lilium bulbs are composed of fleshy scales, without a protective outer surface. So they need to be kept fresh and moist. In addition to the basal roots at the base of the bulbs, they also have stem roots. Both root systems supply food and stability to the plant.
Lilium flowers are varied in size, shape, and color, but always have 6 tepals (petals & sepals) and 6 anthers. Lilium are never truly dormant, so they need to be treated as a living perennial.
Are Lilium Edible?
Lilium bulbs are starchy and edible as root vegetables, although bulbs of some species may be very bitter. The non-bitter bulbs (L. lancifolium) are grown on a large scale in China as a luxury or health food. Lily flowers are also said to be effective treatment for pulmonary (lungs) affections, and may have some tonic properties.
Are Lilium Toxic?
Asiatic hybrid, Easter, rubrum, Stargazer – all are highly toxic to cats! Even small ingestions (such as 2-3 petals or leaves) – even the pollen or water from the vase – can result in severe, acute kidney failure.
Some Species from our gardens:
Lilium Regale is a trumpet flowered lily, whose flowers form a 'highly scented' umbel at the top of its 4 to 5 foot sturdy stems.
L. pardalinum’ is one of the native California lilies that grow outside of its native environment. It has bright orange-red petals that are splashed with golden leopard spots. Its leaves form a whorl around each stem…similar to the Martagon and American Hybrid lilies.
The Graceful Martagons:
The specific term Martagon is a Turkish word which also means turban or cap. It has a widespread native region that extends from eastern France east through northern Asia to Mongolia and Korea.
Martagons have stem-rooting and they are 4 to 5 feet tall and have a wide range of flower colors; pinks, mauves, scarlet and wine reds as well as white, yellow and orange. The flowers are usually lightly scented, and numerous flowers are borne on each plant...sometimes between 40 to 60 flowers can be found on vigorous plants. Martagon lilies are very cold hardy and flourish as far north as the Arctic Circle.
The Delightful Asiatics:
Asiatic Lilium is by far one of the most popular, easiest to grow, and readily available lilies. They're very hardy, need no staking, and are not particularly fussy about soil, as long as it drains well. Well-drained soil is an absolute must! Asiatics can have Up-facing, Outfacing or Pendant flowers.
The Dependable LA’s:
These hardy and easy to grow hybrids are derived from crossing L. longiflorum (Easter Lily) and the more familiar Asiatics and add a wide splash of color between your Asiatic and Trumpet bloom times. They multiply well, and bulbs left undisturbed for several years can reach a large circumference. LA’s are perfectly at home in the Southern Garden, and also perfectly at home in the cold winter climates with the severe climate zones that thaw slowly in the spring and go directly into summer.
The Lovely Trumpets:
The lovely, trumpet-shaped flowers of this group of Lilies are borne on long, graceful and strong stems. Their intoxicating scent can perfume an entire garden and are often especially night-fragrant. The flowers generally bloom after Asiatic Lilies and before Oriental Lilies.
The Magnificent Oriental Trumpets:
Daffodils make great Companions for Lilium...
It turns out that Lilium make good companion bulbs for daffodils. They like the same sort of soil composition, the daffodils act as a camouflage when the Lilium are just emerging from the ground, and they provide gorgeous blooms throughout the summer. So I was pretty happy with these newly found bulb companions.
It starts with the soil…
Lilium like to grow in soil that is filled with organic material and has good drainage. They need oxygen and nutrients in the soil to grow and survive. Adding Turface to the soil will add oxygen, monitor the moisture content, and reduce compaction.
Water for the Lilium…
During the growing season at MBG we add about one inch of water per week to the Lilium in the Bulb Garden. In my own garden I tend to water less than MBG, and do more concentrated watering where l can provide individual amounts of water for each group of Lilium.
Lilies with huge heads of blooms sometimes need staking. Tie the stems naturally and gracefully . . . don’t strangle them!
Lilies will usually thrive for years in the same spot, especially if well cared for. The clumps need to be lifted when many spindly short stems indicate crowding. Carefully pull them apart, and plant them elsewhere. If you must replant in the same spot, replace or reinforce the soil first with additional fertilizer and organic material.
Mulching is one way of conserving moisture in between watering and it keeps the soil cool and loose. (Cool Feet Hot Head!) Mulching also delays soil freezing and allows roots to continue growing longer. It insulates the soil against fluctuating temperatures, delaying the emergence of frost-tender shoots in spring.
Many of the troubles that beset lilies can be prevented by proper planting. Good drainage will forestall bulb rot; Good circulation of air will help eliminate fungus diseases and even infestations for aphids; Proper placement and mulching may prevent frost damage.
The right location for Lilium…
Lilium, like other living cultivars, need the right location. At MBG the Lilium bulbs have been shared with other areas at the garden. As a result, some bulbs have thrived outside of the bulb garden, but fizzled-out in the bulb garden environment. Read about the characteristics of the Lilium you are planting and do your best to meet those requirements.
Try growing Lilium in your garden...