A group of popular summer flowering bulbous perennials grown for their large and beautiful sweetly-scented flowers. Tall stemmed forms are very popular as cut flowers.

Family: Liliaceae (lily)
Botanical Name: Lilium
Common Names: Lily

Foliage: Whorled or spirally arranged green leaves. Deciduous.

Flowers: Tall rigid stems, topped with large showy, brightly coloured flowers, in a wide range of hues. The petals often have a deeper colour or spotting at the base.

Flowering Period: Mid summer (August-September).

Soil: Moist but well-drained soil (chalk, clay, sand or loam). Some varieties like L. auratum, L. giganteum and L. pardalinum, love a slightly acidic peaty soil, but the majority of other forms do not. However, modern lilium hybrids are tolerant of most soil types.

Conditions: Best in full sun. Requires a south, west or east facing aspect, in sheltered location.

Habit: Tall upright.

Type: Bulbous perennial.

Hardiness: Hardy in most regions of the UK.

Planting and Growing Lilium

Plant bulbs in a light, well drained loam, enriched with leaf mould or other well-rotted organic matter. If the soil is heavy add horticultural grit or sand to open it up. Be sure to pick a well drained sunny position and plant the bulbs at least 6in (15cm) deep resting on a bed of sand or grit. For the best flowers they should be left undisturbed and should only be lifted when absolutely necessary.

Tall varieties are handy the mixed border and shorter varieties are ideal for the rockery or in pots and containers.

Taking Care of Lilium

Water well during the summer and apply a liquid feed regularly when in flower. Tall specimens will need staking on exposed sites.

Add an annual top-dressing of organic mater or well decayed manure each spring.

Deadhead to encourage further flowers.

Pruning Lilium

No pruning necessary. Cut down old flowering stems once the leaves have died back naturally.

Pests and Diseases

Susceptible to lily beetle, aphids and slugs. Remove and destroy the distinctively bright scarlet lily beetles as soon as you see them on the leaves, usually from April onwards. They can lay 100s of larvae filled eggs that can strip the leaves and buds very quickly. The easiest way to remove them is to lay a sheet of paper under the leaves and tap the plant so they fall off onto it. The lily beetle in not native to the UK but has become widespread here over the past thirty years. Lilium can also be affected by a number of fungal and viral diseases.

Propagating Lilium

Propagate by seed or separate and replant offsets once foliage dies down. Alternatively sow seeds in pots in a
cold frame in August. Seedlings of most species do not flower until they are at least 2 to 5 years old.

Lilies can also be propagated from bulb scales. To do this, lift the bulbs when dormant and remove some scales from the side of the bulb. Pot up in a peat substitute and sand mix and grow on in a cold frame. New bulbs should form at the base of the scales. These should be grown-on for 3 years or so until maturity.

Popular Varieties of Lilium Grown in the UK

There are around 80 Lilium species, from which have been developed a great many hybrids, including:

L. auratum (Japan) has strongly fragrant bowl-shaped blooms, 8-12in (20-30cm) wide, in pure white with a yellow band down each petal and crimson freckles. Height 4 to 6ft (1.2-2m)

L. candidum (Madonna Lily) has pure white trumpet-shaped fragrant flowers.

L. henryi (Henry's Lily) produces orange Turk's cap flowers. Height to 10ft (3m).

L. lancifolium (Tiger Lily) has orange Turk's cap flowers with brown spotting.

L. longiflorum (Easter Lily) has white fragrant trumpet shaped flowers in summer. Height to 3ft (1m). Needs winter protection.

Asiatic Lilies are a group of early summer flowering hybrids. They are a shorter form (under 3ft) and come in a wide range of colours. Mostly non-fragrant. Examples include:

Lily 'Apricot Fudge' has unusual creamy orange flowers with rose-like upward curled waxy petals. Available from Thompson and Morgan.

Lily 'Splendid Joy' is double-flowered, with yellow blooms. Height to 18in (45cm). Available from Thompson and Morgan.

Lily ‘Tango’ has clusters of large, wide-flared flowers in shades of orange, yellow and pink with dark bases. Available from You Garden.

Oriental Hybrids are a group of large flowered, fragrant, hybrids, developed specifically for the garden and the flower trade. One of the most popular forms is the upward-facing, fragrant and long-lasting 'Stargazer', which is one of the most successful cut flowers ever produced. Other examples include:

Lily ‘American Princess’ has fragrant sugar pink flowers. Available from Thompson and Morgan.

Lily 'Connecticut King' has open upward facing yellow flowers.

Lily 'Dizzy' has vibrant pale pink and bright red striped flowers. Available from Thompson and Morgan.

Lily 'Imperial Crimson' has flat flowers with pink spotting.

Lily ‘Spring Wedding’ has large white blooms with pale gold stripes. Available from Thompson and Morgan.

Lily ‘Prince Charming’ is bold and exotic, with contrasting white margins. Available from Thompson and Morgan.