I’d like to introduce you to my newest “favorite” summer flower in the garden, the Asiatic Lily.
If you’ve visited this blog before, then you know how much I love stella de oro daylilies. However, Stella is not a true “lily.” In addition, calla lily, toad lily, and surprise lily are not “true lilies” either.
“True lilies” are members of the genus Lilium. They originate from underground bulbs and produce large, showy blossoms in the summer. True lilies are excellent plants for almost any landscaped area. They are versatile and easy to care for, and offer a wide variety of heights, flower forms, and colors. I have recently begun to grow true Asiatic lilies as a way to increase my garden’s “flower power” during the hotter summer months here in the Midwest.
The Best Ways to Grow Lilies in Your Garden
Asiatic and Oriental Lilies will bring beauty, color and fragrance to your garden for many years with very little maintenance. If you do your research, you can purchase varieties that bloom in early June, while others flower in July and August, still others into September.
Traditionally, gardeners purchase lilies as bulbs which are planted in Fall, but I have had great luck buying ones grown in pots over at Home Depot or Lowe’s. I just look for ones that are about to bloom, dig a hole, plant them and leave them alone. This way I get instant lily flowers, and the next year they return in greater grandeur!
Another great way to start your Asiatic lily collection is to “steal” them from friends and family. The Asiatics pictured here are from my friend Dave’s house. He got most of these from his mom’s already established lily garden. He just waited until fall, dug up the bulbs from her plants, split them and took the “daughter” bulbs home and planted them! Viola! Free lilies! He’s got multiple varieties growing alongside his back deck where they peer through the railing while making a nice border to his nice lawn! (gotta love that lawn too!) Thanks Dave!
Planting Asiatic lily bulbs in the fall time is nearly fool proof. Dig a hole about 6 inches deep, drop them in and cover with fresh soil and mulch. Even if you plant them upside down, they will grow perfectly the next year!
It is best to choose a well-drained location with at least half a day of sunshine. If it’s too shady, the stems will stretch and lean towards the sun, whereas I prefer my lilies to remain compact. Most Asiatics top out around 3′ tall while Orientals grow taller.
Lilies love full sun, as long as the bulbs are deep enough to keep cool when temperatures rise above 85 degrees. They should also be mulched over during the long Chicagoland winter.
Look for a spot that is the first to dry out after rain. Lilies can be bothered by fungus that spots the leaves in prolonged cool, wet weather. If you do see brown spots on the leaves, use any fungicide recommended for roses.
Be sure to cut back lily stems when they turn yellow later in the season after the bulbs have been recharged by photosynthesis. You can also fertilize your lilies (bulbs) in the fall using bone meal and a scattering of Milorganite. Composted leaves from Oak or Ash trees work well also and provide protection from harsh winter freezes.
Lilies will gradually increase (naturalize) by division of the large main bulbs and by growth of small bulbs along the old below-ground stem. If the clumps that form become too thick to make large stems, lift and divide them in September or October.
Here is a list of some more common Asiatic and Oriental lilies by name, color, their normal full grown heights, and when they bloom in the Midwest zone 5:
“Enchantment” orange, 2 – 3′ June
“Connecticut King” yellow, 3 – 4′ June
“Corsica” pink, 3′ June/July
“Crete Asiatic” deep pink, 3 – 4′ June/July
“Dawn Star” cream 2 – 3′ July
“Black Beauty” dark red, 5 – 6′ July/August
“Journey’s End” deep pink, 4 – 5′ August
“Stargazer” crimson-red, 2 – 3′ August
“Yellow Ribbons” white/yellow, 3 – 5′ August
“Casa Blanca” pure white 4 – 5′ August/September
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