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How to Care for an Oriental Lily Plant

Incredible blossoms of the star gazer oriental lily growing in the garden

Oriental Lilies

I’m sure that you don’t need any type of convincing when it comes to planting a lily on your property. They’re gorgeous, they grow from resilient underground bulbs, and they often have a remarkably lovely fragrance that wafts through your entire garden or balcony.

However, not everybody knows that there are different types of hybrids and varieties of lilies that you can choose from to best suit what you’re looking for in a flowering plant.

Oriental lilies are a specific hybrid type of lily that have been bred to borrow the best characteristics from different types of lilies. Throughout this article we will go over why oriental lilies are awesome, how to care for one of your very own, and some other types of lilies.

These flowering bulbs have a later blooming season than other lily types, and they will extend the lily parade well into the growing season when other lily types are fading away. Fast growing, gorgeous (did I mention they’re an amazing cut flower specimen?), and easy care, what else could you ask for from a garden plant?!

What do Oriental Lilies Look Like?

Three stunning oriental lilies growing amidst dark green foliage

Growth Habit

Starting underneath the soil, oriental lilies (like all other lilies) grow from underground bulbs. An oriental lily bulb is covered with exterior scales but not protective skin like many other bulbs are.

From this bulb will grow a collection of strappy leaves, thick and rigid flower stems that usually grow to be between 3 and 6 feet in height, which give way to an incredible flurry of large, showy flowers.

Oriental lilies are a perennial plant species. This means that they will continue to blossoms year after year, as long as their essential elements required for growth are maintained!

Leaves

Oriental lilies have that very classic lily foliage look, comprised of long and strappy leaves. They are elegant and a deep green color, and they bend ever so slightly.

Oriental lily leave are not evergreen and they will die back at the end of each growing season. This is normal, and the decaying leaves are also an important source of nutrients for the bulbs!

Flowers

There are so many reasons to love oriental lily flowers. These flowers bloom in the late summer or early fall, just as all the other perennials are fading away for the season.

A single flower stem can bear anywhere from 6-8 huge and showy flowers. A single oriental lily flower is either outward or upward facing with broad petals, and they are arranged in an open star shape.

Oriental lilies are known for being incredibly fragrant, and they will fill an area with enticing smells. This makes them incredibly attractive to pollinator species. Oriental lilies will come in colors ranging form white, to yellow, to pink and burgundy. There are many that have decorative elements like freckles and stripes on the flower petals.

What are some Types of Oriental Lilies?

Several different bundles of growing oriental lilies

Oriental lilies are part of the lilium genus, making them true lilies. There are many flowering plants that have a common name of “lily”, though they aren’t true lilies and simply bear resemblance.

There are many different lily species and hybrids out there, and the oriental lily has been hybridized with several others to create incredible new cultivars with amalgamated attractive characteristics.

Types

Asiatic Lily

The asiatic lily is an early blooming lily type, and it will often follow the peony blooming season. The asiatic lily is admired for its incredible flower color (white, yellow, orange, pink, red, burgundy) but they don’t have a fragrance!

Asiatic Lily & Oriental Lily Hybrid

Horticulturists bred the asiatic and oriental lily together to obtain the best characteristics of each plant type. The hybrid possesses the brilliant flower colors of the asiatic lily, as well as the bigger and fragrant flowers of the oriental lily.

This oriental hybrid also has longer and sturdier stems (thanks to the oriental lily) and these plants don’t need to be stalked.

Trumpet Lily

The oriental trumpet lily category contains the Regale lily, which is also known under another common name; easter lily. Trumpet lilies (easter lilies) bloom in the midsummer. The oriental hybrid of a trumpet lily are called orienpet lilies.

Horticulturists like to hybridize with trumpet lilies because they have thick and weighted flower petals that come in incredible colors, like peach, cream, yellow, and pink. The flower form is an attractive trumpet shape as well.

Tiger Lily

Tiger lilies are one of the better known lily types. They are best known for their gorgeous fall colors and freckled accents.

The tiger lily is a pendulous flower with very curved petals that come in gold, orange, and red. People will often hybridize with a tiger lily because they are very long lived and the most hardy of all the true lily types.

Cultivars

Close up of gorgeous casa blanca oriental lilies with red anthers

Casa Blanca

Casa blanca is a gorgeous oriental lily cultivar that was awarded by the Royal Horticultural Society as being the best white oriental lily ever.

