What Is an Oriental Lily?

L. Whitaker
L. Whitaker
Woman with a flower
Woman with a flower

The Oriental lily is a class of large ornamental perennials that produce heavily fragrant blooms, and one of the best-known cultivars of this plant is the stargazer lily. Other varieties include Casablanca, Tom Pouce, Black Beauty, Mona Lisa, Yellow Ribbons, and Journey's End. The Oriental lily can grow to be extremely tall, with a range between 18 inches (45 cm) and 6 feet (1.8 m). Its flowers are typically pink, red, or white.

Oriental lilies are hybrids based on Lilium auratum and Lilium speciosum. These decorative plants produce very large flowers. Most varieties bloom in July, August, or September.

The Asiatic and Oriental lily species are sometimes confused by gardeners. Asiatic lilies tend to grow shorter and produce smaller flowers, and the majority of Asiatic lily species are not fragrant. Cultivars of Asiatic lily include Centerfold, Lollipop, Enchantment, Landini, Corsica, and Dawn Star. It is possible to to mix the Asiatic and Oriental lily varieties in one garden, allowing the two species to flower at different intervals, as long as there is adequate room for root spread between stalks.

An Oriental lily might not survive in windy conditions and could require staking in order to thrive because this species grows so tall. This type of flowering bulb prefers several hours of direct sunlight, but the roots should be sheltered when possible to keep them cool in the hottest weather. Use mulch materials to cover the base of the plant, such as compost, wood chips, or leaves. In areas with cold weather conditions, heavy mulching in autumn will help protect the Oriental lily from frost damage.

For best results during the growing season, the root system of the Oriental lily should be kept slightly wet, but be sure to maintain good drainage. These plants will thrive on the western face of a house if there is a means of draining runoff. When watering, avoid getting the petals wet, which can cause wilting or blight in warmer weather. Instead, try to water only the base of the plant.

In general, lilies are hardy perennials that will return every year with minimal maintenance. Fading blooms should be deadheaded by carefully removing them one at a time. This process keeps the lily from wasting energy on producing seeds. Dead foliage can be cut down annually in the autumn or spring.

Gardeners should be cautioned that some lily varieties are toxic to felines. Efforts can be made to prevent neighborhood cats from accessing lily plants. Individuals with indoor cats should note that ingesting any part of some lilies, particularly Easter lilies, can cause renal failure.

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