Delicately elegant and effortlessly beautiful, lilies are one of the most recognisable flowers in the world.
They’ll be right at home in any style of garden, whether it’s a country cottage or something more modern and contemporary.
Lilies are often regarded as a little old fashioned but, thanks to thousands of hybrid varieties that see them blooming in every imaginable colour with their own unique fragrances, they’re making a comeback in a big way.
Lilies are also suitable for any garden size as they can be grown in the open ground or pots, meaning you can include them in even the most compact space. Easy to grow and maintain, lilies are extremely rewarding and are the perfect way to add a boost of beauty and colour to your garden.
What are lilies?
Lilies are herbaceous flowering plants that are grown from bulbs and known for their large, showy flowers.
This plant features heavily in various cultures and religions, where their symbolism plays a prominent role. In Greece, lilies are said to symbolise rebirth and motherhood. In China, they are frequently used for displays in weddings as they are believed to be tied to good luck and one hundred years of love. In Christianity, meanwhile, lilies are known to connect with the virgin Mary.
Whether you believe in the symbolism of the lily, or just enjoy their gorgeous aesthetic, they’re an undeniably excellent addition to any garden.
Types of lilies for a beautiful garden
Now that you’ve decided that your garden deserves the unquestionable beauty of lilies, it’s time to determine which ones are for you. With so many varieties to choose from this can be a daunting task, so we’ve done the hard work for you. This guide contains everything you need know to find the perfect lily for your garden.
We have separated the lilies into eight divisions and picked out our favourite type within each division.
Bred from several different types of lilies, these hybrids provide the earliest lily bloom. Although they do not have a fragrance and their flowers tend to be smaller, they do sport three to six flowers per stem in a vast range of colours. Their petals are often spotted and come in shades of white, yellow, red and orange.
They boast strong, straight stems and, if planted in full sunlight, will rarely require staking. They also make long-lasting cut flowers and are a popular choice for wedding bouquets. Their lack of fragrance means that they won’t disrupt the scent of the perfume that a bride may be wearing.
Lilium grand cru
This variety of lily is a gorgeous, upwards facing plant with bright yellow, wide-open flowers. The grand cru blooms from early to mid-summer and is ideal as a border plant, providing a showy blast of colour which will contrast nicely with perennial plants.
Growing up to four feet in height, this plant is beloved by bees and easy to grow and maintain. This variety will also grow reliably in containers so are perfect even within a smaller garden.
If you are looking to fill your garden with fragrance, then oriental lilies are the way to go. Their pretty perfume is most prevalent in the evenings and is the perfect companion for balmy evenings when you sit out on your patio or decking.
This variety produces broad leaves and large exotic flowers, blooming in shades of pink, purple, white and yellow.
Oriental lilies are known for their big, flamboyant personalities and bloom for an extended period of time between mid to late summer and often right through into autumn.
Lilium starlight express
This eye-catching and fragrant plant is a real showstopper with up to fifteen fabulous flowers per stem. Best grown in full sunshine this is a truly rewarding plant and is ideal for adding glorious splashes of colour to your borders.
This variety is incredibly easy to grow and care for, and the colour and scent can transform your garden. They are also perfect for container growing and make excellent fresh cut flowers.
Crossed between oriental hybrids and trumpet lilies, orienpet lilies are the perfect variety for your summer garden. Flowering initially into a trumpet shape, over time they open up to a broad, open bloom, up to ten inches across.
Blooming in shades of deep purple, pink, red, orange and white their flowers are heavily scented, and the plants can grow up to three feet in height.
Lilium black beauty
The lilium black beauty is a truly spectacular garden plant and is extraordinarily vigorous. Its deep crimson flowers are embellished with thin white margins which bloom in mid-late summer.
Best planted in full sun or partial shade, this lily will thrive in fertile, acidic, well-drained soil. They are resistant to disease, and much more tolerant to heat, cold and drought than many other varieties. These factors combine to give this variety a reputation as a real break-through in lily breeding.
Known also as Aurelian lilies, this variety is prolific in appearance and colour, and are also gloriously fragrant.
