Lilies are one of my favorite perennial flowers. By choosing a combination of early, mid-season, and late-blooming varieties, you can have lilies in bloom from late June through early September.They have the appearance of being so fragile and delicate, and yet many of them are tough as nails and thrive in east Idaho’s harsh climate. Don’t get me wrong, there are lilies that would not have a chance of growing in our area, but let’s focus on the ones that do.
Tiger lilies are commonly seen growing around old pioneer homesteads so you know they thrive in our area. You’ll recognize tiger lilies as tall plants (3-5′) with big, bright orange flowers in July. They are called tiger lilies because their big orange blossoms bear tiny brown speckles like spots on a tiger. According to one superstition, these brown freckles are contagious and will spread to anyone who sniffs them. Tiger lilies are nearly always found in groupings. That’s because they multiply and don’t mind being crowded. Groupings will often live for decades with very little care.
One thing to consider- Tiger lilies are said to harbor viruses that don’t harm tiger lilies but can affect other more sensitive types. So consider keeping your tiger lilies segregated from other lily species. Another thing- deer find tiger lilies delectable. So, if you have a problem with deer in your yard, they may not be the best choice for you.
Asiatic lilies are another extremely hardy type of lily. They do very well even in areas where winter temperatures can drop to 40 degrees below zero. Asiatic lilies are easy to grow, even for beginners. They multiply quickly and come in a wide range of colors including many different combinations of orange, white, yellow, red, and pink. They bloom over a long season, generally late June through July and can have a light scent, but not nearly like the oriental lilies.
Oriental lilies also are popular in east Idaho. Although not quite as easy to grow as the asiatic and tigers, what they lack in hardiness they more than make up for in beauty and fragrance. The Oriental lilies prefer acid soil and cool, moist soil. Provide these by planting where they get at least 6 hours of sun, but are shaded in the hot afternoons. Mulching will help cool the soil in summer. Adding additional mulch in the late fall will help with winter hardiness. Adding sulfur to the soil each year will help acidify the soil. Their enormous flowers and heavenly fragrance will be worth this extra effort.
‘Stargazer’ is probably the best known lily in the world, with gorgeous crimson flowers edged in white. They makes terrific cut flowers and are an excellent garden plant as well, typically blooming in August on 3-4 foot stems.
All of the lilies do well when planted this time of year from plants already established in pots. You can also plant asiatic lilies from roots in the early fall.