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Hort in the Home Landscape

A blog devoted to sharing timely horticulture topics and answering the questions of gardeners and homeowners.
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Plant of the Week: Asiatic Lilies

As a floral designer, this week's Plant of the Week is a favorite of mine: Asiatic Lilies (Lilium sp). While visiting the gardens on the Macon County Master Gardener Garden Walk this past weekend, I noticed several gardens with Asiatic lilies blooming in full glory.

One of the earliest and easiest to grow of all the lilies, Asiatics are beautiful, but generally lack the heavy fragrance that others, like Oriental lilies, can possess. They flower in early summer with 4-6 inch diameter flowers in colors like reds, pinks, oranges, yellows, lavender and white with mostly upward facing flowers.

Lilies are known for their height, some of which exceed 5 feet and require staking. But according to Missouri Botanic Garden, more recent development of dwarf hybrids called Pixies, standing only 18 inches or less, offer the chance to move lilies closer to the garden edge, intermix with other flowering plants and use in containers. Pixies are more difficult to find but should be more available in coming years.

Lily bulbs are typically offered for fall planting or can be found in garden centers as potted plants, ready to plant this time of year. Asiatics are fairly easy to grow, with the one requirement of a well-drained bed. Take extra time to work the soil amending with peat and compost, up to one-third each by volume. A recommended planting depth is 6 to 8 inches, spacing plants at least one foot apart. If your soil is not as well-drained, you may away with planting the bulbs a little higher.

Like with other bulbs, such as daffodils, new bulbs are produced each year and when the plant becomes too crowded, flowering will drop off. If this happens, in August before the leaves yellow, dig the bulbs, divide and replant or store the bulbs in a cool, dry place until spring.

Asiatic lilies are best cut for enjoying in a vase, just as the flowers start to show color and open up. They can last in a vase filled with water and floral preservative for as much as 10 days in the right conditions. Change the water frequently to extend the life of flower. Be sure to also remove the anthers (pollen structures) as the lilies open up, as this may stain clothing or other materials.

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