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The lily (Lilium) is a genus in the family of the lily family (Liliaceae). There are about 110 species and a variety of hybrids, which are caused by the crossing of different species. At present, it is assumed that about 2,000 hybrids, which are grouped into eight groups - so for example, the so-called Asian and Oriental hybrids. The pure species have their natural distribution almost exclusively in the north-temperate and subtropical zone, especially in high-rainfall areas. An exception is the Madonna lily (Lilium candidum), because it prefers the dry climate of the eastern Mediterranean. As native species, the Turkenbund lily (Lilium martagon) to call it, for example, it can be found in the southern Black Forest, as well as in the AllgÀu Alps. It thrives in herbaceous deciduous or coniferous forests on limestone and primeval soil in a partially shaded, cool location. In the mountains it also grows above the montane forest on meadows and meadows.

Lilies are among the oldest crops. The Madonna lily was planted in gardens as early as the middle of the second millennium BC. The Romans introduced them to their provinces north of the Alps. In the Middle Ages, the radiant white lily developed into an important symbol of Mary, as evidenced by many paintings from this period.

White Madonna Lily (Lilium candidum)

The White Madonna Lily (Lilium candidum) is one of the most popular garden lilies and is also good for pot culture

Appearance and growth

Lilies are perennial, herbaceous plants with a shingled onion as a persistence organ. The fleshy scales, which cover each other like a roof tile, are, from a botanical point of view, modified leaves and serve as nutrient stores. As this onion, unlike other bulbous plants, is not surrounded by any protective outer skin, it is called "naked". A special feature are the so-called Zugwurzeln that develop on the onion soil and the onion can move deeper into the earth. In addition, most lilies form roots in the subterranean stem area - there can also arise small daughter bulbs. Most species do not form basal leaves. These are instead usually stalkless and alternate, but are often also in whorls on flower stem.

Tiger Lily (Lilium lancifolium var. Splendens)

The tiger lily (Lilium lancifolium var. Splendens) grows up to two meters high and forms turkish-like flowers

The stature height is between 30 and 240 centimeters, depending on the species. At the end of the stalk, one or more flowers form, which then stand together as a grape or umbel. One distinguishes three flower forms: trumpet-shaped, cup-shaped as well as the flowers of the mentioned Turkenbund lilies. In the latter, the bracts are rolled far back, so that their tips approach each other on the stem again. The flower is reminiscent of a turban. The bloom time of the different kinds lies between May and September and with exception of blue almost all colors are represented. After fertilization, three-chambered brown capsule fruits, containing numerous flat seeds, ripen. The above-ground parts, ie stems and leaves, die off after seed maturity. In the outlasting onion, the stem, leaf and flower plants develop for the next year.

Location and ground

Which location and soil lilies require varies slightly from group to group. Therefore, it is best to find out more about the exact requirements of your lily when you buy it. Thus, the Asian wild species, for example the saffron lily (Lilium bulbiferum ssp. Croceum) or the tiger lily (Lilium lancifolium), the Easter lily (Lilium longiflorum) and their hybrids prefer a sunny to partially shaded location with a fresh, humus - and nutrient-rich and permeable soil. The Turquoise-backed Lily and its numerous hybrids have similar claims as the Asian Wild Species, but a half-shady location is preferred to a sunny one, as is the case with the Oriental Wildlife. The substrate may also be calcareous. The Madonna lily also likes to have some chalk, but she prefers a place in the sun with a fresh, loose soil. A lime-free soil, however, prefer the American game species such as the Panther Lily (Lilium pardalinum) and their hybrids. They can also cope with a slightly damp soil. All lily species thrive best in a weakly acidic substrate. It should be noted that although most lilies need a sunny spot, the soil around the plant should be shaded. This can be achieved with a low companion planting. Alternatively, a mulch layer of compost or bark humus is recommended.


Compared to other bulbous plants such as tulips and daffodils, the bulbs of the lilies have no firm outer skin. Therefore, you should never store them for a long time freely and unprotected.The bulbs are planted between September and March, but the spring planting is becoming increasingly prevalent, as it is possible to expand the flower over a longer period of time with slightly staggered planting dates. For the Madonna Lily, a planting time is recommended from late August to late September.

