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Wednesday, November 13, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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In the Garden: Oriental lilies are beautiful, easy to grow

Oriental lilies, like Salmon Star shown here, are one of the most eye-catching perennials you can grow. (Susan Mulvihill)
Oriental lilies, like Salmon Star shown here, are one of the most eye-catching perennials you can grow. (Susan Mulvihill)

When Oriental lilies are in bloom, they quickly become the center of attention in a garden. With their exquisite blossoms and exotic fragrance, they truly add a wow factor wherever they’re planted.

From their appearance, you’d think they’re tricky to grow but nothing could be farther from the truth. Grown from large bulbs, they’re hardy down to U.S. Department of Agriculture zone 4, come in breathtaking colors and require virtually no care. To top it off, they’re perennials so they’ll come back year after year, and the bulbs will multiply over time.

This is the perfect time to plant Oriental lily bulbs. There are three things to remember when deciding where to plant them: it should be a sunny spot that gets some afternoon shade, the soil needs to be well-drained and it should be where you will easily be able to view their gorgeous flowers.

When planting the bulbs, dig an 8-inch-deep hole and sprinkle a little bulb fertilizer in it. Place the bulb in the hole and replace the soil. There should be about 5 inches of soil above the top of the bulb. A planting of three to five bulbs, spaced 8 to 12 inches apart, makes an attractive display.

The plants will reach anywhere from 24 to 48 inches in height, depending on the cultivar. Since the stems are very sturdy, only the tallest plants will need staking.

Oriental lilies come in a wide variety of colors. Some of the most popular are: Casa Blanca (pure white), Stargazer (fuchsia color with red freckles), Salmon Star (pale orange with white edges), Muscadet (white with pink freckles), Mona Lisa (pink with magenta freckles), Miss Lucy (pale pink double) and Virginale (white petals with yellow stripes down the middle).

Flowering occurs in late summer, which is perfect timing since many perennials will have stopped blooming by then.

If you cut some of the flower stalks for an arrangement, be sure to remove the bright orange anthers first. They are covered with pollen that will stain whatever it touches, including the tip of your nose as you bend forward to breathe in the flower’s intoxicating fragrance.

After the blooms fade, clip them off of the tops of the plants. In the fall or early spring, it’s safe to cut the old foliage down to the ground.

Some of you may have heard of the Oriental trumpet lily – also known as an Orienpet – which is a hybrid between Oriental and trumpet lilies. The flowers have the fabulous fragrance of the Orientals and more heat tolerance.

Lilies have few pests. If you notice any aphids on the flower buds, hose them off with a strong jet of water. While I’ve never had problems with deer eating any of my lilies, I’ve heard it’s still a possibility. There are repellants on the market to help keep the deer away.

Susan Mulvihill can be reached via email at her blog at for more gardening information, tips and events.

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