They are loved for having large and creamy white flowers that are bowl shaped with curved petals and bright red anthers. A single flower stem can bear up to 9 blossoms that will bloom in the early summer to late summer for a solid month before fading away.

Star Gazer

The star gazer is easily the most popular oriental lily cultivar. They are known for having many, huge flower blossoms that bloom for weeks in the late summer.

They can be identified by their crimson pink flower petals with dark freckles and white edges. They are bowl shaped and incredibly fragrant.

Where is the Oriental Lily a Native Plant?

Gorgeous light pink star gazer oriental lilies growing in the garden

One of the most valuable things that I have learned as a gardener, is that learning where a specific plant comes from really helps you understand how to keep it happy in other parts of the world.

Luckily, when it comes to the oriental lily, these plants can thrive almost anywhere. They are used to living in cooler regions of the world and in areas with less than ideal soil conditions.

Oriental lilies have a huge natural growing range, and they grow happily in the wild in all of the temperate regions of North America, Europe, and Asia. They can exist outdoors all year long in USDA zones 3 through 9, but should be brought indoors outside of those specific zones.

What are the Growing Conditions of Oriental Lilies?

Hopefully by now you understand a little bit about the oriental lily, and have maybe even chosen another hybrid for your garden! The next step is to learn the essential elements required for a happy oriental lily patch. Though there is a bit in way of maintenance, these conditions can easily be achieved by any skill level of gardener!

Two different types of oriental lilies growing in an ornamental garden

Soil Type

Though most bulbous plants are used to adapting to all sorts of different soil types, there are a few characteristics that an oriental lily will appreciate when it comes to soil.

Oriental lilies will do best in loamy or sandy soil. This is because this type of soil has excellent drainage, which is a must for plants that grow from bulbs.

A super easy way to achieve the perfect type of soil is by incorporating some compost at the beginning of the growing season. This will not only improve drainage, but will also increase the nutrient content of the soil as well!

*Some folks also swear that incorporating bone meal at the time of planting is the secret to keep oriental lilies happy!

Water Level

Watering an oriental lily is pretty straight forward. They appreciate living in moist soil, but make sure that it is not saturated or water logged as this can result in root rot.

The best rule of thumb is to wait until the top soil is completely dried out before watering again. Usually, natural precipitation will suffice, though supplemental watering will be required if it hasn’t rained for a while.

Sun Exposure

One thing that should be consistent with oriental lily care is sun exposure. These are sun loving creatures, and they should receive a minimum of 6-8 hours of direct sunlight every day!

Though they can tolerate partial shade (especially in the heat of the summer sun), direct sunlight will encourage profuse flower blossoming.

Gorgeous bright red oriental lilies growing in a huge garden in the sun

Temperature

Another wonderful thing about oriental lilies is their ability to withstand the cold! Bulbous plants are great for being hardy, and this flowering plant can exist in USDA zones 3 through 9.

Outside of these zones, it would be best dig up those bulbs for the winter in a dry and cool place. They can be planted outside once more once the last threat of frost has passed.

Fertilizer

Oriental lilies seem to respond very well to being fertilized. Give your plant a slow release fertilizer in the early spring to help get the planted started for its growing season.

Otherwise, incorporating organic matter is a great way to increase the nutrient content and soil fertility as well. Additionally, laying a layer of bark mulch in the fall will help keep those bulbs warm, and it will eventually decompose and feed the plant even further!

Pruning

Not much needs to be done in way of pruning an oriental lily. This is because the spent flower stems and foliage that fall to the earth will help fuel the bulb once it’s time to grow in the early spring!

After the plant has finished flowering you can cut away the flower stalks, but make sure to leave the yellowing foliage if you don’t mind the mess!

How do you Propagate an Oriental Lily?

Stunning outdoor garden flush with oriental lily flowers blossoms

By this time you’re probably an oriental lily expert, and it’s time to learn how to propagate one of your very own! Here are a few simple steps to get you started:

1. Wait to plant your oriental lily bulbs until the early spring, after the last danger of frost of the season has passed. If you are living in a warmer region, you can plant bulbs as fall planted bulbs as well.

2. Pick an area on your property that receives direct sunlight exposure for the majority of the day. Make sure the soil is properly amended.

3. Dig holes that are twice as wide as each individual bulb and about 4-6 inches apart from one another. Make sure the bulb has the pointy end facing upwards.

4. Make sure to maintain moisture during their active growth period. Now you should be ready to successfully grow oriental lilies!

