Why is Stargazer the World’s Most Popular Lily?
Many types of flowers fill my gardens, but none can compete with the extravagant, intensely fragrant blossoms of lilies. That month in late summer when the lilies are in bloom is my favorite time of year. But it’s always over far too soon. The rest of the year I get by on store-bought lilies, which these days, are thankfully both easily available and surprisingly affordable.
I am not alone in my affection for lilies. They are the world’s 4th most popular cut flower, right behind roses, chrysanthemums and tulips. Lily breeders and commercial growers have responded to consumer demand by introducing lilies in many different colors and styles. But many people only have eyes for one particular Oriental lily: Stargazer.
To what extent does Stargazer dominate the lily market? At last count, Holland was producing more than 10 million Stargazer lily bulbs each year!
Why Stargazer Rules the Lily World
Most lilies — 98% of them — are grown for cut flowers. These bulbs are forced in greenhouses and then cut, packed and shipped to market. No lily has ever been better at being a cut flower than Stargazer. Here’s why:
- The bulbs are easy to propagate, which is important when you need to produce millions of them.
- When the bulbs are forced, they typically bloom 2 weeks earlier than similar varieties.
- The stems are naturally shorter than most other Oriental lilies, which is good for shipping.
- The bulbs typically produce 1 and often 2 extra buds per stem, compared with similar varieties.
- Consistent demand means there’s always a good supply of bulbs and prices stay relatively low.
- The flowers are intensely fragrant and deep pink, which is the most popular color for cut flowers.
Tips for Growing Stargazer Lilies in Your Garden
Home gardeners are also big fans of Stargazer lilies. This may be due to name recognition, but it’s also because Stargazer is an excellent performer in the garden. It is reliable, compact, early blooming, and produces lots of buds on every stem. You can expect the flowers to be just as big, colorful and sweetly fragrant as the ones you get from a florist.
Stargazers, like other Oriental lilies, grow well in perennial gardens. To get the best look, plant the bulbs in groups of 3 or more, spaced 6-8 inches apart on center. Bulbs can be planted in fall or early spring for flowers in mid to late summer. When Oriental lilies are grown in fertile, well-drained soil, you can expect them to return and bloom again with even greater vigor the following year. If you live in an area with heavy soil and extremely cold winters, you may find the bulbs gradually decline and produce fewer blooms the second year. In this case, you can plant some additional bulbs each year to ensure an impressive show.
Lilies flower best when they are grown in full sun. You may want to apply an all-purpose liquid fertilizer during June and July to promote strong growth and maximum flower size. If red lily leaf beetles are present in your area, read this article to learn how to recognize and control these destructive pests.
Grow Your Own Supply of Cut Flowers
I love making flower arrangements for my home and to share with friends. Adding a stem of Oriental lilies takes these arrangements to a whole new level. But I rarely cut lilies from my perennial borders because they look so beautiful. Instead, I plant some extra Stargazer and other varieties of Oriental lilies in nursery pots to use as cut flowers. As they come into bloom, I have no hesitation about cutting every stem. Read this blog post for some tips about how to do it.
If you decide to cut lilies from your flower garden, leave behind as much of the stem as you can. The bulb needs the foliage that lines the stem to replenish itself for the following year. Harvest lilies when the first, lower-most bud shows full color but has not yet opened. If you cut the stems any earlier, the buds may not fully open or may be misshapen. After cutting, put the stems into water immediately and move them to a cool location to rest for a few hours.
Freshly harvested lilies have a vase life of 9 to 14 days. To help them last as long as possible, use a floral preservative in the vase water, and re-cut the stems and change the water every 3 or 4 days.
We offer more than a dozen varieties of Oriental lily bulbs — including Stargazer! We also offer other types of lilies that bloom earlier and later in the season. Our Planning Guide for Lilies makes it easy to see each type and when it blooms.
Lily bulbs are available for pre-order starting in January and are shipped in early spring at the proper planting time for your growing zone. Bulbs are also available for immediate purchase during April and May or as long as supplies last. Click here to see our full selection of lilies.