Try These Lovely Lilies

Enjoy stately blooms and wonderful fragrance indoors and out.
Ellen Ruoff Riley/ Photography William Dickey

A new type of lily combines attributes of the trumpet lily and the Oriental Hybrid lily flower form. Called Orienpet, the blooms have a trumpet shape with petals curving back slightly. This new type of lily also brings a broad color palette to the garden, previously unavailable in pure Oriental selections. Visit www.johns cheepers.com or www.brentand beckysbulbs.com for a good selection of Orienpet lilies.

Occasionally, their scent gives them away first. Most times, though, it’s the elegant flowers that catch your breath. “I think the regal splendor of Oriental Hybrid lilies gives the crowning touch to my summer garden,” says June Barnett of Fort Mill, South Carolina.

These easy bulbs defy their exotic look. “I planted my lilies in April, and they flowered in June,” she says. You can buy them in bloom now at garden shops and nurseries.

Growing Tips
Success with lilies depends on a few points. According to Brent Heath of Brent and Becky’s Bulbs, “Regardless of where you live, plant lily bulbs when you see them available. They do well throughout the South when planted in the garden in late fall or early spring.”

  • Well-drained soil is a must. June deals with less than ideal conditions in her flowerbeds. “I mix compost with topsoil and add this to the bed after removing the heavy clay,” she says. Lilies may bloom the first year in damp soil but will likely rot over the winter.
  • Lilies love the sun. In the hottest Southern gardens, though, provide morning sun and light shade in the afternoon. A layer of mulch on the soil helps the bulbs stay cool and retains precious moisture. 
  • Keep them moist. Lily bulbs do not withstand drought. Water them when rains cease. 
  • Give them support. “I’ve learned to stake lilies before they get large and come into bloom. If you wait until the flowers open, the stems are too heavy to stand up,” June advises. Use one stake per lily, and put it in place when the foliage reaches 1 foot tall. Push the support into the ground next to the bulb, and fasten it loosely to the stem with garden twine.


Perilous Pollen
Lily pollen stains; this is a lesson usually learned the hard way. A favorite blouse or tablecloth may be the victim of this tenacious pigment. If you bring lilies indoors, standard practice is to remove the pollen-heavy stamens. “For me, they are half of the flower’s beauty,” says June. “To avoid the problem, I place my vase of cut lilies on a mirrored place mat.” Besides being a beautiful setting for the flowers, the place mat protects the fabric and tabletop as the blooms mature and the pollen sheds.

"Try These Lovely Lilies" is from the July 2008 issue of Southern Living.