Lily is a broad term to describe a slew of various bulbs and perennials. In spring and summer gardeners’ plant: calla lilies, canna lilies, lily of the valley, daylilies, mountain lilies, pineapple lilies and of course the true lilies. What I mean by “true lilies” are Oriental Lilies, Asiatic Lilies, Tiger Lilies, Orienpet Lilies, Trumpet Lilies and species lilies. Lilies in the group of “true lilies” are all in the plant genus Lilium.
Lilies are top on the list of most popular flower bulbs. They are relatively easy to grow, do well in vases, and often have a sweet fragrance. If you are thinking of planting lily bulbs continue reading everything you need to know about these showy summer-blooming perennials.
When is the Best time to Plant Lily Bulbs?
You may find lilies growing in pots at a garden center in spring. It is more common to see lilies sold as bulbs for planting in spring or fall. All lilies grow from a bulb, the lilies grown in pots were just started earlier and also planted from a bulb. Some say that planting lilies in fall is ideal due to their cooler soil temperatures. However, planting lilies in spring is very common and will produce positive results as well.
The best time to plant lilies in spring is when your soil is cool, but not cold and damp. It will depend on the temperatures each spring regarding what month you should plant your lilies in. March and April are ideal months for southern and warm climate gardeners to plant lilies. Gardeners in moderate climates will find April, and May the best time to plant lilies in spring. People in northern climates will find planting lilies in May and early June the ideal time. If you plant lily bulbs this spring expect to see blooms this summer!
Lily bulbs require soil that drains well. If the soil they are planted in is too moist this can lead to the bulbs rotting. For the biggest and best flowers plant your lily bulbs in a full sun location. Gardeners in warm climates like hardiness zone 9 and above will want to plant in a location that receives shade for part of the day. Lilies can be planted in the ground, and some varieties do well when planted in pots.
How to Plant Lilies
Lily bulbs will have a noticeably pointed end. The opposite end of the pointed end will have some evidence of roots. The pointed end should be planted towards the sky. The end with evidence of roots should be planted facing the earth. Lilies perform best when planted 6-8” deep. Dig out the planting area at least 6” and place the lily bulb with the roots touching the earth at the bottom. If the lily bulb has sprouts showing from the top, you should still plant your lily bulb at the 6-8” planting depth.
Planting Lilies in Pots
Lily bulbs grow well in pots for the first planting season. After the first season, they will need to be transplanted into the ground if you want the bulbs to be good for the following season. If you are planting lilies in pots, use shorter varieties that grow less than 2’ tall. Keep in mind that lilies go dormant within a few weeks of blooming, therefore, your pots will be bare when the lilies are done blooming. Plant bulbs that thrive later in the season like calla lilies and dwarf dahlias you can help to avoid having an empty planter when your lilies are done blooming.
To plant lilies in pots, use a soil mix designed for containers. Plant the bulbs as deep as possible while leaving 1-2” of soil from the bottom of the container to the bottom of the bulb. The roots need to continue growing; therefore, it is necessary to allow for growth by leaving some soil below the bulb.
What to do when lilies have finished flowering?
Like most flowering bulbs lilies go into dormancy after they flower. Typically, your lilies will go to sleep 2-4 weeks after blooming. They will return the following season, as lilies are reliable perennials.
After they are done blooming you can remove the stems/leaf stalks. It is best to wait until the leaves have yellowed a bit so the bulbs can continue to gather energy in preparation for next season’s blooms.
When planning your garden try to plant lower-growing perennials in front of your lilies to make up for the bare spot that will be left in the garden.
If you can list all the colors of the rainbow you more or less have listed all the colors that lilies bloom in. While saying lilies are available in every color of the rainbow may be a slight exaggeration. Lilies are known for their colorful array of blooms that often have spots, stripes or more than one color per bloom. They really do come in every color of the rainbow except green and blue.
