What are the different types of lilies?
True lilies are divided into nine divisions, all recognized by the North American Lily Society. Stargazer lilies, Easter lilies, species varieties, and everything in between—not including non-lilies that look like lilies, such as daylilies, toad lilies, or canna lilies—fall into one of these divisions. However, some hybridizations cross division lines. Let's look at the nine types of garden lilies.
Division 1: Asiatic lilies
Asiatic lilies, as their name implies, are native to Asia. Including a rather large group of species, the Asiatic division contains beloved lilies like Trogons and Lollipops. Asiatic lilies are known for their vibrant colors, ranging from pastels to brights to deep tones. Asiatic lilies have long, glossy leaves with attractive green coloring and their petals have smooth or non-wavy edges. Asiatic lilies also reach one to several feet in height.
Division 2: Martagon lilies
We know what you're thinking—since Oriental and Asiatic lilies make up the majority of garden lilies, shouldn't second billing go to the Oriental lily? Division 2 actually includes Martagon lilies, also called Turk's Cap lilies. These tall plants feature distinctive flowers, with petals pointing backward from the stamen of the bloom. Martagon lilies tend to dangle from the end of their stalks, which can grow to six feet in height in some hybrids. Their flowers typically bloom in shades of orange, pink, yellow and red. Martagon lilies can be finicky, but are also a rare shade-tolerant lily, so they are perfect for certain landscapes, but do not grow well in hot, humid climates.
Division 3: Candidum lilies
Candidum hybrids are often referred to as "Madonna lilies," and are typically pure white with yellow at their throats. This Asiatic Lily originates from Europe, and features trumpet-shaped flowers. This division has few entries and they are difficult to locate.
Division 4: American hybrids
American hybrids include many varieties, such as the commonly named tiger or panther lilies. Similar to Turk's Cap lilies in appearance, some North American hybrid lilies offer up recurving petals, while others open forward, but face towards the ground. Their flowers are bright and bouncy, swinging like a pendulum. Though the American hybrids are native to North America, many are not easily grown in the home garden.
Division 5: Longiflorum lilies
Longiflorum lilies are also known as "Easter lilies." They produce long, trumpet-shaped flowers in shades of green and white, not unlike the Candidum lily, but have more robust flowers, as well as shorter history than the heirloom Candidum. Longiflorum lilies originated in Japan, are grown from seed, and are not particularly hardy in the garden.
Division 6: Trumpet and Aurelian
Trumpet and Aurelian lilies reach taller heights than most other lilies—some growing to eight or more feet. Trumpet and Aurelian lilies both produce classic, bugle-shaped flowers, some flaring widely. Different varieties are pendulant or upward facing and there are many more colors than just white, including yellow, chartreuse, plum and apricot. Some of Spring Hill's giant lilies are trumpet varieties—you'll love them for their beautiful size and their notable sweet fragrance.
Division 7: Oriental lilies
Oriental lilies are the true stars of the lily garden, with extravagant coloring and showstopping texture. They're easy to distinguish from the lightly-scented Asiatic varieties due to their fragrance alone, but they also feature noticeably larger blooms, sometimes up to nine inches in diameter. Oriental lilies include many of our beloved "big flower" varieties, like Stargazers or Casa Blanca, and often grow in colorfast hues of pink, purple, white and red. The petals have ruffled edges, and sometimes feature freckling or striping. Oriental lilies bloom in summer, with some varieties extending into fall.
Division 8: Interdivisional lilies
The interdivisional category is, as its name suggests, a catch-all for hybrid lilies that cross the lines between divisions. Some of these fabulous lilies are bred to combine the best of two worlds. One notable example is the Orienpet lily, a hybrid of Oriental and trumpet lilies, that combines the color of Oriental lilies and the growth habit of trumpet lilies. Our Tree Lilies are a cross between Asiatic and Oriental lilies, carefully cultivated to combine the best traits of both divisions into one plant, featuring tall stalks and fadeless coloring.
Division 9: Species lilies
While the interdivisional category is an umbrella for all hybrids, the species division includes lilies that have not been hybridized, or are native to their area. Wild tiger lilies are a part of this group, but not all species look the same. In fact, many look very different, as these are pure, unhybridized lilies.
While so many varieties of lilies exist, there's a perfect hybridization for every landscape. Oriental and Asiatic lilies are particular successes in the United States, where gardeners have cultivated dozens of varieties of their beautiful blooms. These rewarding flowers are also hardy and easy to grow.
How to grow lily bulbs:
Not only are lily flowers beautiful, they're relatively low-maintenance. Good location and regular watering are key in helping your lily bulbs reach their beautiful mature state.
Choose a location with full sun and good drainage for your lily bulbs. Make sure to give them room to grow, considering both height and width, as most lily plants grow both "up" and "out," and can develop substantial clumped roots in a brief season. Check the planting instructions to determine the appropriate depth to plant your lily bulbs. As you dig the holes, mix a bit of slow release fertilizer, preferably a balanced formula like a 10-10-10, in with the soil. Be sure to mix the fertilizer well before planting your lily bulbs, to keep the harsh fertilizer from burning the bulbs.
Plant your lilies with care, then backfill the soil and water your lilies in well. After planting, you can reapply fertilizer about once per month, to encourage blooming. After blooming, deadhead your lilies to keep the plants tidy. Don't cut back your lilies' foliage or stalks until their leaves fade as these provide needed nutrients for the bulbs.
When to plant lily bulbs:
Lily bulbs should be planted in spring. Since they are not true bulbs, they don't require a cold period to begin growing, and winter weather can damage their tender shoots. Try to plant your lilies before the summer truly warms up, to allow them the full growing season.
Do lilies come back every year?
Lilies are perennials, and incredibly hardy. Provided the right location, they'll come back year after year. You may need to divide your lilies every two to three seasons to keep them healthy. Dig up your lily bulb, and look for new clumps forming along the main bulb. Carefully pull those off, and replant them in a new location for even more beautiful lilies.