Lilies are one of the world’s most popular flowers, and it’s easy to see why! There are over 90 different species of lilies to choose from, each with their own unique beauty and characteristics.
Not only are lily flowers breath-taking, but they also hold strong meaning and associations that date quite far back. In Greek mythology, the lily symbolises the goddess Hera and represents her sense of innocence and purity. In Chinese culture, the flowers represent 100 years of love and good luck, which is why they are commonly used as a wedding flower.
Let’s take a closer look at the different types of lilies and how to identify them, so you know your American hybrid from your Aurelian.
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- Different Types Of Lilies
- What Type Of Flower Is A Lily?
- Which Type Of Lily Is Not Actually A Lily?
- How Do I Identify Lilies?
- What’s The Difference Between Lilies And Daylilies?
Different Types Of Lilies
There are over 90 different species in the genus Lilium, but all of them fall within the nine different divisions below.
These kinds of lilies bloom the earliest of all. Asiatic hybrids are generally easy to grow and boast a beautifully broad range of colours. These flowers’ stems can reach anywhere between three and four feet tall and are topped with unscented flowers that measure about four or five inches in diameter.
Asiatic hybrid lilies are either up facing, outfacing or pendant and serve well as an addition to a bouquet of cut flowers or potted plants. This division of lilies includes famed cultivars such as ‘Sunray’, ‘Montreaux’, ‘Dreamland’, ‘Symphony’, ‘Orange Pixie’ and ‘Connecticut King’.
This division of lilies is best harvested when the lower buds begin to show colour but are not yet open. The stems should be cut at a 45-degree angle and the water should be changed every few days to preserve the life of the flower.
American hybrid lilies are derivative of native North American wild lilies. These bloom best in the later months of spring in warmer climates and in the midsummer months in cooler climates.
The west coast’s lilies include the popular Tiger Lily (also known as L. Columbianum) and Panther Lily (L. Pardalinum). On the east coast, the Turk’s Cap Lily (L. Superbum), the Philadelphia Lily (L. Philadelphicum) and the Canada Lily (L. Canadese) can be found. The most well-known American hybrid cultivar is the ‘Bellingham’.
Martagon hybrid lilies are also known as ‘Turk’s Cap’ lilies.
The flowers that fall into this division of the flower are generally small and downward facing. They also have whorled leaves.
Martagon hybrids bloom early and grow best in cool weather and shaded areas instead of hotter, more humid climates. At first, these specific lily plants may battle to adjust to a new garden, but once they are established in their environment, they begin to thrive.
The very first Martagon hybrid lily to be recognised was cultivated in the Netherlands in 1891 and is now known as the ‘Marhan’ lily. Other notable cultivars in this division include ‘Backhouse’ hybrids, which were created in England towards the end of the 20th Century, as well as the ‘Paisley’ hybrids, that hold a rare heritage.
Trumpet And Aurelian Hybrids
Trumpet and Aurelian hybrids are classed in the same division of lilies. These flowers bloom best in full sun in mid to late summer. This division of lilies is not considered to be frost hardy and as a result, need to be grown in containers in cooler climates.
Aurelian hybrids inherit their hardiness from the L. Henryi species. They are quite easy to grow when they are placed in the right environment. This division’s sunburst and flares bloom a bit later and have willowy stems that often measure at least 60 inches. Occasionally, secondary and tertiary buds are produced for a long season.
This division’s most notable cultivars include ‘Black Magic’, ‘Black Dragon’, ‘Pink Perfection’ and ‘Royal Gold’.
Longiflorum hybrids are commonly known as ‘Easter Lilies’. They are used for decorative purposes at Easter time around the world.
These flowers are quite fragrant and pure white, boasting large trumpet-shaped blooms that generally measure in at about six to seven inches. These types of lily are native to Taiwan and Japan. According to Japanese writings, they date back to at least the 17th Century.
This hybrid of lily is easily raised from the seed but doesn’t flourish in a garden. It needs to be given a protected location where it can bloom. In fact, in North America, the flower is almost exclusively grown in containers. The most popular longiflorum hybrid cultivars include the ‘Ace’, the ‘Nellie White’ and the ‘White America’.
Oriental hybrid lilies are the result of crossing species such as L. Auratum and L. Speciosum.
Generally, Oriental hybrids can measure in at a height of about five feet. They boast large blooms of between six and eight inches. Their petals are strong, and the full flower faces upright.
This type of lily flower blooms best in the later months of summer and can often last into the fall. However, they don’t do well in alkaline, so if your soil is alkaline, be sure to grow them in containers.
Oriental hybrids have a beautifully strong fragrance and are the most popular cut of lilies. Some of this division’s most notable cultivars include the ‘Casa Blanca’, the ‘Mona Lisa’ and the ‘Star Gazer’.
The very first mention of lilies in history dates back roughly 4 000 years. It refers to a pure white version of what is now known as the ‘Madonna’ lily, which falls into this division of the flower.
