Oriental Hybrid Lily

One of my favorite things about summer is that I can smell the flowers out in the yard. The Petunias are pleasing, but the flower with the best scent is the Oriental Lily. I have several Oriental Lilies, which bloom in late July, for at least 4 weeks. Each flower lasts a week and they smell wonderful. Not to mention the lovely flowers that brighten up my yard.

A lot of flowers have the word Lily in their name, such as Daylily, Calla Lily, Lily of the Valley and Peace Lily. None of these are considered true Lilies. The genus Lilium, in the family Liliaceae, contains what are  referred  to as “true Lilies”. The 110 species that make up the genus are roughly divided into 8 categories. Of those, Asiatic Hybrids and Oriental Hybrids are by far the most popular. I’ve discussed Asiatic Hybrids in the past. If you missed it, you can read it here.

Asiatic and Oriental Lilies are similar in that they both grow from a bulb made of overlapping scales. They both have one stiff stem , with narrow leaves, and they both are herbaceous, flowering perennials.  Asiatic Lilies were developed by crossing many different species from all over Asia. Oriental Lilies are the result of breeding a small number of species only from Japan.  The Oriental Lily blooms later in the season, and has much bigger flowers. As I mentioned earlier, Oriental Lilies have a heavy fragrance, while Asiatic Lilies do not have a scent.

Oriental Lily flowers can be up to 10 inches across and appear at the tip of the stem, in a wide range of colors including white, yellow, orange, pink, red and purple. Some of the petals have spots or strokes and some are also rimmed in different color. Each flower has 6 tepals, which can be frilly. The flower can be trumpet, bowl or bell shaped, with flowers facing down, out or up. The plants themselves grow up to 4 feet tall, sometimes more.

Oriental Hybrid Lilies are easy to grow. They can be planted in zones 4-9, in a spot that gets full sun. The chosen spot should also have well drained soil, with lots of organic matter mixed in. They are not real picky about the type of soil, but they do prefer their roots be kept cool. You can place smaller plants in front of them to shade their roots, or cover them with a layer of mulch.  As the flowers wilt, pinch them off, leaving the stem and foliage intact. This helps the plant store energy for next season. I usually wait until the following spring to cut down the old foliage. A heavy layer of mulch in the winter will delay freezing, letting the roots grow stronger. Large clusters of bulbs should be divided and replanted every 3 years.

Oriental Hybrid Lilies are among one of the most popular flowers grown commercially for use as cut flowers, especially for weddings. Some species are also grown for their edible bulbs, which are starchy and can be eaten as a root vegetable. Some say that the taste is similar to a potato.  In China, Oriental Lilies are grown on a large scale and sold in powdered form as a health food. The flowers are also used for cooking. Though Oriental Lilies may be pleasing to the taste, they can be toxic to cats. Personally, I prefer to enjoy the flowers and their wonderful scent, rather than eat them.

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