For The Answer
The Lily of the Garden...
the Bright and Morning Star
For centuries, the lily has ranked as one of the most popular flowers in the world. So popular in fact that the lily has long been associated with both religion and death. Unfortunately lilies have long been associated with death in Texas gardens as well, as most true lilies don't thrive here.
True lilies (Lilium) are members of the lily family. There are over 80 species of lilies worldwide. Very few are adapted as ling lived garden perennials in Texas however. Our early hot summers tend to send the plants into premature dormancy before they have stored enough food reserves for future growth and flowering.
Because of their superficial resemblance to the ever popular true lily, many members of the amaryllis family have historically been referred to as lilies in Texas, including crinum lilies (Crinum), spider lilies (Lycoris and Hymenocallis), rain lilies (Zephyranthes), oxblood lily (Rhodophiala bifida), lent lily (Narcissus pseudonarcissus), Chinese sacred lily (Narcissus tazetta orientalis) and lily of the Nile (Agapanthus). Canna lilies (Canna), members of the Canna family, and ginger lilies (Hedychium), members of the ginger family, are other lily imposters found frequently in Texas gardens.
Few true lilies call Texas gardens home. Among the few and the proud are the Madonna lily (Lilium candidum), the tiger lily (Lilium lancifolium/L. triginum), the Philippine or Formosan lily (Lilium formosanum), and the Easter lily (Lilium longiflorum).
The Madonna lily is one of the oldest cultivated lilies in existence. It was cultivated as early as 1500 BC in Crete. It is a native of the Balkans and perhaps Israel and Lebanon as well. Its white flowers have long been a symbol of purity. Throughout the ages it has most frequently been referred to as simply the "white lily." With the arrival of Christianity, it quickly became a symbol of the Virgin Mary. It is most adapted to the alkaline areas of Texas including North and Central Texas. The Madonna lily can occasionally be found surviving in Central Texas cemeteries, primarily those of German heritage. This particular lily grows its foliage in the fall, blooms in the spring, and goes dormant during the summer. Due to its winter foliage, it might need periodic protection from extremely hard freezes and ice storms. It is propagated by division in the fall.
The tiger lily is a common inhabitant of many older gardens throughout Texas and the South. It is reported to be a native of Korea, China, and Japan, where its bulbs have long been eaten for food. As it is apparently a sterile triploid, some speculate that it is a very old hybrid. It seems to thrive best in the acid sandy soils of East Texas and the southeastern states. Its bright orange flowers speckled with dark spots are its easily recognized feature. The tiger lily begins growth in the spring, blooms in early summer, and then goes dormant for the fall and winter. It produces no seed but can be propagated by division during the fall or by planting the small bulbils (mini bulbs) that are produced in the axils of the leaves. These should be cared for as would other young seedlings.
The relatively obscure Philippine lily is perhaps the most adapted of all. It is native to Taiwan and the Philippines. It is a very tall growing lily (3-5 feet) that produces it's cluster of drooping, fragrant, white trumpets during the late summer. Its narrow, grasslike foliage and late bloom time distinguish it from all other lilies. This lily begins growth in the early spring and goes dormant during late fall and winter. It is adapted to all areas of the state. The Philippine lily can be propagated by division or very easily by the many seeds that it produces. It commonly seeds out and naturalizes anywhere from the flowerbeds to the neighboring woods. It is the only lily that can be grown from seed to bloom in as little as one year.
The Easter lily is most commonly found in gulf coast gardens due to its somewhat tender nature. This popular florist pot plant is originally a native of Japan. It goes dormant during the fall and winter, resumes growth in the spring, and blooms during early summer. Although not supremely adapted, it's worth planting the potted ones left over form Easter in good organic beds. More times than not they will grow to bloom again, but not usually the next year. As flowers bed inhabitants they will bloom during the summer as opposed to Easter, however.
All lilies prefer sun to part shade. Really hot sunny exposures often burn their foliage, while heavily shaded locations don't provide enough sun for food production. Lilies tend to fall over in shady locations as well. As a rule, most lilies prefer good, well drained, organic soils with adequate moisture. Most garden soils can be amended with peat moss and sand to meet these needs.
Most catalogs offer a wealth of beautiful lilies. Although most aren't adapted to our harsh growing conditions, the adventuresome gardener might want to try the asian and the trumpet types. Common sense gardeners should stick to the tried and true lilies and the many common imposters. After all, if you can't get Elvis, why not a good impersonator?
For more information on lilies, contact the North American Lily Society, P.O. Box 476, Waukee, Iowa, 50263.
Texas Lilies at a Glance:
Madonna Lily (Lilium candidum): Pure white, trumpets in early summer. Plant in fall. Best adapted to well drained, alkaline soils of North and Central Texas. Moderately difficult to grow. Zone 4.
Tiger Lily (Lilium lancifolium,L. tigrinum): Open faced, orange flowers with dark spots in early summer. Plant in spring or fall. Best adapted to acid, sandy soils of East Texas. Fairly easy to grow. Zone 3.
Philippine Lily (Lilium formosanum): Fragrant white trumpets in late summer. Plant in spring. Adapted statewide. Easy to grow. Zone 7.
Easter Lily (Lilium longiflorum): White trumpet flowers in early summer. Plant in spring. Best adapted to Gulf Coast and East Texas. Moderately difficult to grow. Zone 8.
Southern Perennials and Herbs
98 Bridges Road
Tylertown, Mississippi, 39667-9338
On Internet's World Wide Web at: http://www.s-p-h.com/
Incredibly extensive catalog: $3.
(Tiger Lily and Philippine Lily)
Flowerplace Plant Farm
P.O. Box 4865
Meridian, Mississippi 39304
Good catalog: $3
Plant Delights Nursery
9241 Sauls Road
Raleigh, North Carolina 27603
Very extensive catalog: 10 stamps or a box of chocolates
McClure and Zimmerman
108 West Winnebago
P.O. Box 368
Friesland, Wisconsin 53935
Nice catalog: Free