Great Plants for Northern Gardens: Day 24 — Asiatic and Oriental Lilies


Flowers face more upward on Asiatic lilies.

There are nine classes of lilies, according to the North American Lily Society, and all of them are lovely. But, for northern gardeners, the two most commonly planted classes are the Asiatic and Oriental lilies — both of which are great plants for northern gardens.

Both types perform well in the garden, if given full sun and well-drained soil, but the Asiatics are generally considered the easier group to grow. (For a discussion of the differences between Oriental and Asiatic lilies, see this blog post from a Canadian gardener. The tips on how to know what you have are especially useful.) One interesting difference between the two types is that while the blooms of the Asiatics generally face upward, the Oriental hybrids more commonly face sideways.

lily and salvia

Lilies blend well with other annuals and perennials.

Asiatic lilies are rock-solid hardy in Minnesota. You can plant them early in spring and will get flowers that summer and for many summers afterward. They generally grow 1 to 4 feet tall and begin blooming early in the summer. A little fertilizer in the spring and again in June or July will keep the bulbs healthy and blooming. Asiatic lilies come in a wide range of colors — red, orange, yellow, pink, white. ‘Enchantment’ is a popular orange variety that blooms in June. Many Asiatic lilies are unscented.

Mona lisa lily

‘Mona Lisa’ lilies are stunning in a container or a garden bed.

Orientals struggle in some Minnesota gardens, while doing beautifully in others. These are the lilies with that distinctive lily fragrance that some gardeners adore (others are revolted by it). They grow best in full sun (perhaps in a sheltered location) with light, well-drained soil. They generally grow 2 to 5 feet tall and will create a clump about 2 feet wide.  ‘Stargazer’ lily is one of the most popular (and hardy) Oriental hybrids, though this type comes in a variety of pastel shades as well as beautiful whites.

Two final notes about lilies: Each year, MSHS has a bulb sale at the Minneapolis Home and Garden Show (we’re in room 103). There is a great variety of healthy bulbs available and many knowledgeable volunteers there to answer questions. Stop by during the show, which is being held Feb. 27 to March 3, 2013. Second, if you are interested in learning more about lilies, you can’t go wrong by checking out the North Star Lily Society. This group includes many Minnesota lily hybridizers and enthusiastic growers. NSLS has a bulb sale every fall and a lily show each summer. Check out its website for more information.


  1. Vladlokshin on January 26, 2015 at 4:39 am

    Some types of lily in mycontry
    Lily fragrance line:
    + Like Sorbonne (circumference bulbs 14/16, 16/18, 18/20,> 20cm): 85-100cm high, with 3-7 flowers, pale pink flowers, small leaves, growing period 95-100 days (just to be officially recognized 5/2009)
    + Like Acpulco (16/18, 18/20): 95-110cm high, with 4-7 flowers, roses red dots speckled dark, broad leaves, growing period 95-100 days (just a temporary recognized 5/2006)
    + Like Tiber (16/18, 18/20): 80-100cm high, with 4-6 flowers, pink roses, leaves small, growing period 85-100 days (just temporarily accredited 5/2006)
    + Like Belladonna (16/18, 18/20): 85-100cm high, with 3-5 flowers, yellow flowers, leaves large, growing period of 80-90 days.
    + Like Concador (16/18, 18/20): 85 -90 cm high, with 4 -7 flowers, yellow flowers, leaves large, growing time 82 -88 days.
    + Like Curly (16/18): 70-85cm high, with 3-5 flowers, dark pink flowers, leaves tapering growth period 75-90 days.
    – Field not fragrant lily:
    + Just Go to Tycoon (16/18): 60-90cm high, with 3-5 flowers, orange flowers, leaves large, growing period 65-70 days.
    + Like Freya (14/16): 60-90cm high, with 3-4 flowers, lemon yellow, large leaves, growing period 65-70 days.
    (All of the above species, Vietnam and other countries that have not been manufactured to import from the Netherlands).

  2. Sandra Thompson on July 1, 2016 at 2:43 pm

    I just purchased my first Asiatic Lilies and I do not know if they stay in the ground during a Minnesota Winter or have to be dug up like Dahlias? Thanks

  3. 30 Great Plants for Northern Gardens on May 31, 2018 at 2:16 pm

    […] Asiatic and Oriental lilies: What would July be without the scent of […]

  4. […] bloomers are planted in spring rather than fall. They bloom in summer and include hardy bulbs like lilies as well as dahlias, calla lilies, gladiolus and other summer bloomers for the garden and the vase. […]

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