Sunday, April 15, 2012

Learning about Lilies

Today I learned about lilies!

It's a gorgeous day. The breeze says 'spring', but the thermometer in the sun says 'summer'. The birds are singing, the grass is growing faster than we can mow, and I'm sitting inside researching plants.

My new job is going well, but there's so much to learn! This morning I spent some time with a woman who was looking for new perennials for a flowerbed. She didn't know the difference between the asiatic lilies that we carried and the "daylilies" she used to have (what they were for sure, I couldn't say). I didn't know either so I figured I'd look.

Turns out daylilies (hemerocallis) aren't lilies (lilium) at all. They're a different family of plants entirely, albeit with similar blooms to the traditional lily. Daylilies are the ones with thin, spear-like leaves that grow from the plant's crown. They spread through a root mat rather than bulbs, and they bear flowers on long leafless stems called scapes.

Lilies come in a lot of different varieties, but the most commonly sold outside specialty stores are oriental and asiatic. Both have root bulbs (as do all true lilies) and spread by forming new bulbs. Asiatic lilies bloom earlier and spread faster, and they're more winter hardy. They are also brighter but with many have only one color in the blossom (although our big-box garden center has one variety with multicolored blooms). Asiatic lilies have smaller leaves and do not have a fragrance.

Oriental lilies like the popular Stargazer pictured above are more likely to have multi-colored blossoms in pastel colors, spread more slowly and bloom later in the season. They have wider leaves and are the lilies that smell - apparently whether you enjoy the scent or not is genetic! Many oriental lilies have blossoms aimed downward while asiatics' blossoms face the sky.

And then there's Easter Lilies, but they're a whole other story.

I'm going to learn a LOT this summer. :)

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