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Everything you need to know about different types of Lilium

Everything you need to know about different types of Lilium

Yellow Asiatic, Pink Asiflorum and white Longiflorum image

Do you love lilies but are not sure what the differences are? Well then you have come to the right place, read further to find everything you need to know about the different types of Lilium. Easily one of the most recognisable summer flowers, lilies suit all types of garden styles and are easily the leading ladies of the summer garden.

With more than 100 species, lilies are famous for their stunning trumpet-shaped flowers. Some have swept-back petals while others are more open-faced. The wide range of types and colours means you’ll find one that will complement your garden no matter its style.

They’re available in a variety of heights and blooming times, so planting several different types gives you a longer stretch of time with flowers and the opportunity to get creative with placements and pairings.

A brief history of lily categories 

These summer-flowering bulbs are classified by botanists into 9 different divisions based on their genetics and hybridisation history. In each of these 9 divisions are many subdivisions. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of different types of lilies within each division or subdivision. But don’t worry, we will break it down for you!

A quick guide to knowing the different types of lilies

Lilium asiatic

Yellow, pink, white and red asiatic lilies.

One of the hardiest varieties available. They are early bloomers and flower in early spring. Their most distinctive characteristics are the 3-12 (per stem) upward-facing flowers. This variety comes in a multitude of colours.

They’re the shortest lily (around 45-80cm tall) and are fast growing and perfect for perennial beds or containers. This variety has hardly any scent. One of their most fantastic features is that they can almost double their numbers within a year. The new babies pop up next to them close to the surface - lilies thrive in large spaces. 

Fun fact: they are mistakenly called tiger lilies which are hybrids that were created by crossing an asiatic hybrid and species L. tigrinum or L. lancifolium.  

Lilium longiflorum

White St Joseph lilies (Lilium Snow Queen)

They start blooming in midsummer just a few weeks after L. asiatic. Their sideways, large fragrant flowers have thick, waxy petals and deep trumpets. They are mainly white but have been hybridised enough to now offer cream, yellow, peach and pink varieties.

They can grow up to 2m tall and are best planted near the back of perennial borders. Be prepared to stake them if they are in a windy spot.

Fun fact: L. longiflorum is commonly called an Easter lily although that’s nowhere near the time they flower in South Africa.

Lilium asiflorum 

Single cream asiflorum lily

The asiflorum hybrids are known as the showgirl cousins of the more plain L. asiatic. They are a beautiful cross between L. longiflorum and L. asiatic. Their flowers are similar to the trumpet lily (another hybrid) but are smaller in size and have more flowers per stem.

They owe their trumpet-shaped flowers, long vase life and vigour to the former (L. longiflorum), while their bright colours and upward-facing flowers, clustered at the apex of the stem, come from the latter (L. asiatic). They multiply rapidly and grow to a height of 1,3–1,7m.

Lilium Oriental Trumpet

Pink Lilium Oriental (Stargazer).

This type of lily needs to be planted out in spring with a planting depth that is slightly deeper than its cousins. They bloom later than L. asiatics and have a luxurious appearance with large, outward or upward facing flowers. The flowers have broad petals and an open star-like shape.

They have broad leaves and are happy in partly shady conditions. L. oriental multiplies at a slower rate than Lilium asiatics by natural division and will need to be lifted and divided every three to five years so they don't become overcrowded.

They reach a height of roughly 1 - 1.3m tall and are known for their heady fragrance. Their colours range from yellow and white to pink and burgundy, often with contrasting freckles or stripes on the petals. 

Fun fact: L. Oriental, also known as the Japanese lily, is among the world's most popular cut flowers.

 Asiatic-Orientals

These relatively recent hybrids combine the brilliant colours of L.asiatic with the bigger flowers and longer stems of L. Oriental - essentially a cross between L. auratum from Japan and L. speciosum from China and Japan.

With a very light scent, they can be treated the same as L. asiatic. They bloom later than most of the lilies in summer and mid-autumn. They are usually found in a single colour, except for the lollypop hybrid.

6 reasons to grow Lilies

As you’ve seen, lilies vary in height from the tall L. longiflorum (1–1,5m) to the shorter L. asiatic hybrids (60cm–1m), making them really useful in a mixed border.

You can grow them directly in the border among your roses or other perennials; they’re also perfect for pots. The advantage of planting them in pots is that they can simply be moved onto the patio when in flower or transplanted into bare spots in the garden.

You can leave them in the ground once they’ve died back in autumn and they’ll pop up again in spring or summer. In really hot regions, plant them in a little shade and mulch well to keep the bulbs cool while they’re dormant.

They have a long flowering season. If you plant a succession of bulbs you can have flowers from mid-spring to early autumn.

Many are fragrant, so plant them near windows, close to your front door, along paths or in a courtyard.

AND - they make fantastic cut flowers!

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