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Lilies are among the most recognizable of all summer garden flowers. Their large, bright flowers suit all types of gardens, whether classically designed, rustic, cottage-style or contemporary. While some folks might think lilies are too old-fashioned for today’s gardens, the truth is that there are dozens of modern hybrid varieties of lilies that offer color, elegance, fragrance, and a whole lot of style to today’s landscapes. Read on to discover 8 of my favorite types of lilies, and see why these glorious blooms deserve a prominent place in every garden.
Why are there so many different kinds of lilies?
Before I introduce you to my favorite types of lilies, it’s important to know that these summer-flowering bulbs are classified by botanists into 9 different divisions based on their genetics and hybridization history. Putting this large family of plants into categories like this helps both professional horticulturists and home gardeners know what the flowers of a particular variety of lily look like, when they bloom, and what conditions they thrive in.
Within each of these 9 divisions are many subdivisions. And there are dozens, if not hundreds, of different varieties of lilies within each division or subdivision. I’m telling you all this not to dazzle you with botanical knowledge (though I’m sure you find it dazzling, right?), but to hammer home the point that there are an incredible number of options when it comes to bloom color, plant height, and other characteristics within each one of the types of lilies I introduce below.
In other words, each of these 8 types of lilies consists of many different choices, with a huge variety of bloom colors to knock your gardening socks off. However, my list of lily types doesn’t follow the same complex grouping botanists use (it’s close, though!). I simplified it slightly to make it easier for gardeners to follow along.
8 Types of lilies for your summer garden
1. Asiatic lilies
Asiatic hybrids are bred from several different species of lilies. They have 3 to 6 flowers per stem, and the petals are often spotted. Asiatic lilies do not have a fragrance, and their flowers tend to be smaller than some other types of lilies. They come in many different colors, including shades of orange, red, yellow, and creamy white. Unfortunately, Asiatic lilies are a favorite of deer and rabbits. They have strong, straight stems that seldom need staking when planted in full sun. Asiatics make wonderful, long-lasting cut flowers.
2. Oriental lilies
Of all the types of lilies, Oriental lilies are among the most fragrant. The heady perfume produced by the flowers is particularly strong in the evening. Oriental lilies have broader leaves than some other varieties of lilies, and the foliage and flowers are deer and rabbit resistant. The anthers of Oriental lilies produce a lot of heavy pollen. If used as a cut flower, pull off the anthers as the bloom opens to keep the pollen from staining furniture.
Oriental lily flowers are as large as a dessert plate, and many buds are found on each stem. Oriental lilies come in various shades of pink and purplish red, in addition to white and creamy yellow. The petals of some varieties are spotted and recurving, while others are not. Among the latest flowering lilies, Orientals grow 2 to 5 feet tall.
3. Trumpet lilies
Also called Aurelian lilies, these hybrid lilies are best described as incredible. Prolific, trumpet-shaped, colorful flowers are long-lasting and highly fragrant. Their petals lack spots and the leaves are broad, though not as broad as the leaves of an Oriental lily. Some trumpet lily varieties have a dozen or more buds per stem, while others have only a few.
Trumpet lilies come in various shades of white, yellow, orange, cream, and pink, often with a star-shaped throat in a contrasting color. One of my favorite varieties of trumpet lily is an orange one named ‘African Queen’. I grew the bulbs in my very first garden and the plants reached nearly 8 feet tall. The fragrance was incredible.
4. Orienpet lilies
One of the best types of lilies for summer gardens, Orienpet lilies are a cross between Oriental hybrids and trumpet lilies. Their blooms have a shallow trumpet shape before they fully open into a broad bloom. The flowers are 6 to 10 inches across, and they come in shades of pink, yellow, red, orange, and white. The outward facing flowers are heavily scented, and the plants reach two to three feet in height. There are some truly stunning selections of these lilies. Orienpets make excellent cut flowers.
5. LA hybrid lilies
Derived from a genetic combination of Asiatic lilies and “Easter-type” lilies, LA hybrids are the showgirl cousin of plain Asiatic lilies. Their flowers are bigger, bolder, and sexier than the Asiatics. Plus, they come in a wider range of intense colors.
Like Asiatic lilies, LA hybrids have no fragrance. They make great cut flowers, and they’re in bloom for weeks, making LA hybrid lilies real garden standouts. Each bloom measures about 7 inches across and the plants grow up to four feet tall.
