The oriental tree lily is one of the most delightful members of the lily family. Tall and slender, their beauty is exquisite and their charm is unmistakable. Add to that a superb bulb and you can see why tree lily bulbs are more than just a gardening fad. When it comes to this distinguished lily, everything is within the realm of possibilities. Whether you grow it in a pot, a container in the patio, or in the garden, their beauty shines everywhere.
If you’re new to lilies, you might be taken aback by the sheer height and large blooms of the oriental tree lily. After all, it wasn’t called a tree lily for nothing. But don’t let the size of this lily intimidate you. It’s a gentle giant that is as tender as it is pretty. You can easily grow it and care for it even if you have no prior experience with lilies or gardening as a whole.
Oriental Tree Lily Facts
The word tree in the oriental tree lily name is an ambitious description. They’re not really treed with trunks, branches, and foliage. It’s a simple perennial flowering plant with a towering stalk and a bloom at the very top. In fact, the tree lily bulb is not an original species. Rather, it’s a hybrid that horticulturalists got by mixing Oriental and Asiatic lilies.
The new crossbreed got the best of both worlds. Large blooms and strong fragrance are the two distinguishing qualities of this lily. At maturity, the lily reaches about 4 feet with ease. In the right conditions, some varieties easily tower over 6 feet. So you need to keep that in mind when you pick the lily variety to plant.
But size aside, it’s the flowers that get all the applause and admiration when they bloom. This visual feast usually happens in the middle of summer. The flowers are large to match the size of the oriental tree lily’s stalk. They come in different colors ranging from red and burgundy to white depending on the lily variety. New cultivars offer flowers in cream, pink, yellow, and gold. But regardless of the color, the scent of the flowers is the same. Summer evenings are not the same when these flowers open up and send their strong fragrance in every direction.
The tree lily bulbs have USDA hardiness zones between 9 and 10. In other words, they thrive in warm climates and need rich and well-drained soil. As is the case with other lilies, this one will need a lot of attention and care from you.
Tree Lily Bulb Varieties
In general, lilies come in different varieties. There are 9 original species and many more cultivars and hybrids to choose from. The difference isn’t limited to the size and color of the flowers, but also the time they bloom and their resistance to disease and pests. Here are some of the most popular varieties to grow.
- Asiatic lilies: These popular varieties are in a category of their own. They are easy to grow, require little maintenance, and have beautiful white, red, or pink flowers to adorn your garden or living room. Most hybrids don’t have the same fragrance as the original lilies, however, people grow them for their beautiful flowers which are the centerpieces in any floral arrangement. They bloom in the early summer and last for a few weeks at most.
- Oriental hybrids: Around the time the Asiatic lilies are ready to fade and call it a year, the oriental lilies go into full bloom. They last from the mid to late summer with their bright colors and intoxicating aromas. The dominating colors are often white, red, or pink. But some hybrids are multi-colored which is a novelty in the realm of lilies. As with colors, the hybrids vary in sizes as well. They range from a diminutive 2 feet to large lilies growing over 8 feet. In short, there are plenty of choices to satisfy every taste and landscaping desire when it comes to oriental hybrid lilies.
- Trumpet lilies: If you expect these lilies to be ostentatious, loud-mouthed, and attention cravers, you wouldn’t be mistaken. The flowers have the shape of a trumpet and when they bloom, they attract bees and other pollinators miles away. They also bloom in the mid-summer and vary in color from white to pink with yellow edges. They are more tolerant of moderate to cold weather than other lily varieties.
How to Grow Tree Lily bulbs
The problem with hybrids is that they usually require different growing conditions and extra care than the original species. This applies to the oriental tree lily more than any other hybrid we have come across. Whether you grow them in a container or in the garden, there’s always that extra step you need to take. But to be fair, all the hard work you put into growing this lily is well worth it. So let’s see how you can grow the tree lily bulbs in easy steps.
- Since the roots of the tree lily bulbs develop in the fall, that’s the best time to plant them.
- If you’re planting in the garden, choose a spot that gets plenty of sun but also a lot of shade. The afternoon sun is not particularly helpful to the blooming of this lily.
- While rich and fertile soil is important for the success of these lilies, the soil needs to be well-drained first and foremost.
- A general potting mix variety will do just fine. But you can create your own with equal portions of soil, peat moss, and organic compost.
- Make sure you have enough space for the variety of oriental tree lily you’re planting. Each plant will need at least 6 feet of vertical space to grow.
- Space the plants about one foot apart to avoid competing over nutrition in the soil and provide aeration.
- Dig a hole about 10 inches deep and plant the bulb making sure the pointy end is facing up.
- Cover the hole with soil and water thoroughly until it’s soaked.
- Keep the soil moist until the bulbs develop roots and sprout. Avoid overwatering.
- After the last flower has faded, the plant will go dormant. The bulb remains in the soil until next spring where it will sprout again and start a new cycle.
Oriental Tree Lily Care
Once you have the oriental tree lily growing in your garden or container, you can rub your hand with glee in anticipation of its visual and olfactory delights. But not so fast. There’s still work to be done. You’ll mostly dedicate your time to feeding, watering, and making sure it’s getting enough light.
Moderate to rich soil guarantees the success of the oriental tree lily. But it’s not a prerequisite. Also, you can always use fertilizer to enrich the soil and feed the plants as we’ll see later. However, what’s really important here is that the soil is well-drained. Clay soil will smother the roots and kill the plant. Many experts recommend that you use sand or perlite to improve drainage and make the soil loose enough for the roots of the tree lily bulbs to grow. Test the soil before you plant the bulbs and make sure the pH levels are between 5.5 and 6.5. Slightly acidic soil won’t hurt either.
Flowering plants love the sun. How much they love it, depends on the type of plant you’re talking about. A lot of perennials in general love a sunny spot that gets some shade while many annuals can’t get enough of the sunlight. As a hybrid, the oriental tree lily falls in the middle between those two. It loves to have its top swimming in the sun while its base tucked away in the shade. The flowers need about 6 hours of sun every day. So pick a spot that allows the flowers to get enough sunlight while the stalks are shaded.
Mulch has many benefits to perennials. This is especially true when you have fluctuating temperatures and the nights get too cold. Your oriental tree lily needs about 4 inches of mulch to preserve the temperature of the soil and keep the roots from freezing over. Mulch also improves moisture retention and keeps pests at bay. If you have a problem with weeds, that thick layer of mulch is enough to kill all types of weed that grows in your garden.
You can use worm castings with oriental tree lily to give it the slow-release supplements it needs. They are easy on the roots and stay in the soil for weeks at a time. Or you can apply a general-purpose fertilizer. Usually, you’d apply the fertilizer twice a year. The first time is in the late spring when the bulb is ready to sprout. The second time is in the early summer right before the flowering cycle. When you use chemical fertilizers, spread the granules around the stalk without touching it to avoid burning the roots.
Pests and Diseases
The problem with aromatic flowering plants like the oriental tree lily is that they attract more than butterflies and bumblebees. Aphids, slugs, red lily beetles, and snails feed on the leaves and flowers of the tree lily bulbs. Other animals such as voles, groundhogs, deer, and rabbits treat this lily as a delicacy. A deer will go through your collection of lilies in one go before it moves to the next garden. So consider protecting your lily garden with a wire fence.
As for diseases, the most common issue is gray mold. It’s the result of high levels of humidity combined with rising temperatures. Make sure your oriental tree lilies are spaced well and have enough room between them to allow ventilation.