Main care and characteristics of lilies

The genus Iris (iridaceae) encompasses a vast compendium of herbaceous species with impressive blooms and widely used throughout the world as ornamental plants. Lilies , lilies and lilacs, among others, are born from this genus . The group of plants that stars in our article today are lilies, of which there are several groups and species with flowers of different colors and sizes.

In fact, it may be the most important or well-known group of bulbous plants due to the peculiar shape of its flowers and the great diversity it presents. The lily flowers are recognizable from afar. Their peculiar shape and the wide variety of colors they offer form an ideal element to add color to your garden. There are so many different lilies that can scare us , but usually all these varieties are separated into two main types: l os lilies with bulbs and lilies with rhizomes.


With the lily it happens as in many other plants. It belongs to such large groups that you can have 2 genders at the same time. As such, the lily belongs to the genus Iris (Iridáceas), to which one of the most famous species belongs (ornamental lily and common lily). On the other hand, there are also European lilies that belong to the genus Lillium.

In Iris we find up to 300 rhizomatous species with similar characteristics. On the other hand, the genus Lillium includes 110 bulbous species typical of temperate regions of the Northern hemisphere.

All of them are used for ornamental purposes, sale and garden decoration, and many of them can even be grown in pots. The most common species is the common lily , scientifically known as Iris germanica,  and it belongs to the well-known barbados iris.


Both rhizomatous irises as bulbous irises   are easily cultivated in our garden. In fact, some of them are even considered invasive species due to their ease of multiplication . This is the case of the common lily that we have previously mentioned.

For the common case of lily as a bulbous plant (true bulbs) they are planted in soil beds, curbs, rock gardens, for indoor flowers, etc. In the case of rhizome lilies , due to their size they are usually arranged around curbs, in ponds in the case of water lily species or also for rocky-type gardens.


Lilies are perennial species that stand out for their flowering. Its natural size does not usually exceed 50 cm in height, although there are cases that reach over 80 cm. Depending on the species of Iris we find different shades in the flowers but, as a common point, they are all large, aromatic and very attractive.

The flowering time of lilies happens during the spring and lasts throughout the summer. This is the great attraction of this type of bulbous plants in the garden. By selecting several cultivars, it is possible to intermix different colors of flowers, with shades ranging from white to yellow and red to darker colors such as purple or blue.



Of this type of lilies we have four groups: bearded, not bearded, crested and padded. We can have the following varieties:

  • Bearded lilies: few species in gardening. Iris pumila, Iris chamaeiris, Iris biflora, Iris variegata, Iris germanica, Iris pallida,  etc.
  • Non-bearded lilies:  with large, showy flowers. Aquatic or semi-aquatic species are included here. Iris laevigata  (blue color),  Iris pseudacorus  (yellow color,  Iris sibirica  (blue color),  Iris kaempferi  (purple and yellow).
  • Padded Lilies: These  are generally difficult to grow and feature large flowers that bloom in late spring. We have  Iris gatessi, Iris susiana, Iris hoogiana, Iris stolonifera,  etc.
  • Crested lilies: they  have green and lustrous leaves. We have  Iris japonica ( the most famous )  and  Iris cristata (lavender, white and orange) .


Of the bulbous lilies we have the reticulated group and the Juno group.

  • Reticulated group: they  are dwarf and resistant species. Great for curbs or for potting. We have the  Iris danfordiae  (yellow flowers),  Iris hitrioides  (blue),  Iris bakeriana  (blue),  Iris histrio  (deep blue),  Iris reticulata  (purple color).
  • Juno group: this last group is characterized by growing slowly and bearing numerous flowers. Of the best known species is  Iris bucharica  (cream color),  Iris graeberiana  (mauve),  Iris manifica  (lavender),  Iris aucheri  (pale blue).


