Oriental Lily: Growing The Tough, Fragrant, Showy Lilium Orientalis

blooming Orinetal lilies

Many homeonwers confuse the “oriental lily” with “Asian lily”. They are different, both in lilies and people. The Oriental Lily has several distinct characteristics compared to its lily cousin.

The Oriental (Lilium Orientalis) usually grows taller than the Asiatic lily (Lilium asiatica), growing 3 to 6 feet compared to the Asiatic’s 2 to 5 feet. Some overlap occurs, but these are general averages. Orientals are also fragrant and loved for their toughness.

Growing And Oriental Lilies Care

Showy and tough, Lilium Oriental are steady year after year showy performers. One simple reminder for oriental lilly care is – roots in the shade, foliage and blooms in the sun for about 6 hours or less. When protected from hot afternoon sun, they thrive and do not hold up well when faced with high winds.

A good location for planting is close to the house on a west side. Here they should receive ample sunlight, but less of that blazing afternoon or late day heat. Winds around buildings tend to spin and swirl. Often close to the walls is a narrow ‘eye of the hurricane’.

This is why planting close to walls can shield lilies stems from strong winds which could snap the stalk if not staked.

flowering oriental lily

Selecting A Location For Planting

When selecting a planting location near a house, look for an area that does not hold excess water after a rain or from roof runoff. A location with a gentle slope away from the foundation (all good houses do) is best.

If the planting location does not drain due to improper site landscape grading, proper soil type can encourage drainage. Soil can be removed and a good well-drained soil can replace the non-draining soil. Root rot and a bluish mold – botrytis – can ruin bulbs when soils hold excess water.

How to Plant Oriental Lilies:

  • Lilies can be planted pretty much all year round but spring or fall is best. Bulbs planted in spring will generally produce healthier plants.
  • Handle bulbs with care as scales can easily break off the lily bulb.
  • When planting lily bulbs space them 6 – 10 inches apart in a hole 4 to 6 inches deep.
  • In the hole place the bulbs roots down and point up like a Hershey’s Kisses. Cover the bulb with soil and water well.
  • When shoots begin to show, start a monthly fertilizing program with a 1-2-1 ratio (6-12-6, 4-8-4).
  • Protect lilies from high winds, stake tall stalks if needed. Keep roots cool with mulch.
  • Prevent seed pods from forming by removing dead blooms. When stems turn brown, cut the stems down to ground level. Never cut bloom stalks down while they are still green.

Garden Fragrance and Lovely Scent

One lovely “fragrant” advantage Oriental lilies offer is spicy scent. Asiatic lilies are beautiful but lack any particular aroma. Oriental’s produce a blend of spicy perfumes, making them beautiful to look at and wonderful to smell in the fragrant garden.

They naturally produce a fragrant scent, but without proper care, the spicy scent can be destroyed.

As with most flowers, avoid getting water on the blooms. Water drops may make for impressive images, but are generally not best for blooms. They
tend to shorten a blooms life, especially on hot weather and causes petals to wilt. Water drops can also produce burn spots when water droplets function like mini magnifying glasses in the sun.

There are 100’s of delightful hybrids on the market (Division 7 in official catalogs).

Dark varieties with dark crimson flowers, white edges, create dramatic displays in gardens or when potted. Averaging 4 to 6 feet, they should be planted toward the back of the garden or select a large pot for planting.

Casa Blanca, are pure white, extraordinary petals make them outstanding as wedding flowers.

To provide color and contrast, combine they with Stargazers – deep red (like fine roses) sporting white trim. For something lighter, but still dramatic, the look for new hybrids produceing pink blooms with a dark center.

Oriental lillies “play” well with other garden perennials and Asiatics, they can all be planted in the same garden. Beware, Asiatics have a tendency to spread, so providing plenty of space between stalks should give underground roots adequate space.


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