Often with large, trumpet- or bowl-shaped flowers borne on tall stems, lilies in full bloom are the focal point of any perennial garden. Numerous types are available in almost any colour except black or blue and can be a single solid colour, spotted, striped or other intricate patterns. Lilies bloom in early summer to fall, depending on the type. Some are extremely fragrant and the vast majority make good cut flowers for large arrangements.
Many species lilies, on the other hand, are smaller, recurved turkscap flowers that have their own old world charm and look at home in the cottage garden. They often have their own special requirements, but are well worth it.
Special features of lilies
Good for cut flowers
Choosing a site to grow lilies
Select a site with full sun to light shade and well-drained soil. Most lilies prefer slightly acidic soil, although L. candidum (the Madonna Lily) prefers slightly alkaline and Martagons often do well with just a dusting of lime.
Plant lily bulbs in spring or fall, spacing plants 8 to 18 inches apart, depending on variety. Prepare garden bed by using a garden fork or tiller to loosen soil to a depth of 12 to 15 inches, then mix in a 2- to 4-inch layer of compost. Dig a hole about 6 inches deep and set the bulb in the hole, pointy end up. Fill the hole with soil and firm it gently. Water thoroughly. If hungry voles or mice are a problem, plant lily bulbs in buried wire cages to protect them from getting eaten.
Apply a thin layer of compost each spring, followed by a 2-inch layer of mulch to retain moisture and control weeds. Water plants during the summer if rainfall is less than 1 inch per week. Stake tall varieties to keep them upright. As flowers fade, dead-head the spent blooms. Once the stem and leaves turn brown at the end of the season, cut back at ground level.