They form a group within the bulbous lilies but we have separated them from the 2 previous groups due to their importance. There are the Dutch, Spanish and English lilies. The Dutch flourish first. The Spanish have more resistant flowers, and the English lilies  are the later flowering and larger in size.


We anticipate that most species of lilies are easy to care for and multiply. They have a great capacity to cover large areas of the garden and can create a dense blanket of flowers in spring and summer.


The bulbs and rhizomes of the lilies are sown in spring, when temperatures rise and possible frosts disappear. Performing a scheme for months, the bulbs are sown from February (hot climates) and May (colder areas), maintaining flowering from mid-spring until well into September.

  • Sowing depth: bury the bulbs between 8 and 10 cm.
  • Planting frame: we will plant the bulbs with a separation of 15 cm between them.
  • Irrigation: give a generous first irrigation but without puddling the water, wetting the entire area around the bulb.

Keep in mind that there are no rules that prevent you from being able to grow your lilies in pots . To do this, make sure you have a very fertile substrate (peat or universal substrate) mixed with a little (20-30% of the total) of coconut fiber. You will achieve the ideal fluffiness for the development of the roots.



Lilies are hardy species that tolerate cold and warm conditions in summer. However, temperatures must be more controlled during the flowering period, since it is the most sensitive part.

For this reason, when planting them, in warm areas (Mediterranean and coastal areas), the first bulbs can be planted in February , since cold conditions are very unlikely in May. Quite the contrary in continental areas, which will delay planting for a few more months.

The ideal temperature range for the flowering stage is a minimum of 10ºC, with an optimum during the day of 22-26ºC . Obviously during the summer the temperatures will rise much higher, but the lily is quite hardy and will tolerate it without problems if there is enough moisture in the soil.


The ideal location to plant our lilies is in an open, sunny area with good lighting . Open spaces are the best environment, allowing good ventilation. This species usually needs a certain humidity , although never above 80%. Therefore, the time of greatest growth is in spring, with little rains and some humidity at the beginning of the morning.


The soil slightly clayey and good ability to store moisture are ideal, but always away from waterlogging. Soils and spongy soils with a certain fertility facilitated by the incorporation, before planting the bulb, of organic matter or decomposed compost .

Mixing equal parts of soil and organic matter , well stirred, before creating the planting holes is very successful . This organic element retains moisture very well, but with sufficient fluffiness and granulometry that allows good oxygenation, ideal conditions for the exit of the first roots of the bulb.

The ideal pH is between 6 and 7.5, although with a slightly acidic optimum given that the best use of micronutrients occurs.


The essential characteristics are to provide water to keep the soil in temperature throughout its development. Do not let it dry out and create a wet bulb continuously. For this reason, with the rise in temperatures towards summer, we will apply the same amount of water but with more frequent irrigation.

In general, supplies of water 3 to 4 times a week are enough to prevent the soil from drying out and cover all the lily roots with moisture.


Although mineral fertilizers should not replace the recommended contribution of organic matter, it is useful to restore the nutrients of the soil by providing solid granulated fertilizers around the main stem.

This type of fertilizer has the particularity of being released slowly with the environmental humidity and watering, so it keeps the plant nourished until the end of flowering, in September. A recommended fertilizer mix would be NPK 12-8-16 slow release, magnesium and micronutrient fertilizer .


Perennial lilies can be multiplied by division of the rhizome , separating the bulbs into several parts with their own roots. This operation is extremely simple to carry out, at which time we will also take the opportunity to check that there are no rotten roots and that we are watering properly.

It is likely that the roots of each rhizome are mixed together, so we will perform the division with great care, avoiding breaking too many roots.


Low lighting conditions and excess humidity in the substrate result in the appearance of fungi related to root rot . By discovering the root system, you can see how there will be slightly rotten bulbs and dark, soft roots. We are talking about fungi such as Fusarium , Penicillium, gray rot or anthracnose (leaves).

At the level of pests , we have to pay attention to possible snails, onion beetle and defoliator caterpillars.

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