Artefacts that depict this specific lily have been discovered in the ancient cities of Greece, Crete and Mesopotamia.
Candidum hybrid lilies are native to the Balkans and the eastern Mediterranean. This type of lily expands to include most European variants of the flower. They can bloom anywhere between late springtime and early summertime. The flowers are fragrant and white with a yellow base.
The most notable cultivar in this division of lilies is known as ‘June Fragrance’. This is a cross between L. candidum salonikae and L. monadelphum. This cultivar has also been used as a parent to create newer hybrids of lilies.
Interdivisional hybrids lilies are created by crossing plants from the previous seven divisions. LA hybrids are a cross of L. Lonigflorum and Asiatic lilies. These produce quite large flowers that are flat and have a slight fragrance. They usually measure between four and seven inches.
OT hybrids are the result of a crossing between Oriental lilies and Trumpet or Aurelian lilies. These flowers are usually quite large, at between six and ten inches. They carry a heavy scent and flowers that face both upward and outward.
LO hybrids are a cross between L. Longiflorum and at least one oriental hybrid cultivar. The flowers produced in this variant are also quite large, measuring between six and ten inches. They are quite fragrant and face outward. These flowers are trumpet-shaped and have curved petals.
This division of lilies are the wild parents of the previous eight hybrid groups listed.
Native lilies are generally found in the more temperate climates of North America, Europe and Asia. Lilies propagate from their seeds in the wild. Even though these lilies can grow in the wild, it can actually be more difficult for these to grow than it is for hybrids in gardens.
What Type Of Flower Is A Lily?
Lily flowers are a member of the Lilium family. This family is categorised by a genus of herbaceous flowering plants that grow from bulbs and produce large, prominent flowers. These flowers range in colour from yellow to white, orange to pink and red to purple.
The flowers have become important symbols of culture and literature all over the world. They’re used in wedding bouquets, at funerals and are also the traditional flower for the 30th wedding anniversary. Most species of lily are native to the temperate areas of the Northern Hemisphere but are also known to extend in range to the Northern subtropics.
Several other plants carry the word ‘lily’ in their common name, but these plants cannot be classified as true lilies.
Which Type Of Lily Is Not Actually A Lily?
Lilies are one of the most recognisable flowers in the world and are easily characterised by their very prominent blossoms. These flowers have become so popular that some flowers are now referred to as lilies, but they are not a true part of the lily family at all!
Some of the most commonly known lilies include daylilies, lily of the valley, water lilies and calla lilies. However, none of these are actually lilies.
They are not members of the Lilium family and as a result, cannot be called true lilies. However, there are several dozens of plants that are known as lilies, despite not really being the true flower.
How Do I Identify Lilies?
While there are so many different varieties of lilies, the flowers themselves have specific characteristics that make it easy to identify them and set them apart from other flowers.
All lilies have three petals surrounded by three sepals. These flowers can be found in a variety of colours that includes orange, yellow, white, pink and purple.
2 Reproductive Organs
Lilies are hermaphroditic, which means that they have both male and female reproductive organs for self-pollination.
In the centre of the flower, six long stamens can be found. They hold the flower’s pollen-filled anthers that allow them to catch wind easily. The basic parts of the flower are the same across all varieties of lilies and the shape of the flower can vary across species. The basic shapes of lily flowers include star, trumpet, bowl, funnel and recurved, which is also known as a Turk’s Cap.
Lilies are also known to face up, down and sideways. The inner part of the flower is often spotted or a solid colour that is in contrast to the rest of the flower.
What’s The Difference Between Lilies And Daylilies?
Telling the difference between true lilies and daylilies can be quite easy if you know what to look for. All you need to look at is the leaves, the stems and how they grow.
Daylilies typically have long, flat strap-shaped blade leaves that grow from the crown of the plant and measure about one foot tall. They can reach up to four feet in height. They grow from thick, tuberous roots that can easily be divided.
Daylilies boast six petals that are in two layers of three. The top three are petals, while the bottom three are sepals. Daylilies also come in a variety of different shapes including triangular, circular, double, ruffled, star-shaped and spider-shaped.
Daylily flowers only bloom for one day, which is why they are not as popular as true lilies. They don’t make for good cut flowers but serve well as a plant. They require a fair bit of maintenance and generally need to be deadheaded every day in order to keep them in bloom.
On the other hand, true lilies are grown from bulbs with overlapping scales. They have just one central, unbranched stem that grows from the bulb. The flower buds form at the top of the stem and the leaves grow around the entire length of the stem, either in spirals or whorls.
True lilies have six petals and six anthers. Each bloom can last at least a week, if not more, making for popular cut flowers. The lower buds on the stem tend to open first and the remaining ones will open sequentially. The most common shapes for lilies to take include trumpet, bowl, funnel and recurved.
In short, the easiest way to tell the difference between daylilies and true lilies is by looking at the stem. Several stems with strapping leaves coming from the base of the plant is a daylily. A single stem with leaves whirling about is a true lily.
Now you know all about lilies, you can get planting, or picking!