Everyone loves lilies. With large, showy blooms, lilies add striking elegance to the yard and garden from early to midsummer. Grown from bulbs, lilies are perennial flowers that will return year after year and require minimal care, provided that you plant them in the right place.
Lilies have six plain or strikingly marked tepals (“petals”) and are often trumpet-shaped, sitting atop a tall, erect stem with narrow, long, lance-shaped leaves. They come in many beautiful colors, including pink, gold, red, orange, and white.
There are a number of popular lily species—and their endless hybrids—available to gardeners:
- Asiatic lilies bloom first in early summer (in May or June), right after peonies. They are not fussy as long as they are grown in well-draining soil. They are the shortest type of lily (about 2 to 3 feet tall) and come in many colors, from pastel to tropical. They don’t have much of a fragrance, but they do add bright color to the garden.
- Easter lilies are most commonly grown indoors as a holiday plant. As their name suggests, they are typically forced into bloom around Easter, in March or April. Outdoors, they are better suited for warmer regions of North America, where they can be planted in the garden after blooming has finished.
- Oriental lilies have that famously strong fragrance. They are tall and stately (4 feet), and tend to grow more slowly, often blooming about the time when Asiatic lily flowers are fading (mid- to late-summer).
- Trumpet lilies are similar to oriental lilies, producing many blooms with a nice scent. Their flowers tend to be smaller and more closed (like a trumpet) than those of the other lilies.
There are other lilies out there, of course, such as tiger lilies and Turk’s cap lilies, as well as hybrids like “Orienpet” (Oriental + Trumpet) and LA lilies (Easter + Asiatic). Browse through your favorite online gardening retailer’s catalog to find what you like best!
Get to Know the “True Lilies”
There are many plants with “lily” in the name, but most are not what we call “true lilies.” True lilies grow from onion-like bulbs and are of the genus Lilium.
Daylilies (Hemerocallis spp.), despite the similar appearance of their flowers, are not true lilies. Daylilies have many leaves that grow from a crown, whereas true lilies generally have only one stem or shoot that grows from a bulb. Similarly, peace lilies, canna lilies, water lilies, lily-of-the-valley, and calla lilies are not true lilies either! Learn more about what makes a lily a lily.
When Do Lilies Bloom?
Lilies tend to bloom from early summer to fall, depending on the type. By carefully blending early, mid-season, and late varieties into your garden, you will enjoy their magnificent blooms from spring through first frost. At home in both formal and naturalistic settings, most lilies also take readily to containers. Plus, they make great cut flowers!