Light it up

Light it up

Lilies are the garden's regal ladies. When they bloom in midsummer, they light up the garden with both color and fragrance.

There are two main types of lilies, with several secondary types. True lilies, by the way, have a fleshy bulb with overlapping scales. Peace lilies and daylilies are not true lilies, despite their name.

Asiatic lilies are the earliest bloomers and the easiest to grow. Native to China, Korea and Japan, they grow from 2 to 4 feet tall, with upturned blossoms, and bloom from mid-June until late July. They come in a wide range of colors, from orange to red, pink, yellow and cream.

A real plus of Asiatics is that they do well in full sun and do not require staking. They are suitable as border plants, in groups in the perennial bed and in pots. Lilies are also wonderful cut flowers to help beautify your house indoors.

Oriental lilies are what most people picture when they think of lilies. Known for their fragrance and large flowers, they can grow as tall as 8 feet, although some dwarf Orientals are now available that grow to only 18 to 30 inches. The taller ones will require some staking.

While not as intensely colored as Asiatics, Orientals more than make up for that in boldness and fragrance. In the Rogue Valley, they will need some afternoon shade, although they are quite heat tolerant.

Trumpet, or Aurelian hybrid lilies, are tall and stately, too, but they lack the fragrance of the Orientals. Spectacular to look at, they have huge, waxy, trumpet-shaped blooms in pink, yellow and white. They bloom in July and early August.

A relative newcomer to the vast lily hybrid family are the Orienpets. They bring together some of the best characteristics of the Orientals and trumpets with their huge size, large bold flowers and overall vigor. They come in shades of pink, red and white, and grow to between 4 and 8 feet tall. They are the last of the lilies to bloom, at the end of July and into August. They have the advantage of tolerating more extremes of our heat and cold than most of the others mentioned.

All lilies want a humus-rich soil that drains quickly. The bulbs will rot if they are too wet, so it is recommended they be planted in a raised bed if you have clay soil. Lilies can be planted early in the spring or in the fall. If planted in spring, they may bloom a tad bit later that first year.

Lilies never go completely dormant, so do not dig them up in the fall. Bring containers into the garage for the winter, and add a thick layer of mulch to those planted in the ground. Most lilies need to be divided every three to five years. Do this in the fall after the stalk has yellowed. Then immediately plant the bulbs again, as they do not store well.

While there are a number of native lilies in various areas of the Pacific Northwest, you are most likely to spot the tall plants with pale to dark orange flowers in drier meadows, Ponderosa forests or alpine and subalpine meadows. This is the Columbia lily, and it is a real thrill to find this close cousin of the tiger lily when you're hiking.

Coming up: Master Gardener Sherri Morgan will teach a class titled "Made in the Shade" from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday, April 3, at Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center, 569 Hanley Road, Central Point. Morgan will discuss the benefits and challenges of shade gardens in the Rogue Valley. Cost is $10; call 541-776-7371 to register.

Carol Oneal is a past president of the OSU Jackson County Master Gardeners Association. Email her at

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