6. Turk’s Cap lilies
The recurved petals of Turk’s cap lilies are unmistakable. Like tiny butterflies dangling from the end of graceful flower stalks, Turk’s cap lilies are about as adorable as you can get. Also known as martagon lilies, each stem produces a dozen or more blooms. You’ll find these lilies in shades of orange, yellow, red, and pink. The stalks of many varieties grow quite tall; up to 6 feet! Some have spotted petals while others do not, and most varieties are quite fragrant.
7. Canada lilies
A North American native lily, the Canada lily sports orange or yellow, slightly recurved petals. The plants grow between 2 and 4 feet tall, with each stem producing whorls of 3 to 8 leaves at intervals along the length of the stem. Each stalk produces between 5 and 20 nodding blooms. More shade-tolerant than most other types of lilies, Canada lilies are a great addition to woodland gardens and moist meadows. Unfortunately, the deer and rabbits like this type of lily as much as gardeners do.
8. Longiflorium lilies
Also known as Easter lilies, Longiflorium lilies are sold almost exclusively as a holiday plant. Though there are several different cultivars of this lily, they all have a classic Easter lily appearance. The flowers are white and outward facing with a trumpet-like shape. Reaching 1 to 3 feet in height, Longiflorium lilies are forced to bloom out of season and in time for Easter by exposing the bulbs to very precise conditions to initiate a perfectly timed bloom.
The blooms are slightly fragrant. Surprisingly, Easter lilies are very hardy plants that survive winter temperatures as low as -20 degrees F. It takes a lot of energy away from the bulb to force them to bloom out of season, but if you want to give it a go, you can try growing Easter lilies in the garden. After enjoying their blooms indoors, plant the bulbs out into your garden as you would other types of lilies, and as long as they take to their new home, you’ll enjoy their flowers for many seasons.
Buying lilies for planting
True lilies are in the genus Lilium, and they grow from true bulbs. Some other common plants, such as daylilies and canna lilies, may have the term “lily” in their common name, but they’re not actually lilies at all. They grow from tubers, not bulbs, and they’re in a different plant genus. Each true lily bulb is made of layered scales. The flower stalk is produced from the center of the bulb, and the roots emerge from a disk found on the bottom of the bulb.
Lily bulbs are sourced from a number of places. Your favorite local garden center likely offers a few varieties, but online bulb specialty catalogs tend to offer more types of lilies than garden centers. The bulbs are stored and sold in a dormant state for spring planting. Purchase lily bulbs around the time of your last spring frost, and plant them soon after.
How to plant lily bulbs
Make sure the root disk is facing down and the stem end is up. All types of lilies are best planted in well-draining garden soil. Lily bulbs rot if their location is too water-logged. Choose a spot that receives at least 6 to 8 hours of full sun to keep lily stems tall and straight, regardless of which of the types of lilies you choose to grow.
Plant the bulbs so their tops sit three inches beneath the surface of the soil. Water the bulbs in well, and add a one-inch-thick layer of shredded leaves or compost as a mulch, if you wish.
Growing different types of lilies
Once your lily plants begin to grow, they require very little care. If the plants flop, stake them with a lily support or a hardwood stake. After the blooms fade, cut off the top third of the plant to keep the seed pods from developing and robbing energy from the bulb. They need that energy to fuel the development of next year’s blooms.
Later in the growing season, it’s important to let all types of lilies naturally die back. Do not cut off the green leaves. They continue to photosynthesize throughout the growing season. In the autumn, after the stalks and leaves have turned brown, cut the lily plants down to the ground. If you’d like, toss a few handfuls of a bulb-specific fertilizer over the planting area. The lily bulbs use the nutrition to grow larger. They develop next year’s blooms inside the bulb when the plants are dormant.
Where can you grow lilies?
Almost all types of lilies are winter hardy down to -30 degrees F, though some are even hardy at lower temperatures (the turk’s cap and Canadian lilies, for example). Lilies need a period of cold winter dormancy. They do not grow well in the extreme south. This is because lily bulbs need to be exposed to cold temperatures to form their blooms. But, if you really want to grow lilies in Florida, put the bulbs in a plastic bag in the fridge for 6 to 8 weeks to mimic a winter dormancy. After this period passes, plant the bulb in a container in a semi-shady spot and cross your fingers.
I hope you enjoyed learning about my 8 favorite types of lilies and how to grow them. They’re a lovely fit for every garden.
To learn more about growing gorgeous summer blooms, check out the following articles:
- Perennials with long bloom times
- Purple perennials
- Deer-resistant bulbs for spring bloom
- Evergreen groundcover choices
- Flowering perennials that love the shade
- Ultimate list of plants for cottage gardens
Do you have a favorite variety of lily? Tell us about it in the comment section below.