Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Pacific Northwest
August, 2011
Regional Report

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Enticingly beautiful with an exotic perfume, this white lily is guaranteed to stop you in your tracks.

Summer Bliss: Magnificent Lilies

Someone asked me the other day to name my favorite flower. What a difficult question to answer! The truth is, I have many favorites and my list changes with the seasons. Right now, in mid-summer, my favorite flowers are lilies.

I love lilies for their spectacular flowers and their willingness to fill those quiet periods in the garden after the irises bloom and just as the early flowering perennials are beginning to fade. True lilies are members of the genus Lilium and are known for their magnificent and extremely fragrant flowers. Plant height ranges from 2 to 8 feet tall, and flowering times range from mid spring to early autumn. Lily flowers offer a variety of shapes and colors. The flowers may be trumpet shaped, open faced, pendulous, erect facing, outward facing, or nodding with recurved petals.

Lilies are not as difficult to grow as you might think. They prefer full sun and soils high in organic matter, and they do require fast draining soils. Planting in raised beds or on hills is usually all that's required to provide proper drainage here in the soggy Pacific Northwest. To their credit, lilies combine well with most other garden flowers. Their slender stems can easily rise above shorter garden companions. I've found that the tall varieties may sometimes need staking, but aside from that, they make terrific garden companions.

Favorite Varieties
The Royal Horticultural Society and North American Lily Society have developed divisions to help sort out the lily clan. Some of the more popular divisions include: Asiatic, American, Aurelian, and Oriental.

Asiatic lilies flower in early summer and grow 2 to 5 feet tall with 4- to 6-inch diameter flowers. Colors include red, pinks, oranges, yellows, lavender, and white, with mostly upward-facing flowers. Popular varieties include 'Enchantment' and 'Connecticut King'.

American lily flower times range from late spring to midsummer. The plants reach 4 to 8 feet tall and develop 4- to 6-inch-diameter flowers. These are hybrids of North American natives, and the flowers have reflexed petals, meaning they curve back. Colors are shades of yellow, orange, and red; most are two colors and spotted.

Trumpet/Aurelian lilies flower in midsummer and reach 4 to 5 feet in height. Flowers are downward- or outward-facing trumpets. 'Regale' and 'Golden Splendor' are my favorite (and among the most popular) varieties.

Oriental lilies flower in late summer at 4 to 5 feet tall with outward- or downward-facing flowers. 'Casa Blanca' and 'Stargazer' are popular varieties. My 'Casa Blanca' is blooming right now with spectacular white flowers and a knock-your-socks-off fragrance.

Lilies have few insect and disease problems. Lily mosaic virus or basal bulb rot (caused from planting in poorly drained soil) are probably the most common. Lilies are generally planted in fall, but can also be planted in spring. A general rule in planting is to place them three times as deep as their vertical diameter. Following this guide, a 2-inch bulb would have 6 inches of soil above it. Madonna lily is the exception; it needs a planting depth of only 1 to 2 inches.

The North American Lily Society has an interesting Web site ( where you'll find images galore and lots of helpful growing hints.

I hope you'll include a few lilies in your garden so you can appreciate these spectacular flowers first hand.

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