The most stately and varied of bulbous plants, offering large, colorful, and often fragrant blooms equally effective in the garden or vase. For many years, only the speciesthe same plants growing wild in parts of Asia, Europe, and North Americawere available, and many of these were difficult and unpredictable. Around 1925, however, lily growers began a significant breeding program. They bred new hybrids, strains, and selections that were healthier, hardier, and easier to grow than the original species. Today, hybrids and strains are typically the best garden lilies, but it is still possible to get some desirable species.
Although the official classification of lilies lists eight divisions of hybrids and a ninth division of species, the following listings describe the lilies commonly available to Southern gardeners. Advances in breeding are producing lilies with forms, colors, and parentage hitherto considered unlikely, if not impossible. Consult specialists' catalogs to learn about these wonders, which are reaching the market faster than books can deal with them.
Asiatic hybrids. Bred from primarily Chinese species, these are easy to grow, reliable lilies for the average garden. Flowers are 68 in. longupward facing in some types, horizontally held or drooping in others. Stems are strong, erect, and short (1 ft.) to moderate (4 ft.) in height. Colors range from white through yellow and orange to pink and red. Many have dark spots or contrasting halos. They are early to bloom (early summer). Examples are 'Brunello', bright orange; 'Dizzy', white with crimson bands along the center of each petal; 'Fata Morgana', double yellow; 'Forever Susan', striking orange with large burgundy blotch; 'Grand Cru', bright yellow with maroon spots near the center; 'Hotline', white with hot pink edges on each petal; 'Landini', dark burgundy with purple tint; 'Lollipop', white with bright pink tips; 'Mona Lisa', dark pink fading to pale pink at the edge of the petals; 'Navona', pure white; 'Netty's Pride', almost black centers turning to deep purple then white toward the tips of the petals; and 'Vermeer', medium pink with white blotch.
LA hybrids. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. These lilies are the result of crosses between Easter lilies (L. longiflorum) and Asiatic hybrids (L. asiaticum), producing garden lilies that bloom early at 24 ft. with up-facing, trumpet-shaped blooms that are fragrant and lasting flowers, either cut or in the garden. 'Golden Stone' has bright yellow flowers with red-brown freckles; 'Royal Sunset' is brilliant with an orange center and pink tips on the petals; 'Samur' has medium pink flowers.
OT hybrids. When Japan's Oriental lilies were crossed with China's Trumpet lilies, gardeners gained exciting new garden lilies called Orienpets or OT hybrids. They have strong stems, are more heat tolerant, and require less winter cold. The fragrance is sweet but light, and the colors range from cream through yellow to pink. 'Conca d'Or' has lemon petals with pale edges and grows 45 ft., 'Miss Freya' is maroon-red and 67 ft., and 'Scheherazade' is rose-red with cream-yellow edges, growing up to 10 ft. tall. 'Triumphator' 34 ft. tall; pink white flowers.
Oriental hybrids. The most exotic of the hybrids bred from mainly Japanese species. Bloom from midsummer to early fall, with big (to 9-in.), fragrant flowers of white or pink, often spotted with gold and shaded or banded with red. Most are tall, with nodding flowers, but a few are dwarf and have upward-facing blooms. Examples are 'Casa Blanca', pure white; 'Le Reve', soft pink with a few maroon freckles toward the center; 'Muscadet', white with pink freckles and pink center lines; 'Salmon Star', pink flushed with salmon toward the center and base of each petal, 23 ft. high; and 'Stargazer', rose-red with white margins.
Trumpet lily hybrids (Aurelian hybrids). Zones MS, LS, CS; USDA 7-9. Derived from Asiatic species such as L. henryi and L. regale (but not L. auratum or L. speciosum). Midsummer bloomers with trumpet- or bowl-shaped, 68 in. flowers are usually heavily scented. Blossoms range from white and cream through yellow and pink, many with green, brown, or purple shading on their outer surfaces. Plants are typically 36 ft. tall; each stem carries 6 to 15 flowers. Examples include the Golden Splendor strain, deep gold with maroon striping on petal backs; the Pink Perfection strain; and 'African Queen', apricot-orange with brown streaks.
L. auratum. GOLD-BAND LILY. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Native to Japan. Sweetly fragrant white flowers to 5 in. long appear atop 4- to 6-ft. stems in summer. Petals feature reddish purple spots and a gold band along the midrib.
L. candidum. MADONNA LILY. Native to the Balkans and eastern Mediterranean. Cultivated since 3000 BC and named by Greek poet Virgil. Pure white, fragrant, 4-in. blooms on 3- to 4-ft. stems in late spring, early summer. Unlike most lilies, it dies down soon after bloom, then makes new growth in fall; no summer water is needed. Plant while dormant in August. Choose a sunny location and set top of bulb only 12 in. deep (Madonna lilies do not have stem roots). Bulb quickly makes a foliage rosette that lives over winter, lengthens to become a blooming stem in spring. This species is subject to diseases that shorten its life. Seed grown. Does well in alkaline soil.
