Lilium lily

(lil' ee-um)

Common name: Garden Lily

Family: Liliaceae

Height x width: 2-6' x 6-12"

Growth rate: moderate to fast

Foliage: linear or lanceolate, whorled, horizontal or with recurved tips, parallel veins, petioles short or absent

Flowers: usually in terminal raceme, occasionally solitary, 4-12" wide, 6 tepals (petals and sepals); erect or cup-shaped, horizontal or funnel-shaped, pendulous or bell-shaped; white, yellow, orange, red or maroon; interior often spotted

Hardiness: hardy bulb, zones 3-9 (depending on species)

Soil: well-drained, fertile, mulch to keep soil cool

Light:sun, tolerates part shade

Pests and problems: bulb rot, botrytis blight and spots, viruses, aphids (none usually serious or widespread)

Landscape habit, uses: borders in mid to background or between other plants, cut flowers, containers

Other interest: native to northern temperature hemisphere; old Latin name from Greek leirion for lily.

Other culture: generally 5 types of lily bulbs depending on species:

1. concentric, growing point with overlapping scales

2. subrhizomatous, growing horizontally in one direction

3. rhizomatous, forming extensive mats

4. stoloniferous, developing new bulbs on horizontal stolons where they join (apices)

5. stoloniform, developing horizontal stems before shoots appear above ground

Basal-rooting bulbs can be planted near the surface; those rooting along the stem should be planted twice as deep as they are wide.

Avoid allowing bulbs to dry out before planting; prepare planting area prior.

Propagation: bulblets formed off mother bulb, bulbils formed in leaf axils of some asiatic species sown immediately in fall upon harvest, scales removed from mother bulb and planted, seeds which will take several years to flower


The species and hundreds of hybrids have been classified officially by the International Lily Registry (ed 4, 2007) into 9 classes based on species and growth habits.  These are further delineated by flower habit and shape (letters a, b, c...)
I. Asiatic hybrids
II. Martagon hybrids
III. Candidum hybrids
IV. American hybrids
V. Longiflorum hybrids
VI.  Trumpet hybrids
VII. Oriental hybrids
VIII. Miscellaneous hybrids
IX.. Species

About 100 species (class IX) and many cultivars in each; extensively bred genus. The origin or native provenance helps determine the appropriate ecological garden habitat.

European species (Eur.) and hybrids require rich soils with plenty of organic matter.

Asiatic species and hybrids which are stem rooting should be planted 8-10" deep to allow for this.

North American species (NAmer.) and hybrids often have stolons or rhizomes so prefer a well-drained soil with plenty of organic matter such as from peat moss, shredded leaves and similar.
Species native zone¹ color shape bloom height
amabile Asia 5 red, black spots nodding early-mid 2-3'
auratum Asia 6 white, yellow band bowl late 2-4
bolanderi NAmer. 5 red, dark spots trumpet mid 3-5
bulbiferum Eur. 5 red-orange cup early-mid 3-4
canadense NAmer. 4 golden nodding early 2-4
candidum Eur. 6 white trumpet early 2-4
chalcedonicum Eur. 5 scarlet nodding mid 2-4
columbianum NAmer. 5 yellow-red nodding mid 6-7
formosanum Asia 5 white trumpet late 4-6
grayi NAmer. 5 red, yellow inner cup mid 3-5
henryi Asia 5 light orange nodding mid-late 4-6
humboltii NAmer. 5 yellow-orange, spots nodding mid 5-7
kelloggii NAmer. 5 pink-white, spots nodding mid 1-4
maculatum Asia 4 orange upward early 2-3
maritimum NAmer. 4 red-orange, spots in nodding mid 1-2
martagon Eur. 4 purple-red nodding early-mid 3-4
monadelphum Eur. 5 yellow, lilac spots nodding early-mid 4-5
pardalinum NAmer. 5 orange-red, spots nodding mid 6-9
philadelphicum NAmer. 4 orange-red erect early-mid 2-4
pomponium Eur. 4 scarlet nodding mid 2-3
pumilum Asia 5 coral-red nodding early-mid 1-2
pyrenaicum Eur. 3 yellowish, red spots nodding mid 1-4
regale Asia 5 white trumpet mid-late 4-6
speciosum Asia 6 white, red spots nodding mid-late 4-5
superbum NAmer. 3 orange nodding mid-late 4-7
washingtonianum NAmer. 4 white, purple spots bowl mid 3-5

¹zone refers to USDA cold hardiness zone


Most lilies planted in gardens are easily grown hybrids generally of three broad groups:

1. asiatic which are usually lower with clustered terminal upright flowers, leaves spaced around the stem rather thickly

2. oriental which are taller with often few to solitary larger flowers spaced near the top, with larger and thicker and fewer leaves

3. martagon which are in between in height (about 3' tall) and flowers are often on long stalks, hang down, and have quite recurved (curved back) petals; leaves are whorled

Asiatic and Martagon types tend to be more hardy. Several oriental types have a permeating scent. Species lilies are less popular and seen in commerce, have been mainly used for breeding hybrids, and are often quite particular in their cultural requirements.

The following are only some of the more noteworthy and available hybrids.(those * among the more common)
Cultivar, series Class flowering color, other
'African Queen' VI mid orange, trumpet shaped
'Anastasia' VIII mid-late rosy pink, white tips
Apollo ('Blizzard') I mid ivory white, throat yellow
Backhouse hybrids II mid ivory, yellow, pink, burgundy
Bellingham hybrids IV mid yellow-orange, red/brown spots
'Black Beauty' VII mid dark red, green center, white margins
'Black Dragon' IX mid dark red, white inside, trumpet
'Bright Star' VI mid ivory-orange, recurved
'Casa Blanca'* VII mid-late white, bowl shape
'Citronella' I early-mid yellow, black spots, pendent
'Conca d'Or' VIII mid greenish yellow, orienpet
'Connecticut King'* I early yellow, upward facing
'Cote d'Azur'* I early pink, upward facing
'Dot Com' I early-mid light purplish pink, darker centers
'Embarrassment' I mid light red, spotted
'Enchantment'* I early orange-red, upward facing
'Fire King' I early-mid red-orange, purple spots
'Garden Party' VII mid yellowish white
'Golden Splendor' VI mid yellow, purple stripes, trumpet
'Grand (Gran) Cru'* I early yellow, red lower on petals
'Green Magic' VI mid-late white, trumpet shaped
Harlequin hybrids* I early-mid salmon shades, pendent
'Iowa Rose' I mid pink, spots, yellow center
'Joy' VII mid red-purple, red spots lower on petals
'Journey's End' VII mid-late deep red, edged white, recurved
'Kentucky' VIII mid light orange yellow
'Landini' I mid dark red, lighter tips
'Leslie Woodruff' VIII mid cherry red, tips and edges white
'Marhan' II mid orange/red spots, yellow/purple spots
'Mona Lisa'* VII mid pinkish, red spots
'Mont Blanc'* I early white, upward facing
'Northern Carillon' VIII mid purplish red
Pink Perfection group VI mid purplish pink, trumpet
'Red Velvet' I mid deep red, slightly recurved
'Robina' VIII mid purplish red
'Scheherazade' VIII late deep red, edged yellow/white
'Stargazer'* VII mid red, red spots, white edges
'Sterling Star' I early-mid cream, brown spots
'White Henryi' VI mid white-orange, recurved

(superbum and Stargazer photos courtesy Arx Fortis, Cavs Lady,

©Authored by Dr. Leonard Perry, Professor, University of Vermont as part of PSS123 course.

Return to  Perry's Perennial Pages | HGPO course | PSS123 course