Lilium (Lily)

Stargazer, well-known for their fragrance

Scientific Name: Lilium, or Liliaceae

Height: Depending on the varieties; 1 to 3 feet and 3 to 8 feet.

Width: 12+ inches

Spacing: 12 to 36 inches

Sun: Full, but can tolerate partial

Bloom Time: Early summer to early fall

Water: Once a day unless temperatures rise

Soil Type: Loose, rich, fertile soil

Soil pH: 6.5 to 7.0

Zones: 4 to 9

Uses/Styles: Beds and borders, cottage

Flower Colors: White, pink, yellow, red, orange, and blends

Attracts: Pollinators, hummingbirds, butterflies

Special Features: Medicinal, fragrant flowers, bright and vibrant colors

Basic Information

Liliums are native to the Northern Hemisphere and have between 80 to 100 varying species. Many lilies are prized as ornamental plants, and they have been extensively hybridized1. The name “lily” is commonly used for different species such as Lily-of-the-Valley, Daylilies, and Lilytuff. To recognize a true lily, look for single stems with lots of leaves and six-petalled trumpet-shaped flowers. Many of the petals are 3 to 6 inches in length. A vast majority of the varieties grow between 1 to 3 feet (30 to 90cm) however some do exceed 6 feet (2.5 meters). The flowering periods depend on the variety, some bloom in the spring, some in July or August, and others bloom in late summer to early fall. Easter lilies (L. longiflorum) are usually forced to bloom in the spring but if they overwinter and come back successfully the following spring, they will revert to blooming in the late summer.

During 2 BCE, the Madonna lily was cultivated for medicinal treatments, and the bulb of certain varieties was and still is, used as food. They have very aromatic flowers that will stop anyone in their tracks. Their flowers are about 3 to 4 inches in width.

Madonna Lily, cultivated for over 2,000 years.

Lilies are bulbs so make sure to choose an area that doesn’t get any standing water; whether naturally (underground) or when it rains too heavily. Loose, fertile, loamy soil is preferred but they can also handle sand and clay. Make sure to bury them 8 to 10 inches down.

Lilies love full sun but they will tolerate some shade, especially on extremely hot and bright days. Make sure to check the soil moisture level when temperatures reach 90F and higher. You will most likely have to water twice a day until daytime temperatures are below 85F consistently. Fertilize in the spring-like you would your other perennials and wait until early fall to fertilize again.

There are several types of lilies and they all have their special features.

Asiatic Lilies: they offer an array of colors and typically bloom early to midsummer and can produce up to 12 flowers per bulb.

Oriental Lilies: they are known for their fragrance and large flowers (6 to 9 inches) that bloom mid to late summer.

Border Lilies: they are the shortest of the lilies, growing between 14 to 18 inches in height with varying bloom times from early to late summer.

Orienpet Lilies: they are the largest of the lilies, growing between 32 to 72 inches in height and blooming from early to midsummer.

Double Lilies: unlike the other lilies, these ones offer double, layered petals that are pollen-free and bloom at various times from early to late summer.

Longiflorium lilies (Easter Lilies): they are forced to bloom in the spring and have white trumpet-shaped flowers, and are associated with the Virgin Mary and purity.


To prepare the ground for lily bulbs, dig up holes 8″x10″, add in a few tablespoons of Biotone, push 4″ of soil in and mix it around, then place one bulb, pointy side up and bury it with the rest of the soil. Biotone will help produce healthier, fast-growing roots. Immediately water once all bulbs have been planted. It’ll take a little time for them to start to surface so be patient and do not overwater. If you are unsure whether the soil is moistened enough, use a hand spade to make a small hole to feel the soil 3″ down. If the soil feels moist, do not water. If feels like it’s starting to dry out, then give a small watering. Overwatering can cause rot and that may lead to the death of the plant.

Companion Plants

Companion plants are a fun way to add attraction to your garden and can be aesthetically pleasing to the eye. Since lilies come in a vast array of vibrant and powerful colors, the combinations are endless. Here are a few recommendations:

  • Columbine’s
  • Veronica’s
  • Gaillardia
  • Silver Mound
  • Low growing grasses
  • and some annuals like zinnia’s, cosmos, marigolds.

It can be difficult to know if two plants look good together so if you are close to a greenhouse, nursery, or garden center, find a plant that you enjoy and walk around with it, putting it next to other plants and seeing how they complement one another. Your plant companionship can be totally different from the next person, and that is okay. We each have our own tastes and that’s what makes gardening so unique and amazing!

Up next… Pests, Disease, and How to treat them!

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