What are Asiatic Lilies?
Asiatic lilies (Lilium longiflorum) are small, pale flowers with white petals and red stamens. They grow in tropical regions of Asia and Africa. The name “lily” comes from the Latin word lilium meaning “white”. They are native to India, Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand and Malaysia. Their common names include Indian lilies or Thai lilies.
The flower color varies among species, but they all have pinkish-red centers. The flowers are usually 1/2 inch across and up to 5 inches tall. Some species bloom only once each year while others may bloom twice or three times in their life span.
In addition to being used as ornamental plants, they are also used medicinally for treating skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. They are also used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat various ailments including stomach problems, asthma, high blood pressure and even cancer.
How To Grow Asiatic Lilies In A Pot
Growing asiatic lilies requires little attention other than regular watering. However, it is best if the soil is well drained so that excess water does not cause root rot. The soil needs to be well-drained, but loose and fertile.
Several different types of lilies grow in the wild, but they all need similar growing conditions. They grow best in full sun and bloom best if the soil is on the dry side.
Choose a spot that receives at least 6 hours of sunlight a day. They grow best in USDA Hardiness Zones 5-9. If you live in a colder climate, they can be grown as annuals.
In warmer climates, they can be treated as perennials.
It’s best to start lily bulbs in the fall (September – October) so they are ready to plant the next spring. If starting them indoors, use potting soil or a mixture of peat moss and sand. Plant the bulbs pointed end up about 3-4 inches deep and water thoroughly.
Place them in a sunny window and fertilize them every couple weeks. When the leaves begin to appear, you can transplant them into individual pots. Fill the pot with soil mixture until it is about an inch from the top. The bulb should be just below the surface of the soil.
If growing your lilies outside, wait until after all danger of frost has past (usually late spring) before planting them. Prepare the garden area by turning the soil and adding mixed fertilizer or organic manure. The area should be at least 3 feet in diameter.
Add a bone meal or hoof and horn meal fertilizer to the dug out hole.
Lilies grow from bulbs which multiply over time, so you do not need to worry about taking excessive bulbs from the plant. It is best, however, to choose several larger bulbs rather than taking several small ones. The biggest bulbs will produce the healthiest plants.
Place the bulbs pointed end up in the hole about 6-8 inches deep. Gently cover them with soil and tamp it down gently.
Water the lilies well and keep the soil moist until the plants at least double in size. After that, water only when the top 2 inches of soil feels dry. This can be tested by sticking your finger into the dirt.
Water well if it is dry more than an inch. You can fertilize the lilies 2 or 3 times during the growing season if you want to make them grow quicker.
If you are growing your lilies in a colder climate, mulch around them with straw, leaves or pine needles to help maintain the right temperature for growth.
Types Of Asiatic Lilies
There are hundreds of different types of lilies. They range in color and size. Some have small flowers and others have really large ones.
There are even types of lilies that bloom in the fall. Here are a few common types of asiatic lilies you may want to try growing.
Lilium Albino – This type of lily does not have petals, but it has a white stripe and yellow center.
Lilium Candidum – This white lily has green stripes running through the petals.
Lilium Martagon – This lily does not have a strong smell, but is very popular.
Lilium Pardale – This type of lily has large blooms that can reach up to 10 inches across.
Lilium Perove – This type of lily has a faint fragrance and blooms in the late summer and fall.
Lilium Tigrinum – This lily blooms in the late spring and is very vibrant in color.
Lilium Turczaninowii – This type of lily grows well even in poor soil and has blooms that stay open for up to two weeks.
Lilium Vernum – This type of lily grows best in cold weather and blooms during the spring.
When choosing a spot to plant lilies, be sure to put them somewhere they will get at least six hours of sun each day and make sure there is adequate room for the bulbs to expand. You should allow three feet between each bulb.
Asiatic lilies can be planted anytime after there is no longer a danger of frost in your area. If you can’t plant them right away, you can store the bulbs in a cool dry place until you are ready.
Other Types Of Lilies
While the most common types of lilies people think of when they hear the word are asiatic lilies, there are other types of lilies. Depending on your particular growing conditions and what you want from your plants, you may find one type of lily is better than another for your garden. The following are a few of the other types of lilies you may want to try if asiatics don’t suit your needs.
Easter Lilies – These are the ones you usually see around in grocery stores around Easter time. They have large blooms and come in a variety of colors. They are not as fragrant or long-lasting as asiatics, but they do provide a good show for a few weeks each year.
They grow well in areas with warm weather and are large plants. Make sure you give them at least six feet between each bulb.
Sources & references used in this article:
Longevity and ethylene production during development stages of two cultivars of Lilium flowers ageing on plant or in vase by G Burchi, B Nesi, A Grassoti, A Mensuali-Sodi… – V International …, 2004 – actahort.org
Effect of plant spacing and nitrogen levels on quantity and quality characteristics of Asiatic lily (Lilium spp.). by RS Vedavathi, B Manjunatha… – HortFlora Research …, 2014 – cabdirect.org
Efficacy of plant growth retardants as preplant bulb dips for height control in LA and oriental hybrid lilies by AP Ranwala, G Legnani, M Reitmeier… – …, 2002 – journals.ashs.org
Effects of supplementary lighting on flowering, plant quality and nutrient requirements of lily ‘Laura Lee’during winter forcing by J Treder – Scientia horticulturae, 2003 – Elsevier
Effects of growing medium in some postharvest characteristics of cut flowers in six cultivars of Asiatic hybrid lilies (Lilium longiflorum L.) by MH Asil – Journal of food, agriculture & environment, 2008 – agris.fao.org