I’ve written about early spring bulbs and summer bulbs but not about some of my favorite bulbs of late spring: lilies. Who doesn’t love Easter lilies, with their pure-white, sweetly-scented blooms? As you shop in big box stores in the spring, you’ll see shelves full of bags with colorful pictures of trumpet-shaped blooms; which ones are right for East Texas?
Remember that each lily bulb contains a plant that will bloom the year it’s planted, no matter what type. But some of these bulbs will come back year after year in your gardens, creating a beautiful cluster of rich green foliage topped with dozens of blooms, while others will peter out after a year or so. The lilies that tend to be more short-lived include a class called the Oriental lily. Just remember that OrienTAL is not your PAL. If you find one with colors you love, you can use it to provide a blast of color for your garden – after all, each bulb is no more expensive than a four-inch annual. I like to work once and enjoy for a long time, so I’ve become a little more selective.
So here are a few of the lilies you should look for in the stores:
Trumpet lilies (Lilium longiflorum). You can plant the pots that you used for Easter decorations and enjoy them for years. The blooms are outward-facing trumpets held on strong stems two to three feet tall. We’re most familiar with the white ones, but you can find varieties with rosy-pink tones or even creamy yellow.
Asiatic lilies (Lilium asiatica). Asiatic lilies will also become perennials in your gardens. These non-fragrant lilies also grow about two to three feet tall, but can be found in many different colors including oranges and bi-color. Some newer varieties are bred to be even shorter for the front of your border.
LA Hybrids. If you’ve read my columns here, you may wonder why I included the scientific name of the lilies, above; it’s not something I generally do. However, the class of lilies that I love the most is called ‘LA Hybrids,’ which are Longiflorum-Asiatica crosses. In my part-sun garden these can tower at least three to four feet, sometimes reaching almost five feet, so I generally put a tomato cage or some other support around the clump of bulbs. One of my most favorite LA hybrids is called “Royal Sunset,” where each flower truly looks like a sunset. LA hybrids bulbs are available mostly through online sources such as Brent and Becky’s Bulbs, but I’ve found some in big box stores by Googling the lily name listed on the bags.
While I’m a lover of lilies, I will never, ever plant a bed with just lilies in it. Yes, I’d have a spectacular show of blooms from late April through May, but then not much of anything. Plant lilies in among other bulbs like canna, crinum, and ginger, and include perennials such as salvia and phlox to provide textural contrast and to ensure color in your gardens throughout the summer.
Lilies like some protection from afternoon sun, but other than that they perform well in normal garden conditions. If you pick lilies for a bouquet, be sure to cut off all leaves that would fall below the water line in the vase. While you have your clippers handy, also snip off the pollen-filled anthers inside the open blooms, or you’ll have a messy stain on your furniture or tablecloth.
There are other lilies for your garden, but we’ll save those for another day and another article. The varieties listed here are a good addition to your east Texas garden.
Lin Grado is the garden manager for the Wood County Arboretum & Botanical Gardens and is available to answer your gardening questions there each Wednesday from 9 a.m. till noon. Her email is email@example.com – write her a note for her list of favorite online bulb sources.