A large number of plants are called lilies, but the true lilies belong to the genus Lilium. This genus is a big one, with over 100 species and literally thousands of different cultivars. They aren’t especially difficult to grow and they are quite beautiful. Many also have a wonderful aroma. These plants attract both honey bees and hummingbirds. They have the added benefit of being plants that usually grow quite well in the north.
In most cases, liliums have showy, trumpet-shaped flowers with six petals and six stamens. The blossoms can appear from spring through fall, depending on the species. There is also a huge selection of blossom colors that are available with the various cultivars. Some have flower stalks that are only a foot or two tall, while others may reach over six feet. The taller varieties may need to be staked because the large flowers can make them top-heavy.
Liliums grow from scaly bulbs. These should be planted in the spring or fall. These plants will grow from the far north through the subtropics and spring planting is preferable for the species grown in the north, because of the abbreviated growing season.
The soil should be well-draining and rich. Lilies benefit from mulching throughout the growing season, and a final deep mulching late in the year to protect the bulbs from the harshest temperatures. These plants also do well in partial shade. Spent flowers should be dead-headed, however the flower stalk shouldn’t be removed until it dies back in the late fall. This allows the plant to continue to nourish the bulb, strengthening it. The bulbs should be dug up and separated every three years or so, then replanted. If this isn’t done, they can become overgrown and both the foliage and the flowers can become stunted.
Lilies are also well suited for growing in pots or other containers that are at least deep enough for the entire bulb to be below the surface of the dirt. The growth can be so vigorous in a pot that it is often a good idea to stake the plants grown in this way.
Lilies are native to Europe, Asia, India, Indochina, the Philippines, Canada and the United States. The bulbs tend to be cold-hardy and become dormant every year, during the winter. Dormancy is needed in order for the bulbs to be ready to produce the next year’s blossoms. In the wild, liliums often grow in grasslands and woodlands, though a few species live in moist, marshy land.
For the attractiveness of the blossoms and the sweet-scented fragrances, liliums are among the most beautiful and popular flowerbed plants. They aren’t hard to grow, although they do require rich soil that drains well. For their sheer beauty and aroma, liliums are highly recommended if you want to dress up your flowerbeds.
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