Plant lily bulbs

Since the bulbs of lilies do not tolerate waterlogging, a good drainage during planting is the alpha and omega

In order for lilies to thrive, one should consider a few things when planting: One lifts a 25 to 30 centimeter deep planting hole. As a drainage you fill a roughly ten-centimeter thick layer of coarse gravel, on top of it comes a five to ten centimeter thick layer of soil mixture, which consists of one-third sand, garden soil and rotten compost. The onions are set at a distance of 10 to 15 centimeters on this soil mixture and covered with sand. The planting hole is then filled with the soil mixture already described. With heavy or loamy soils it can easily come to stagnant moisture, the lily bulbs do not tolerate. Then it is recommended to create a raised bed or the hillside planting. An exception to the recommended approach is the Madonna lily: Since it forms native leaves, you may cover the onion only two to four inches high with humus soil.

care Tips

The withered stems are cut off immediately after flowering. This avoids unnecessary loss of power through seed formation. Only if you want to harvest seeds, you can mature them. The leafy part of the stalk, however, remains standing. Only when the leaves die off, you cut off the stem just above the earth. The remainder of the stem roots are removed only in the spring and cover the area with humus-rich fertilized soil or mature biennial compost about five inches high. Lilies are supplied with an organic or mineral fertilizer in early spring before budding. However, the nitrogen content should not be too high. Further one to two fertilizers are obtained during the shoot. For this, a liquid fertilizer is recommended.


Madonna lily, Turks covenant and fire lily are classic plants of the farmer garden. They are happy to be combined there in the sunny bed with shrubs and annual flowering plants. If you want to highlight the effect of the large colorful flowers of many hybrid varieties, surrounds them with a color rather discreet accompaniment and gives them a quiet background, for example, from woody plants with dark green leaves or needles. Many lily varieties can be cultivated very well in sufficiently large pots and are also extremely popular as cut flowers.

Lilies and feather grass

With lilies you can create atmospheric plant pictures, like here with the feather grass (Stipa)

Important species and varieties

Among the more than 2,000 lily species and varieties, there are numerous particularly beautiful specimens - no wonder that many gardeners are sooner or later packed by the "lily fever". In the trade, the Asian hybrids are particularly often offered, because they come up with particularly magnificent flowers and - at least most of them - are quite easy to cultivate. The Madonna lily has been planted in the gardens for hundreds of years as a symbol of purity and innocence - and of course the beauty of its graceful pure white flowers. Also widely used is the Turks' waistband lily with its eye-catching petals in the most colorful colors.


Lilies can be seeded, but it can be assumed that this type of propagation of hybrid varieties does not yield single-variety plants, that is, the offspring have different characteristics than the mother plant. In this way, new varieties can arise. The best sowing season is from January to the end of February on a warm, depending on the type 15 to 20 degrees Celsius warm location. It takes four to five years to flower first. The more common method is vegetative propagation, especially if one wishes plants with the identical characteristics of the parent variety. During the resting phase of the plant, scales or offspring are separated from the mother onion and repositioned. On the detached scales, a piece of the onion soil must still adhere, so that they can root. Preferably, they are first cultured in pots, preferably in a 10 to 12 degrees Celsius warm place. It takes up to three years for the new plants to flower. Lilies also form bulb bulbs on the subterranean stem, so-called stem bulbs, which can also be planted. Gardeners recommend placing them in pots with a mixture of sand and peat and then hibernating in a dark and cool, but frost-free room. In spring you can plant them in the bed. Some species such as the fire lily (Lilium bulbiferum) also form bulbs in the axils of the leaves. These are removed in August and put them two to four inches deep in the ground.

Diseases and pests

Lilies are susceptible to various diseases and pests. In warm and humid weather, gray mold (botrytis) can occur. This affects mainly the deciduous and petals, but also the onion.The disease is recognizable by reddish brown spots on the leaves, which are getting bigger and bigger. In dry weather it comes to stagnation of the disease process. If the stem is also affected, it often breaks off at the infected site. The fungus can weaken the lily so that all aboveground plant parts die off. In the next year, although it drives out again, but since the fungus often survives in the soil, the disease can break out again. As a preventive measure you should not plant lilies too densely, in addition you can strengthen the plants by spraying based on horsetail extracts. Dusting with lava rock flour also has a positive effect. Another disease is onion rot (Fusarium). It can be largely prevented by making sure to only set really healthy onions and choosing a sandy soil as the location.


The lily chicken and its larvae are very voracious insects and can severely damage infested plants

Voles are a great danger for lily bulbs. If the rodents are active in the garden, put lily bulbs in wire baskets in the ground. Another pest is the lily chicken, a red beetle that feeds on the leaves of lilies. The insects usually occur several times a year in batches and can be well collected, so as to prevent further spread. The larvae of the beetle can cause damage to the foliage and should therefore also be collected. Dusting the infested leaves with rock flour is recommended. This also works against aphids. The lily fly, which can occur from May to June, causes damage to the flowers. The females sting the still green lily buds and lay their eggs in it. The larvae then destroy the inside of the flower by their feeding. In contrast, the use of a systemic insecticide alone helps.

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