Named for their triumphant, trumpet-shaped flowers, this variety comes in shades of pink, yellow, orange, cream and white. They are magnificently tall, easy to grow and can produce up to fifteen blooms per stalk. They have an exceptionally long flowering period and are perfect for perennial borders.
Lilium African queen
Delightfully fragrant the lilium African queen certainly deserves its royal title. It’s large, apricot coloured trumpets give it a real sense of ceremony and the outer petals boast a beautiful burgundy colour, creating an air of luxury.
This glorious lily is celebrated for its sensational scent and its magnificent aesthetics. Growing up to six feet in height, this easy to grow lily performs best in full sun or partial shade and, despite its grand name, is not fussy about soil types.
Plant in spring or autumn and you will be rewarded with a sensationally striking display.
This North American native variety of lily is blessed with beautiful yellow or orange petals and can grow up to four feet in height. With each stalk producing up to eight leaves per stem and up to twenty gorgeous flowers, this variety has become a firm favourite among gardeners.
Best suited to woodland gardens, Canada lilies will thrive in meadow-like areas. It is worth noting, however, that while they are well-loved by gardeners, they are equally adored by rabbits and deer. If you live in a countryside setting this might not be the ideal lily variety for you.
Wild yellow lilies
Sporting bright, fresh yellow blooms with adorable black spots, this is one of the most charming varieties of lily. That said, whilst it is easy to plant, you may end up waiting up to five years for them to come into bloom.
Most Canada lilies are best grown from bulbs and prefer full sun or partial shade in slightly acidic soil. These delightful plants add charm and whimsy to your garden and bring with it the true colour of summer.
Typically known as Easter lilies, longiflorums are encouraged to bloom out of season by exposing the bulbs to the right conditions. With their trumpet-like shape and scented white blooms, this variety requires a little more expertise for the but are well worth the patience.
After enjoying their beautiful bloom, you should introduce the bulbs into your garden where they will enjoy full sunshine and well-drained soil.
Elegant lady lilies
Also known as pink easter lilies this sweetly scented plant is a joy to include in any garden. With their delicate pink petals that transcend into dusky, pink centres, these are a pleasure to behold.
This variety is outstanding for attracting bees and butterflies, and other vital pollinators and are a perfect accompaniment to borders or patio containers.
Choose a sheltered position in moist soil and watch this beauty thrive and breathe life into your garden.
Longiflorum Asiatic “LA” hybrid lilies
Created from a combination of Asiatic and Easter lilies, this variety is the real “showgirl” of the bunch. What they lack in fragrance they make up for in colour, with pinks and yellows, creams and whites and almost everything in between.
These lilies are an exciting crossbreed of Asiatic and Easter lilies and perform well in gardens thanks to how quickly they multiply.
With their burnt orange complexion, sprinkled with a shower of burgundy spots, the Kentucky lily is striking to behold. Like most lilies, this variety also favours full sun to partial shade and will bring a vibrant boost to your garden.
If you are keen to add a taste of the exotic to your garden, then the Kentucky lily is just what the doctor ordered. With its leopard-like patterns and colours to die for, this plant will be a focal point of your garden and will truly bring it to life.
Turk’s cap lilies
Last, but certainly not least, the Turk’s cap lily is easily recognisable by its lovely, butterfly-like blooms which dangle gracefully down its stalks. Blossoming in colours of pink, purple, orange and red, Turk’s cap lilies are the perfect way to add a little romance into your garden.
Martagon lilies can grow up to nine feet in height and are the perfect way to add towering colour, texture and structure to your garden. This variety requires rich soil, and though they prefer full sun, they will still do well in dappled shade.
This lily’s gorgeous flowers give the impression of dancing ballerinas and bring a sense of serenity and peace to any garden.
Let loose with lilies
By now you should know all you need to know about the abundance of lily varieties and the many shades and colours they can provide to your garden.
Lilies are surprisingly easy to grow and contribute significantly to your garden’s personality. With so many options to choose from, it’s easy to see that there is a perfect lily for any garden, no matter its size.
So let loose and start planting, and soon your garden will be filled with the exquisite beauty of lilies.