Lilies, astoundingly captivating and aromatic, have long been a symbol of purity and devotion, embodying a rich history and carrying profound connotations through various cultures worldwide.
Lilies, belonging to the genus Lilium, forms part of a family of about 100 species. Revered for their large, striking flowers and pleasant fragrance, they’re widely spread in the wild across the Northern Hemisphere, from North America to Asia.
The lily symbolizes a multitude of sentiments – from beauty and charm to love and affection, these flowers have been an emblem in the art, myth, and literature of many cultures.
Types of Lilies
Lilies come in an array of varying colors, petal arrangements, sizes, and blooming seasons. Some popular varieties include:
- Asiatic Lily (Lilium Asiatic): Non-fragrant lilies in colors ranging from red, orange, yellow, pink to white. One of the earliest bloomers in the lily family.
- Oriental Lily (Lilium Orientalis): Known for their strong fragrance, large blooms, and colors varying from white and pink to vibrant red, often with speckles.
- Trumpet Lily (Lilium Trumpet): Characterized by trumpet-shaped flowers with a soft fragrance, these lilies usually bloom in colors ranging from white to pastel hues during mid-summer.
- Tiger Lily (Lilium Lancifolium): Features bright orange petals marked with dark spots. Disease-resistant and blooms in the mid-summer.
- Madonna Lily (Lilium candidum): A historic, non-hybrid lily that features white, sweetly perfumed flowers that face outward or downward.
- Regal Lily (Lilium regale): Also known as the Christmas Lily, it’s famous for its trumpet-like, intensely fragrant flowers that are white on the inside and pink on the outside.
- Easter Lily (Lilium Longiflorum): Symbolizing purity, these lilies bloom in spring, producing highly fragrant, trumpet-shaped, and outward-facing white flowers.
- Rubrum Lily (Lilium Speciosum ‘Rubrum’): Renowned for its vibrant, pinkish-red and white flowers with a sweet, heavy scent, blooming in late summer or early fall.
- Martagon Lily (Lilium martagon): Recognizable by their small, downward-facing flowers that come in colors ranging from dark purple to white, also known as the Turk’s Cap lily.
- Stargazer Lily (Lilium ‘Stargazer’): A popular hybrid with large, vividly colored and fragrant blooms in eye-catching shades of pink and white.
- Canada Lily (Lilium canadense): Native to North America, they feature hanging flowers with curved petals usually in yellow or orange, adorned with dark spots.
- Wood Lily (Lilium philadelphicum): Renowned for its bright orange or red flowers with a yellow base, native to North America and typically adorned with dark spots.
- Siberian Lily (Lilium pensylvanicum): Known for their vibrant orange flowers blooming in the early summer days, common in Asian gardens.
- Formosa Lily (Lilium formosanum): A fragrant lily species native to Taiwan with tall stems and trumpet-shaped white flowers.
- Canna Lily (Canna Generalis): Not a true lily, but boasts brightly colored tropical foliage and vibrant flowers in varying colors.
- African Lily (Agapanthus spp.): While not a true lily, this plant is often categorized with lilies due to its lilac to blue, lily-like flowers.
- Blackberry Lily (Iris domestica): Although not a true lily, it is commonly called such because of its lily-like orange flowers which give way to blackberry-like seed clusters.
- Red Spider Lily (Lycoris radiata): This fall-blooming bulb features vibrant red, spider-like flowers and is extremely hardy.
The Vibrant Spectrum of Lily Colors
Lilies have an extensive palette that reaches almost every hue imaginable. This spectrum of color adds an individual touch to gardens and enables them to beautifully honor any occasion.
White Lilies: Considered a symbol of purity, innocence, and chastity, white lilies such as the Casa Blanca Lily, are a popular choice for weddings and funerals.
Pink Lilies: They embody prosperity and abundance. Varieties like ‘Stargazer‘ and ‘Casa Rosa’ are quite popular and have an inviting sweet fragrance.
Red Lilies: Standing as an emblem of passion and love, red lilies like the Asiatic Hybrid ‘Blackout‘ are a favorite for romantic occasions.
Yellow Lilies: Representing thankfulness and desire for enjoyment, these vibrant blooms, such as Yelloween or Golden Splendor, are perfect for cheerful celebrations.
Orange Lilies: Usually associated with confidence and wealth, the fiery blooms of orange lilies, like the Asiatic Hybrid ‘Orange Art‘, can create a striking impression.
Purple Lilies: Symbolizing royalty and ambition, purple lilies like the Oriental Lily ‘Dizzy‘ command an undeniable presence due to their dark, rich hues.
Blue Lilies: Though not naturally occurring, hybrid flowers like the Blue Heart Lily or Agapanthus, are often referred to as “blue lilies.” Their tranquil blue blooms bring a sense of peace and calm.
Characteristics of Lilies
Lilies have some distinguishing features that make them stand out:
- Bulbous Roots: A lily’s life starts from a bulb that stores food and contains the blueprint for the entire plant.
- Flamboyant Flowers: The arrangement of six petals (three outer sepals and three inner petals), six stamens, and a single pistil is a distinct feature.
- Variety in Size: Some lilies like the Trumpet Lilies stand tall at though 5 feet, while others like Asiatic Hybrids grow only up to 3 feet.
- Long Lifespan: Certain types of lilies are perennials and can bloom for over 20 years.
Caring for Lilies
To ensure your beloved lily thrives, the following simple tips might come in handy:
- Sunlight: Lilies love sunlight; be sure to at least provide them with six hours of sunlight daily.
- Soil: Well-drained, loamy to sandy soil is best. Avoid heavy, poorly-drained soils, they may cause bulb rot.
- Watering: While lilies require adequate watering, overwatering must be avoided as it can lead to bulb rot.
- Fertilizer: Regular application of a balanced garden fertilizer will keep your lilies healthy and help in yield vibrant blooms.
- Mulching: Mulching the base of the lily plant helps retain soil moisture and prevents weed growth.
What to do when lilies have finished flowering?
After lilies have finished flowering, it’s important to take proper care of them to ensure a healthy blooming cycle for the next season.
Start by deadheading the lilies, which involves removing the spent blooms to prevent the plant from putting its energy into seed production. Cut the blooms off at the base of the flower.
Next, prune the lily stalks only when the leaves and stem have turned brown, but let them remain on the plant until then. The plant continues to photosynthesize after it has bloomed, which helps it store more energy for the next season.
You can also cut back the plant to ground level once the stalks have completely browned. Adding mulch around the plants is beneficial as it helps the soil retain moisture and acts as insulation from the cold, protecting the lily’s roots, especially if you live in an area with harsh winters.
If you have container lilies or if winters in your region are too harsh for the lily variety you have, consider overwintering them indoors in a cool, dark, and dry place.