Certain types of lilies such as Oriental Lilies are generally pink, yellow, white or salmon. Asiatic Lilies tend to come in a bolder array of colors like scarlet red, orange, yellow, deep purple, and hot pink. Whatever your favorite color scheme is a lily that will fit in well with your garden.
Types of Lilies
An advantage to planting lilies in spring is the large variety of lily cultivars and varieties that are available from retailers like Holland Bulb Farms and Tulip World. Most lilies have common similarities that unite them as a group of flowers. However, some grow taller than others, some are fragrant and some only bloom in a limited number of colors. Find out more below about the differences between the different types of lilies.
Oriental Lilies are showy and fragrant. It is common to see Oriental Lilies in cut flower bouquets and arrangements. The blooms of Oriental Lilies face outward from the position on the flower stem. Oriental Lilies are also available as a double flowering variety that has a double set of petals. Double Oriental Lilies similar to traditional Oriental Lilies are also fragrant.
The stamens on Oriental Lilies are covered in pollen. Be careful when smelling Oriental Lilies as the pollen can leave a temporary mark on skin and clothing. But if you do get too close, don’t worry the pollen washes off easily. Oriental Lilies bloom in a more limited array of colors.
You can find various shades of pink, white, gold and even salmon. Some varieties of Oriental Lilies such as Muscadet Oriental Lily have numerous spots on the flowers. You will not find purple, or orange blooms on Oriental Lilies.
Oriental Lily Key Highlights: Fragrant, Tall 36-48”, blooms mid-summer, bloom colors of pink, white, gold and salmon.
Asiatic Lilies are popular lilies that bloom early in summer. The blooms of Asiatic Lilies face upward and are not fragrant. Asiatic Lilies can range in height from 18” to 36”. Asiatic Lilies can also be seen in cut flower arrangements and bouquets. Red, orange, yellow, white, bright pink, light pink, deep purple and any combination of these colors are the most popular Asiatic Lily flower colors.
Asiatic Lily Key Highlights: Medium height up to 3′, not-fragrant, blooms in bold colors of red, orange, yellow, white and pink.
Tiger Lilies are fierce and tall. They reach heights of 3-4’ with colorful blooms. The blooms on tiger lilies face downward with the petals curling backward. Known for the spots on the blooms and bold colors of red, orange, pink and yellow.
Tiger Lily Key Highlights: Downward facing blooms with re-curved petals and spots. Tall reaching heights of 3-4′.
A newer lily to the garden world is the exciting and dramatic Orienpet Lily. Also known as OT lilies these stately perennials are hybrids formed from a cross with Oriental Lilies and Trumpet Lilies. Orienpet Lily varieties have fragrant and showy blooms similar to Oriental Lilies. They have longer petals, reach taller heights and come in a larger array of colors similar to Trumpet Lilies. When grown in the right conditions Orienpet Lilies can reach heights of 6-8’. Although 4-6’ at maturity is a more realistic expectation from these gorgeous giants.
Orienpet Lily Key Highlights: Fragrant, showy blooms, reaching heights of up to 8 feet tall.
Trumpet Lilies are the type of lily used for Easter Lilies. The blooms of Trumpet Lilies are long shaped like a trumpet. They grow tall reaching at least 5’ in height, and typically up to 6’ tall. Trumpet Lilies are fragrant and showy. If you need some height in your garden adding some Trumpet Lilies is a good choice for you.
Trumpet Lily Key Highlights: Easter Lilies, fragrant blooms with long trumpet-shaped appearance.
Showy and Fragrant Lilies for Every Garden
If you have a sunny location in your yard and want to add some showy blooms to the garden lilies are a lovely addition. With the variety of bloom colors and plant heights found in lily bulbs it is very easy to have lilies blooming from late summer to the end of summer. Lilies are one of my most suggested flowers for new gardeners, as they are easy to grow as long as the soil drains well, and they have some sunshine. Have you tried growing lilies? If so what varieties are your favorite?