5. Ensure that every 3 or so years, you dig up your bulbs and divide them. This will provide plants with essential space, which will result in more plants and more flowers!

*Don’t forget, purchasing bulbs from a nursery will usually include planting instructions. You can even order bulbs online, and planting instructions will often be included on the shipping information packet! What a world we live in.

Simply gorgeous oriental lily cultivars with white petals and yellow stripes

FAQs

Are oriental lilies deer resistant?

Before you choose the spot to plant lilies, just remember that these plants are extremely prone to being nibbled on by larger pests like deer, rabbits, and squirrels. These animals think of lilies as candy really, so they may be needed to be kept in containers or indoors to prevent them from being completely destroyed.

What are the damaging agents of the oriental lily?

The most damage an oriental lily will experience will usually come from being improperly watered or existing in packed soil. They are very prone to root rot, and living in saturated or poorly drained soil can cause great detriment to these plants.

Are oriental lilies perennials or annuals?

Oriental lilies grow as perennials plants. This means that they will continue to blossom year after year as long as their ideal growing conditions are maintained.

Do oriental lilies grow from bulbs?

Oriental lilies are true lilies, and therefore grow from underground bulbs. This helps keep the plant happy and hardy in cold weather.

Is the oriental lily a true lily?

Oriental lilies are part of the lilium genus, making them true lilies. There are many flowering plants that have a common name of “lily”, though they aren’t true lilies and simply bear resemblance.

There are many different lily species and hybrids out there, and the oriental lily has been hybridized with several others to create incredible new species with amalgamated attractive characteristics.

Are oriental lilies evergreen?

Oriental lilies have strappy foliage that will fade away after the growing season is over.

How often should an oriental lily be watered?

Watering an oriental lily is pretty straight forward. They appreciate living in moist soil, but make sure that it is not saturated or water logged as this can result in root rot.

The best rule of thumb is to wait until the top soil is completely dried out before watering again. Usually, natural precipitation will suffice, though supplemental watering will be required if it hasn’t rained for a while.

Can oriental lilies be grown indoors?

An oriental lily can easily be grown indoors as long as its ideal growing conditions are maintained. If it is planted in a pot with a drainage hole and is placed in a south facing window, they should be just fine.

What USDA zones can an oriental lily grow in?

Oriental lilies have a huge natural growing range, and they grow happily in the wild in all of the temperate regions of North America, Europe, and Asia.

They can exist outdoors all year long in USDA zones 3 through 9, but should be brought indoors outside of those specific zones.

How long do oriental lily blooms last?

Oriental lily blossoms are known for being incredible long lasting. Though the beginning of their bloom period will vary from species to species, they will bloom either in the early spring, early summer, or late summer, but blossoms can last anywhere from 4-6 weeks.

How deep should oriental lily bulbs be planted?

Dig holes that are twice as wide as each individual bulb and about 4-6 inches apart from one another. Make sure the bulb has the pointy end facing upwards.

How tall do oriental lilies get?

Oriental lilies are rather tall flowering plants and can achieve heights between 3 and 6 feet in height!

Do oriental lily plants like fertilizer?

Oriental lilies seem to respond very well to being fertilized. Give your plant a slow release fertilizer in the early spring to help get the planted started for its growing season.

Otherwise, incorporating organic matter is a great way to increase the nutrient content and soil fertility as well. Additionally, laying a layer of bark mulch in the fall will help keep those bulbs warm, and it will eventually decompose and feed the plant even further!

How often should oriental lily bulbs be divided?

Ensure that every 3 or so years, you dig up your bulbs and divide them. This will provide plants with essential space, which will result in more plants and more flowers!

What do oriental lilies smell like?

Oriental lilies are known for having a very intense fragrance that is very sweet and very fresh smelling.

What is the ideal soil type for oriental lilies?

Though most bulbous plants are used to adapting to all sorts of different soil types, there are a few characteristics that an oriental lily will appreciate when it comes to soil.

Oriental lilies will do best in loamy or sandy soil. This is because this type of soil has excellent drainage, which is a must for plants that grow from bulbs.

A super easy way to achieve the perfect type of soil is by incorporating some compost at the beginning of the growing season. This will not only improve drainage, but will also increase the nutrient content of the soil as well!

*Some folks also swear that incorporating bone meal at the time of planting is the secret to keep oriental lilies happy!

When should you plant lilies?

Wait to plant your oriental lily bulbs until the early spring, after the last danger of frost of the season has passed. If you are living in a warmer region, you can plant bulbs as fall planted bulbs as well.