L. catesbaei. SOUTHERN RED LILY, PINE LILY. Zones LS, CS; USDA 8-9. Native to moist sites from southeastern Virginia to Florida, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Blooms in late summer, early fall; each purple, 2- to 2-ft.-tall stem bears a solitary 5-in.-long, 5- to 6-in.-wide, red flower marked with purple spots and a patch of yellow near each petal base. Partial shade. Although native to bogs, it thrives in regular garden moisture.
L. formosanum. FORMOSA LILY. Zones MS, LS, CS, TS; USDA 7-11. Native to Taiwan. An often-overlooked, easy-to-grow species that is worthy of wider use. Showy, fragrant flowers are narrow, pendent trumpets 8 12 in. long, appearing atop 5- to 7-ft. stems in late summer. Blooms are white, with a pinkish purple midrib on each petal back; stems are dark purple toward the base. Foliage is narrow, grasslike, and attractive; upright seedpods give rise to many seedlings that often bloom within their first year. 'Little Snow' grows 3 ft. high. A delightful variant, L. formosanum pricei, reaches just 10 in. high and bears 6-in.-long white trumpets with plum-colored midribs. It blooms a month earlier than the species. Both are among the better lilies for the Coastal and Tropical South; bloom reliably throughout Florida.
Formosa lily is often confused with a similar but lower-growing lily that also grows well in the South, L. philippinense. The resulting hybrids, called Philippine lilies, retain the look and growth habit of L. formosanum but are more floriferous.
L. hansonii. HANSON LILY. Native to Japan, Korea. Grows 24 ft. tall, producing fragrant, nodding, yellow-orange summer blooms. Leaves grow in whorls around stems. Prefers light shade and slightly moist soil with lots of organic content. Slow to establish. Extremely virus resistant.
L. henryi. HENRY'S LILY. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. From China. Slender stems reach 89 ft., each bearing 10 to 20 bright orange, 6-in.-long flowers with sharply recurved petals. Mid-summer bloom. Best in light shade. Long-term perennial.
L. lancifolium (L. tigrinum). TIGER LILY. Zones US, MS, LS, CS, TS; USDA 6-11. Native to China, Japan, Korea. Summer-blooming old Southern favorite to 4 ft. or taller, with pendulous, 7-in.-long orange flowers spotted in black. Very easy to grow. 'Flore Pleno' is a double. 'Splendens' bears large flower clusters. Newer tiger lilies are available in white, cream, yellow, pink, and red (all with the typical black spots).
L. longiflorum. EASTER LILY. Zones US, MS, LS, CS, TS; USDA 6-11. Native to Japan and Taiwan. Short stems bear very fragrant, trumpet-shaped, white blossoms to 7 in. long. Usually purchased in bloom at Easter. Set out in garden after flowers fadebut don't plant forced Easter lilies near other lilies, as they may transmit a virus. Stems will ripen and die down. Plant may rebloom in fall; in 1 or 2 years, it may flower in midsummer, its normal bloom time. Selections include 'Ace' (1 ft. tall), 'Croft' (1 ft.), 'Estate' (to 3 ft.), and 'Nellie White' (22 ft.; very popular). Hybridization has yielded colorful offspring, as well as white, such as the dark pink 'Faith' and 'White Heaven', both growing 23 ft. tall. Does very well throughout Florida.
L. martagon. TURK'S CAP LILY. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Native from Europe to Mongolia. Purplish pink, recurved, pendent, 7-in.-long flowers bloom in early summer on 3- to 5-ft. stems. This old favorite is slow to establish, but it's long lived and eventually forms big clumps. 'Arabian Night' is red and orange. 'Sunny Morning' is yellow-orange with deeper orange markings. These are among the most shade tolerant of lilies.
L. pumilum. CORAL LILY. Native to northern China, Mongolia, Siberia. Early summer bloomer to 11 ft. high, with up to 20 fragrant red, recurved, 3-in.-long blossoms per stem. 'Yellow Bunting' has yellow flowers.
L. regale. REGAL LILY. From western China. Popular and easy to grow. To 6 ft., with fragrant, trumpet-shaped, 6-in.-long, white flowers in early to midsummer.
L. speciosum. SHOWY LILY. Native to China, Japan, Taiwan. Grows 25 ft. tall. Wide, fragrant, 7-in.-long flowers with broad, deeply recurved segments bloom in late summer; they are white, heavily suffused with rose-pink and sprinkled with raised crimson dots. Named forms are available, including pure white L. s. album and red L. s. rubrum. 'Uchida' is the most popular selection; it has white-edged pink blooms with deep pink speckles and red anthers. Does best in light shade (or at least afternoon shade); needs rich soil with plenty of leaf mold.
L. superbum. SWAMP LILY. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Native to the eastern U.S. Reaches 69 ft. tall, producing nodding orange, Turk's cap flowers whose petals turn red-orange at the tips with maturity. In the wild, it prefers moist meadows or woodlands but does fine in regularly watered gardens.