Bulbs Year of

2024: Year of the Lily

Lilies, a testament to nature’s artistry, boast a long and storied history.

Overview and History

Originating in various parts of the Northern Hemisphere, lilies have adorned myths and traditions for thousands of years. In ancient Greek mythology, these flowers were believed to have sprung from the milk of the goddess Hera, symbolizing purity and renewal. Similarly, in Christian iconography, lilies are often associated with the Virgin Mary, representing purity, virtue, and the divine.

One reason they’ve managed to thrive and adapt for such a lengthy period is closely tied to their captivating reproductive strategy. These flowers have a unique floral structure that facilitates cross-pollination by attracting pollinators, such as bees and butterflies. The intricate shapes, vibrant colors, and alluring scents of lily flowers have evolved to ensure successful reproduction through pollination, contributing to their incredible resilience and diversity.

Did you know? Some lily bulbs are edible - Year of the Lily
Did you know that lily plants can range from 1 foot tall up to 7 feet tall!
Did you know that many flowers have lily in their name but are not actually lilies? Year of the Lily
Did you know that true lilies have 6 petals and 6 stamens with anthers? Year of the lily

Basic Types of Lily

There are about 100+ species in the genus Lilium. Besides variations in appearance, each of them differs slightly concerning ease of growing, bloom time, sunshine need, and more.

Many plants have lily in their name that are not true lilies and members of the genus Lilium. These include day lily, water lily, peace lily, calla lily, canna lily, lily of the valley, and many, many more.

All species from the genus Lilium can be classified into nine divisions. Physical characteristics delineate these nine different horticultural divisions by parentage and then by the following broad categories:

  1. Flower Aspect: up-facing, out-facing, or down-facing
  2. Flower Shapes: trumpet-shaped, bowl-shaped, flat-shaped with just tepal tips recurved, or tepals strongly recurved.

9 Different Lily Divisions explained:

Division 1: Asiatic Hybrids

Found almost anywhere, these hybrids are the easiest to grow. Their flower aspect can be up-facing, out-facing, or down-facing, known also as pendant. Asiatic hybrids are the most popular, but unscented. Attractive and long-lasting, usually the earliest to bloom.

Division 2: Martagon Hybrids

Martagon Hybrids are known for their height and the abundance (up to 40-50 per stem) of small, strongly recurved petals on down-facing or nodding flowers. They are early blooming and a shade-tolerant woodland division, shying away from intense heat, humidity, and direct sunlight.

Lily Tigrinum - Asiatic Hybrids - Year of the Lily
Div 1 – Tigrinum
Asiatic Hybrids
Martagon Lily - Year of the Lily
Div 2 – Martagon Hybrids
Candidum Lily - Madonna Lily - Year of the Lily
Div 3 – Madonna Lily
Candidum Hybrids 
American Hybrids - Humboldt Lily - Year of the Lily
Div 4 – Humboldt Lily
American Hybrids

Division 3: Candidum Hybrids

This division consists mostly of European varieties that are not commonly found for sale. They are one of the oldest, perhaps the first species of lilies introduced into culture.

The Madonna Lily is a Lilium candidum, but can also be categorized in Division 9. It is over 3,000 years old, so you can see why it could be associated with both divisions.

Division 4: American Hybrids

This division is native to North America, where they grow wild. American hybrids are quite tall, with nodding, down-facing blossoms on tall, curved pedicels.

Division 5: Longiflorum Hybrids

Showy and fragrant, this species is cultivated usually as white trumpets at Easter. It features large, fragrant, outward-facing, trumpet-shaped, pure white flowers.

Division 6: Trumpet Hybrids

Trumpet hybrids provide long seasons of ample and fragrant blooms, growing so large as to necessitate staking. Tall and elegant, this species is composed of many Asian out-facing and down-facing trumpet-shaped flowers.

Easter Lily - Year of the Lily
Div 5 – Easter Lily
Longiflorum Hybrids
Regale Lily - Oriental Hybrids - Year of the Lily
Div 6 – Regale
Trumpet Hybrids
Japonicum Lily - Oriental Hybrids - Year of the Lily
Div 7 – Japonicum Lily
Oriental Hybrids 
Wild yellow lily - Year of the lily
Div 9 – Wild Yellow Lily
Wild or Native Lilies

Division 7: Oriental Hybrids

Hybrid crossbreeds with species native to Japan are fragrant and tall, with large, out-facing flowers. Robust flowers with a strong, enchanting fragrance. Many are called “Stargazers” because they appear to be up-facing.

Division 8: Garden Hybrids

This group consists of hybrids of the other seven divisions. Garden hybrids will cross species by any number of methods such as the cut-style method, the grafted-style method and the in vitro isolated ovule pollination technique creating more variety, beauty, health, and disease resistance.

