Notes On Lilies

Some recent reader comments set me thinking about the lilies currently blooming in my garden. It turns out most of what I think of as lilies are not lilies.

Lilium ‘Black Out’ (Asiatic lily)

Lilium ‘Royal Sunset’ and L. ‘Black Out’ (Asiatic lily) – True lilies belong to the Lilium genus and grow from bulbs.

I don’t remember buying L. ‘Black Out’ in 2016 from a local big box store, as my notes indicate, but since then I have discovered Asiatic lilies are great for use in floral design.  The fragrance is minimal (none in my experience) unlike the overwhelming scent of an Oriental lily.   Several commenters this week were surprised when I used 15 stems of ‘Black Out’ in this week’s Monday vase, but since May 2017 these lilies have bloomed reliably from their home in  a large ceramic container. Over the years they have multiplied and they usually open all at once.

Lilium ‘Black Out’ (Asiatic lily)

Lilium ‘Black Out’ (Asiatic lily)

Piggybacking on their success has not been easy. Lilium ‘Royal Sunset’ planted in the ground in 2020 has been nibbled by rabbits. Most of these have never bloomed but one survived this year and excelled. This single stalk had many buds, unlike the red ones growing in my large container.

Lily Asiatic ‘Royal Sunset’

Crinum × powellii (Crinum lily)  – Grows from bulbs but oops! Actually in the Amaryllis family.

When I moved into this neighborhood 21 years ago we had a neighbor who also had just moved in also. She was a horticulturalist who quickly joined the grounds committee, organized a community garden club, and set out to fill her yard with interesting plants. One plant she advocated for as typical in a southern garden was Crinum lily. I had never heard of it and don’t think I’ve ever seen one in anyone else’s garden, but a quick web search will support this as a classic southern pass-along.  I’m not wedded to this plant.  It’s huge and grows new “pups” each year. It blooms reliably but almost aways looks to be sweltering from hot summer weather.  We’re not officially in summer but already have had a lot of hot weather and very little rain. Perhaps because I’ve been better about watering the past few weeks I’ve been able to catch my Crinum in a pretty fair mood, but today it was pouty in the mid-day heat. This is its normal demeanor in my garden.

Crinum × powellii (Crinum lily)

Here is the crinum on its rare best behavior.

Crinum × powellii (Crinum lily)

Crinum × powellii (Crinum lily)

Crinum × powellii (Crinum lily)

Crinum × powellii (Crinum lily)

Hemerocallis (Daylily) – Oops again! Common names can be confusing. Daylilies are not true lilies.

Hemerocallis (Daylily)

The garden has three daylilies, gifts from my sister when she took my daughter and me to visit a daylily farm a number of years ago. One red daylily opened yesterday followed by a large, darker one this morning. A tangerine one is always the last to flower and hasn’t opened yet this year.

Hemerocallis (Daylily)

Hemerocallis (Daylily)

Hemerocallis (Daylily) – This red was the first to open.

Two other lilies that are not lilies will be in bloom later:

Lycoris radiata, known as the red spider lily, is a plant in the amaryllis family. It blooms in September.

Lycoris radiata (Spider Lily)

Hedychium coronarium (Ginger lily). Although they are commonly called ginger lily, they are not a true lily (genus Lilium) or a true ginger plant (genus Zingiber). It blooms in late August or sometimes not until October when the frost catches it.

Hedychium coronarium (Ginger lily)

Hedychium coronarium (Ginger lily)

Do you grow a favorite lily or lily-nicknamed flower?

20 thoughts on “Notes On Lilies

    1. pbmgarden Post author

      That’s one of those plants I don’t know personally although I’m sure it grows around here and is beloved (though invasive here I believe).

      Reply
  1. Kris P

    Yes, the “lily” name is overused – and deceptive. I grow Alstroemeria (commonly known as Peruvian lily), Arthropodium cirratium (a New Zealand species commonly known as Renga lily), and Amaryllis belladonna (commonly known as both the Jersey lily and also called the naked lady lily). I expect there are more but those are the ones that are top of mind.

    Reply
    1. pbmgarden Post author

      Those are all great “lilies” to grow Kris. I labeled this blog post and gathered photos to share and when I got ready to write I realized I don’t have many lilies at all. Still love them and their monikers.

      Reply
  2. tonytomeo

    Lily of the Nile, calla lily and canna lily. Actually, some of us know calla lily as just calla, and canna lily as just canna. I happen to like all three of them. My callas came from the garden of my great grandfather. I have been growing my lily of the Nile since about 1978 or 1979, when I was in junior high school.

    Reply
    1. pbmgarden Post author

      Oh, I would love to be able to grow Agapanthus, Tony. Love them. Wonderful that you have that legacy from your great grandfather. Calla lily did well for me last year but doesn’t overwinter. My cannas stopped blooming but I noticed one is still trying to come back so we’ll see how it does this year.

      Reply
      1. tonytomeo

        Why do Agapanthus not perform well there? They are very resilient, and will tolerate just about anything except major frost. Cannas still have plenty of time to grow and bloom. I cut mine back as they get frosted. It does not take much frost to ruin their foliage. In the Los Angeles region, they can retain foliage throughout the year. If evergreen, they are actually more confusing to prune, since the old canes should eventually get pruned out while mixed with new canes. I prefer to just cut all of them to the ground.

      2. pbmgarden Post author

        Ha! Well, just came across this for sale today from a well-respected nearby grower, Plant Delights. Agapanthus ‘Stevie’s Wonder’ that is winter hardy in my zone 7b. It cost $23 (Maybe that’s why I haven’t grown one).

      3. tonytomeo

        Oh, I am not certain I like that one. The florets sag a bit, although not quite like some of the purple sorts. I suppose that if it were the only sort that could grow in a particular situation, it would have to do.

  3. automatic gardener

    I had never heard the plant called ginger lily until I was following blogs from your part of the country. We call them butterfly gingers. My mother-in-law gave me my first one that she bought from the ginger lady, who grew them in her backyard. Crinum lilies are common here, but they are really big, so I never grew them. No matter what they are called, your lilies look great.

    Reply
  4. Horticat

    I was interested to see that you grow Hedychium coronarium, Susie. I thought that was a true tropical, but it must be much more cold-tolerant than I thought.

    Though I like liliums, I don’t grow any as they are extremely toxic to cats. Apparently just a lick of pollen can send a cat into kidney failure – just not worth the risk with our fur-baby! But I do enjoy seeing them look so happy in your garden and arrangements 🙂

    Reply
    1. pbmgarden Post author

      A neighbor passed along the Hedychium. It dies back once we have frost in late Oct. but comes back every spring. Usually blooms in Sept-Oct. Didn’t know about the lily toxicity. Thanks for the info, Horticat.

      Reply
  5. Tina

    You grow a gorgeous array of lilies! I especially like the crinums. I have some that look similar; they came from my parents’ garden and I have no idea what they are. I wonder if they’re the same as yours.

    Reply
  6. Cathy

    You have some beautiful ‘lilies’ and they all look so pristine! The ginger lily looks as if it is a rather special plant with its pale green foliage and flowers so late in the season. I have a few daylilies, but something has had a good nibble at them this year. And then there is my Foxtail Lilies, which aren’t lilies either! 😉

    Reply

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