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Asiatic Hybrid Lilies Add Splashes of Color to the Garden
Tips for growing this carefree hybrid from The Morrris Arboretum of The University of Pennsylvania
by Justin Jackson - Morris Arboretum Horticulture Section Leader-Rose Garden - 6/11/2012
If there is one flowering plant that can rival the rose for queen of the garden it is the lily. The Lilium genus consists of roughly 100 species of large flowering bulbous perennial herbs. Although there are many garden plants that carry the name Lily (Day Lily-Hemorocallis or Trout Lily-Erythronium), only true lilies come from the genus Lilium.
Much like the rose, lilies have a reputation for needing special attention, but this isn’t the case if you stick to the Asiatic hybrids. When selecting the right lily for your garden there is much to consider. Flowers can vary from upright to nodding, speckled to blushed, large to small, and fragrant to unscented; not to mention the endless color possibilities of whites, yellows, oranges, pinks, reds, and purples. The location of your lilies is also important to the success of the plantings. Some lilies will tolerate shade, while others do best in full sun; but always plant them in an area with good drainage, where the bulbs themselves are shaded from afternoon sun.
Lilies are primarily found in the temperate woodlands of the Northern Hemisphere, with the Asiatic hybrids deriving from species native to Asia. Although typically unscented, Asiatic hybrids are among some of the most diverse lily cultivars, with their vivid colors, varying sizes, and different flower types. Asiatic hybrids were originally used as cut flowers, but because of their resilience in the garden, horticulturists are using them more and more to add splashes of dramatic color in the perennial borders. Most Asiatic hybrids bloom in early summer, about a month before the oriental lilies, so often times it is best to extend the blooming period in your perennial garden by planting these two together, amongst roses, along with some of the later blooming lilies. Some great Asiatic hybrids to consider are the white Lilium ‘Nepal’, the yellow Lilium ‘Connecticut King’, the orange Lilium ‘Wowee’ or even the deep maroon Lilium ‘Landini.’
Lilies have been in cultivation for thousands of years and have inspired artists and gardeners alike for centuries. Their compact growth, upright habit, intoxicating fragrance and striking colors make an excellent addition to any garden destined for inspiration and beauty. So don’t hesitate when it comes to lilies. Start with the carefree Asiatic hybrids and slowly work in some of the more playful varieties.