In the Garden:
Northern & Central Midwest
July, 2001
Regional Report

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Here are my beautiful Aurelian trumpet lilies in full bloom. Not only do they look great, they smell wonderful too.

The Lilies of Summer

I awoke the other night from a dream of Arabian princesses and lush hanging gardens. It took me a few minutes to clear my head, and when I finally did, I realized that the house was filled with the cloying fragrance of oriental lilies that was wafting through the windows. What fantasies fragrant lilies can inspire.

My stargazer lilies have just begun blooming. Their rich maroon and mauve blossoms open wide to disperse their heavenly fragrance. Lilies of all types are blooming in my garden now as well, adding bold splashes everywhere just as many of my spring-blooming perennial flowers are tired and faded.

Lily Types

Lilies have a form that is entirely different than other plants. Instead of producing soft, subtle mounds of flowers such as geraniums, they have flower stalks that stand exuberantly above other plants. Unlike daylilies, true lilies are scaly bulbs that send up tall, firm stalks lined with strap like leaves. The stalks are topped with clusters of large buds that open into funnel-shaped flowers of various colors and scents. The flowers may point upward or hang down like bells. The petals either project forward like the Easter lily, may lie flat like the oriental lilies, or may reflex backward as the tiger lily, looking like a sultan's hat.

Lily flowers range from white to yellow to red to pink. Some types are scented while others are not. Some of the most common hybrid lilies the home gardener will come across are the Asiatic hybrids, the Aurelian or Trumpet hybrids, and the Oriental hybrids. Look for lily bulbs in garden centers beginning in September or get your mail order in now.

Planting Lilies

I have fairly well-drained soil so my lilies flourish. In heavier soils, lilies tend to rot, especially if the roots remain in water for any length of time. Planting them on a slight hill, raised bed, or incline will improve drainage dramatically if your soil is heavy. Lilies also perform best in fertile soil with plenty of organic matter. Select a well-drained spot in full sun and either dig leaf mold or compost deeply into the bed or topdress with more compost immediately after planting. Lilies should be planted with the nose of the bulb 4 to 6 inches below the soil line. The exception is Madonna lilies. They should be planted only 1 inch below the soil line.

Lily Care

I keep my lilies well mulched throughout spring and summer. Since I use compost for mulching, the bulbs are well fed and I don't need additional fertilizer. Without this type of slow release fertilizer, they would need to be fertilized once in spring and once in early summer with a fertilizer recommended for potatoes and tomatoes (higher in potassium and phosphorus than nitrogen). After they have finished blooming, I cut the stalks back by 1/3, leaving the rest of the stalks and leaves to produce food for the bulb. If planted behind other medium height perennials, the dying lily foliage is conveniently hidden the rest of the summer.

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