Different Types of Lilies for Dramatic Color All Season Long
Lilies, one of the most beloved bulbs for the summer garden, herald the season’s arrival with beautiful blooms at a time when most flowers are still in a holding pattern. Their bright flowers suit all types of gardens, whether classically designed, cottage-style, or contemporary. Lilies are in the genus ‘Lilium’ and grow from bulbs. Some other popular garden plants, such as daylilies and canna lilies, may have the term “lily” in their common name, but they are not lilies at all. There are several hybrid divisions and another division of species of lilies. While definitely not complete, following is a selection of those popular in the South and commonly available to gardeners.
Asiatic lilies are the easiest to grow and most reliable for the average garden. Some have upward-facing flowers, while others have horizontally held or drooping flowers. Colors range from white through yellow and orange to pink and red and may have dark spots or contrasting “halos.” Asiatics bloom in early summer. Examples are ‘Enchantment’, colored orange-red and spotted with black, the bright yellow ‘Impala,’ and ‘Pink Floyd’, a creamy pink bloom banded in rose pink.
Orientals are the most exotic of the lilies. They bloom midsummer to early fall, with big (up to 9-inch) 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. Look for the pure white ‘Casablanca,’ the rose red, white-margined ‘Stargazer,’ or the rose-banded ‘Pink Ribbons.’
Derived from Asiatic species, Aurelians display trumpet-or bowl-shaped flowers in midsummer. Flowers range from white and cream through yellow and pink, many with green, brown, or purple shading on their outer surfaces. Plants are 3-6 ft tall, and each stem carries 12 to 20 flowers. Examples include the coppery apricot ‘Anaconda’, the ‘Black Dragon’, strikingly white with maroon petal backs, or the ‘Golden Splendour’, which sports yellow blooms from purple buds.
Martagon Species – Turk’s Cap
One of the most popular variants of this species is the ‘Turk’s Cap’ lily, with recurved blossoms dangling like tiny butterflies from the end of graceful, 3-5-ft. flower stalks. These lilies, which bloom in early summer, are slow to establish but long lived and eventually forms big clumps. You’ll find these lilies in shades of orange, yellow, red, and pink. The stalks of many varieties grow quite tall; up to 6 feet! Some have spotted petals while others do not, and most varieties are quite fragrant.
Longiflorium Species - Easter Lily
The most popular variant of this species is the Easter lily, sold almost exclusively as a holiday plant and forced to bloom out of season in time for Easter. These lilies are very hardy plants that survive winter temperatures as low as -20 degrees F. A lot of energy is sapped from the bulb when it is forced to bloom early and many do not transition well from the pot to the garden. If you hate throwing living things away, you can try planting the bulb in your garden after the Easter bloom fades. If it takes, you will have flowers for many seasons. Don’t plant forced lilies near other lilies, though; they may transmit a virus.
Lancifolium Species – Tiger Lily
This popular, easy to grow lily reaches a height of 4 feet or taller and, blooming in summer, sports pendulous orange flowers spotted black. Newer tiger lilies are available in white, cream, yellow, pink, and red, all with black spots.
Candidum Species -Madonna Lily
Pure white, fragrant blooms grow on graceful 3-4-ft. stems from late spring to early summer. Unlike most lilies, the ‘Madonna’ dies down soon after bloom and makes new growth in fall. It’s best to plant this species while dormant in the fall.