Know Your Lilies: Asiatics, Orientals, Trumpets and More!
It’s pretty easy to tell the difference between daylilies (hemerocallis) and true lillies (lilium). Daylilies have a dense root system, long, strappy foliage and clusters of flowers on wiry stems. True lilies grow from bulbs. They have a prominent, upright stalk that displays both foliage and flowers.
What gets tricky is trying to tell one true lily from another — even though they have different growth habits, look quite different from each other and flower at different times during the summer. Being able to tell them apart is important if you want to have the full lily experience — which means having lilies in bloom from June through August! Here’s a quick visual guide to the wonderful world of lilies:
Asiatic lilies are the first lilies of the season and usually start flowering in June, right after the peonies. They are also the shortest type of lily, typically standing about 2 to 3 feet tall. The upward-facing flowers come in many different colors, from white through yellow, orange, pink, red and deep burgundy. An Asiatic lily does not have a fragrance, but the flowers add bold, bright color to early summer gardens. They also grow very well in containers and make great cut flowers.
Asiatic-Oriental lilies are relatively recent hybrids that combine the brilliant colors of Asiatic lilies with the larger flowers and taller stature of an Oriental lily. They were developed for the cut flower industry, but in addition to being great for bouquets, they are also excellent garden plants. An Oriental-Asiatic hybrid lily (AO) is usually 3 to 4 feet tall, which is a perfect height for perennial gardens. They also grow very well in containers. Shown above is ‘Kaveri‘.
Trumpet lilies begin blooming in midsummer. The flowers have long, narrow trumpets and come in white, cream, yellow, peach and pink. Trumpet lilies tower over other perennials, often reaching a height of 4 to 6 feet. Their flowers are deeply fragrant, and just a few plants will perfume your entire garden – especially in the evening. Shown above is trumpet lily ‘Golden Splendor’.
Longiflorum-Asiatic lilies are hybrid crosses between longiflorum lilies, which are the fragrant white lilies best known as Easter lilies, and Asiatic lilies.The flowers have thick, smooth petals and clear, bright colors. Most varieties stand about 4 feet tall and have a light fragrance. Longiflorum lilies grow well warm climates, so LA hybrids are a good choice for southern gardens (though they’re winter hardy to zone 4). Shown above is ‘Yellow Diamond’.
Oriental-Trumpet Lilies, sometimes called OT lilies or Orienpets, are a cross between Trumpet Lilies and Oriental Lilies. They bloom in mid to late summer and display all the best qualities of both parents. The blossoms are large with thick petals and come in both single colors and bi-colors. The flower shape is relatively open and they may face up, out or downward on the stem. Orienpets are very winter hardy and usually bloom about 2 weeks before Oriental lilies. They are 4 to 6 feet tall and all are intensely fragrant. Shown above is ‘Yelloween’.
Oriental Lilies bloom from mid to late summer. They have large, outward-facing flowers that open wide and are more flat than trumpet-like. The pink and white lily known as ‘Stargazer’ is a type of Oriental lily. Flower colors for Oriental lilies range from yellow and white through pink and burgundy, with many displaying contrasting freckles or stripes on their petals. Double varieties are also available. Oriental lilies are ideal for perennial gardens and they also grow well in containers. Heights range from 3 to 4 feet tall. As cut flowers, their lovely fragrance will fill an entire room. Shown above is ‘Colorado‘.
Species Lilies have smaller, more delicate flowers. The blossoms are typically downward-facing and the petals are usually pulled back from the stamens. Tiger lilies are a type of species lily, as are martagon and Canada lilies. Though their flowers are not as large as other lilies, they have their own charm and are an excellent choice for natural areas or woodlands as they will tolerate partial shade and moist soil. Heights are variable — from 2-foot martagons to 5-foot Black Beauty. Some are fragrant and some are not. Shown above is ‘Lady Alice‘.
If you can identify which lilies you already have, then you’ll know which ones to add! With a few of each type, your garden will be decorated with lilies all summer long.