You can have lilies from June to September

Published: Sunday, July 22 2012 7:00 p.m. MDT

Regal lily


When you say the word lily, many different flowers might come to mind.

While the name correctly refers to the true lilies, which are members of the genus "Lilium," All of these grow from true bulbs that have fleshy, overlapping scales with no protective covering.

These stunning summer flowering bulbs have spectacular, showy blossoms.

Like medieval trumpeters, they almost seem as they could burst forth in musical sounds that would match their striking beauty. Their regal beauty gives them the title of "The Queen of the Summer Flowers."

Confusion comes when the name lily is used for other plants that are not true lilies. They might be great flowers, but they are imposters. The list is quite long and includes daylily, calla lily, peace lily, toad lily, voodoo lily, stink lily and surprise lily.

True lilies share several common characteristics. They have relatively narrow strap-like leaves attached along the length of their stiff upright stems. Lily flowers develop at the tip ends of the stems either on the terminals or on short branches.

Part of their charm is the diversity of flower shapes. While the traditional trumpets are the most common, some species and cultivars have bowl-shaped or bell-shaped blooms with reflexed petals. That means the petals curve back toward the stems.

Flower presentation also differs. Some lilies have blooms that come out at a right angle to the stems. Others, because of size and weight or just growth habit, have flowers that droop downward. Others seemingly defy gravity and point their trumpets skyward.

Planting time for lily bulbs is in the spring or fall. If you do not have any in your garden, do not despair. Many garden centers sell the blooming plants and these will transplant well into your garden even while they are blooming. Drop them in if some earlier planted annuals have faded or where you would like some height in your flower bed design.

There are many lily species and cultivars. Check to make certain they are cold hardy and are going to survive our growing conditions. The most popular kinds, the Asiatic and Oriental lilies will thrive where they get six to eight hours of direct sunlight.

Like all bulbs they need the right soil. Rich, well-drained garden soil is ideal. If your soil is poorly drained, add coarse compost or create berms to improve soil drainage. Bulbs that overwinter in poorly drained soils usually rot and do not grow the next season.

If you have not had much experience in growing lilies, start with the Asiatic types. They are the easiest to grow. They are very cold-hardy and do not need staking. They also are more tolerant of different soils as long as they drain well.

The medium size flowers come in bright and pastel shades of almost every color except blue but the most striking are the fiery reds, yellows and oranges. They grow two to three feet tall and bloom for an extended season. One drawback of most Asiatic lilies is that they are not fragrant.

Oriental lilies have become increasingly popular due to their large, exotic and often frilly blooms. Besides being beautiful to look at, they have heavy, sweet perfume. Plant these close by so you can enjoy their fragrance and beauty.

These large, ornate flowers are usually white, pink, rose or red. Many have contrasting colors on the edge of the trumpets or decorative splashes of color on the blooms. These grow 18 to 72 inches tall and the heavy, pendulous flowers usually require that the plants are staked to prevent them from breaking off in the wind.

Easter lilies are popular flowering pot plants. Don't discard them after they fade but plant them in your garden. They don't always survive our winters but their survival rate is improved if you mulch them heavily.

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