Division 9: Wild or Native Lilies

This division is comprised of all the species in their native form, before hybridization. All the fabulous hybrids that we know and love growing in our gardens have derived from these wild lilies.

  • Division 7, Oriental Hybrid ‘Stargazer’ was a breeding breakthrough in the 1970s, noteworthy because of its upward-facing flowers, thus the name referencing looking up at the stars. Up until this point, Oriental Hybrids were heavy, with blossoms facing out or downward.
  • Lilium candidum, Madonna Lily, from Division 9 (also known as White Lily, French Lily, Juno’s Rose, St. Joseph’s Lily, Ascension Lily, Annunciation Lily, Bourbon Lily) won the Award of Garden Merit of the Royal Horticultural Society.
  • Other recent Royal Horticultural Society winners: Anastasia, Friso, Red Velvet and Fusion
Did you know that lilies have long been associated with love, devotion, purity and fertility? Year of the Lily
Did you know that in Greek mythology, the lily was the flower of Hera, wife of Zeus? Year of the Lily
Did you know that many flowers have lily in their name but are not actually lilies? Year of the Lily
Did you know by using a range of varieties, you can have lilies blooming all summer long? Year of the Lily

A Complete Growing Guide for Lilies in Your Garden

Choosing the Right Location for Lilies

  • These bulbs thrive in well-draining soil and prefer to receive partial sunlight throughout the day.
  • Most love the sun, and six hours or more is necessary. Remember the adage, “head in the sun, feet in the shade.” To keep their roots cool, plant them with low-growing annuals, perennials, or grasses.
  • Zones 5-8 are ideal for most lilies. Some are hardy and can tolerate some chill, but not the heat found in the higher zones.
  • Drainage is a critical issue for these bulbs. They like to be planted in a berm or raised bed so water drains away from the bulbs.

Planting Your Lilies

  • Plant bulbs in the fall or early spring, before the ground freezes or becomes too warm.
  • If planting in the fall, spread a thick winter mulch to help retain moisture and regulate soil temperature.
  • Mulch also inhibits eager sprouts from poking up too early in the spring and getting nipped by frost.
  • Space the bulbs approximately 8-12? apart, depending on how full you would like the garden to look.
  • Plant bulbs with the pointed end facing up.
  • The general rule of thumb for planting depth is to cover the bulb with soil that’s about three times its height.
  • Lilies look best and make the most impact when planted in clusters of three or more.

Proper Lily Watering

  • Keep the soil evenly moist but not waterlogged.
  • Water deeply and less frequently, rather than shallow and often, to encourage strong root growth.

Fertilizing Lilies

  • Fertilize with a balanced, slow-release fertilizer in early spring when new growth starts., or use compost.
  • Avoid over-fertilization, as it can lead to excessive foliage growth and fewer flowers.
  • Always water thoroughly after fertilizing.
  • Nitrogen is needed when the green leaves are growing rapidly, and phosphorus and potassium later for bloom and bulb production.

Benefits of mulching Lilies

  • Keeps the soil cool and loose, and also discourages weeds.

Wildlife and Lilies

  • Deer and rabbits are known to find the foliage, stems, and buds quite appealing.
  • Consider planting onions and garlic around the perimeter or using deer and rabbit-resistant fencing and repellent sprays.

Lilies as Cut Flowers

  • Increase lilies’ vase life and avoid a sticky mess by removing the pollen found on the anthers. Use gloves or a wet paper towel to remove them and avoid staining your hands. Aim to remove the pollen before it matures and starts to become powdery. It’s best to catch the pollen when the buds are just beginning to open.
  • If some pollen falls on your clothing, resist the temptation to rub it. Rubbing will only push the pollen deeper into the fabric. Use a pipe cleaner or sticky tape to gently brush the surface and lift the pollen off the fabric. Apply stain remover and wash the garment.

Lily Bulbs Toxicity

  • Some lily species like Asiatic Lily, Easter Lily, Stargazer lily, and Oriental lily are toxic to cats

National Garden Bureau is a non-profit organization that exists to educate, inspire, and motivate people to increase the use of garden seed, plants and products in homes, gardens, and workplaces by being the marketing arm of the gardening industry. Our members are experts in the field of horticulture and our information comes directly from these sources.

3 comments on “2024: Year of the Lily

  1. Laurie Macdonald

    We watch for the wild lily in the woods, always a happy sight that spring has arrived !

  2. I would love to know how to control the little red insects that devour all of mine. Neem oil doesn’t seem to help at all!

    • I hand pick as much as possible. They’re like Japanese beetles in that when disturbed they just drop down and if you have a bucket of soapy water to put beneath them they fall into that. Try to get them early before they lay their eggs

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