Lilies, for the most part, are unfussy bulbs. When in flower they fill the summer air with the sweet scent of jasmine and add a stunning dash of colour to the garden. Most lilies currently grown in cultivation are hardy plants, and there is no need to lift and store them over winter. Unlike tulips or narcissi, lily bulbs are composed of fleshy scales and have no protective tunic around the bulb, so if you want to dig up your bulbs and store them over winter, they would dry out and be dead by spring.
Instead, you should ensure lily bulbs spend a bare minimum amount of time out of the ground. And so you don’t accidentally break any emerging shoot while digging in early spring, it’s a good idea to place a small stake or label next to your bulb when you plant them out in autumn.
To help you choose which types to grow in your garden, here are some of the best lilies to grow for colour and scent.
Lilium ‘Black Beauty’
Sturdy, bamboo-like stems that can hold more than 50 dark-purple flowers with a green-and-black centre.1.6m
1.5m. Fragrant, large white trumpets with a pink reverse and yellow centre.
1.2m. Although known as the Easter lily, this fragrant species flowers in July.
L. martagon var. album
1.8m. Left undisturbed, this white variety can flower in May to June in the same location for decades.
L. specious var. rubrum ‘Uchida’
1.5m. Flowers from mid August until well into September. Good for extending the season.
L. Pink Perfection Group
1.8m. A superb trumpet hybrid that produces big, highly fragrant flowers in July that vary from pale to dark purple
L. Golden Splendor Group
1.5-2m. The yellow flowers are held on strong stems in July.
1.5m. Prduces some of the largest (20-25cm), most fragrant flowers of any lily, from July to August.
L. African Queen Group
1.8m. Fragrant, vivid-orange flowers in July.
1.5m. From Qingdao, China, and Korea, this fragrant jewel will grow in part shade or full sun in any gritty, humus-rich soil.
2.5m. A vigorous and long-lived species, producing 40 flowers or more.
90cm. The huge, fragrant flowers change scent at night.
1.2m. Lightly fragrant.
60cm. Often referred to as the coral lily, this little gem from east Asia is usually one of the first species to flower in May.
L. ‘Casa Blanca’
1.3m. A fabulously fragrant, oriental hybrid
1.7m. Known as the panther lily for its black-spotted, red and yellow flowers.
Words Pontus Wallstén lily expert. His book, The Lily Species, is an extensive guide to identifying and growing the flower.