Lilium is a genus of flowering perennials which grow from bulbs. There are between 80 and 100 plants in the genus, depending on how you classify them, and all belong to the lily plant family, Liliaceae.
All plants within the genus are classed as true lilies.
Those that mention lily in their name but aren’t part of this particular genus are not true lilies at all, but may resemble them in color, form, or perfume.
Lilium At A Glance
Lilies all grow from bulbs, and usually form thin, long leaves and flowers in a huge range of colors.
The flowers are typically trumpet-shaped more often than not, and feature three sepals and three petals, with very large anthers.
It’s worth mentioning that most lily flowers contain a lot of pollen on their anthers, which will stain anything they come into contact with. Just something to keep in mind if you plan on using them as cut flowers.
Lilium Name Origin
The genus name comes from Latin, and is the original name that Linnaeus gave the genus.
Lilium comes from the Greek word leírion, which most people assume refers to true white lilies, such as Lilium candidum, or the Madonna lily.
Lily Flowers Symbolism
There is a lot of symbolism surrounding lilies, and it’s largely dependent on the flower’s color.
The Madonna lily, which is bright white, for example, represents grace, purity, innocence, virtue and the Virgin Mary.
White lilies are often used in funerals, where they represent the soul of the deceased, remembrance, and mourning.
Yellow lilies signify optimism, friendship, gratitude, and joy.
Orange lilies symbolize confidence, wealth, strength of will, and success.
A Note On Toxicity
It’s worth mentioning that some lilies are highly toxic, and because of their interesting and colorful blooms, they can unfortunately be a magnet to pets and children.
They are particularly harmful to cats. A cat eating a small amount may result in kidney failure, followed by death.
If you suspect your child or pet has eaten even a small amount of your lilies, seek the appropriate medical attention straight away.
Lilies have had a large role to play in medicinal, ornamental, and even culinary purposes for centuries.
Many species within the genus are used in traditional Chinese medicine, and the bulbs are used to treat respiratory problems, heart palpitations, coughs, and dry throats.
Some have been used to treat fever, tumors, tendonitis, and insomnia, too.
There are many species which are also used for food, treated as root vegetables, though some have too bitter a taste to be considered edible.
Lilium brownii var. viridulum, is one of the most widely used in cuisine, as the bulbs are big, and don’t have a bitter taste.
If you do want to grow lilies for food, ensure that you are very careful about picking the right variety.
Be certain that the one you go for is especially grown for food, and not for ornamental purposes, otherwise the taste might not be as you imagined. This goes for all plants, not just lilies!
Another common use for lilies is the oil within the plant. Oil derived from lilies is often used as cosmetics, as well as soothing sensitive skin, as part of a massage, or even in a bath.
Lilies also make the perfect cut flower or bouquet, not only for their beauty, but also for their strong fragrance.
It is worth mentioning again that white lilies are typically reserved for funerals, so it’s best to avoid giving someone white lilies unless you want to express your condolences.
Lilium Growing Requirements
Bulb lilies are hardy in USDA zones 3 through to 9, and bloom in spring, summer, and fall.
They bloom in many shades, including red, pink, orange, white, burgundy, purple, and yellow.
The height of a lily varies wildly, depending on the species you choose.
Some lilies are dwarf varieties, and only reach about 30cm, which are perfect for containers.
Others get to more stately heights, up to 9 feet tall, perfect for the middle of a border.
The majority of lilies within the genus like constantly damp soil, which has very good drainage. For best results, plant lilies in slightly acidic soil.
Lilies do well in a sunny position and partial shade, and don’t require a lot of water to survive.
They also don’t require a lot of maintenance, provided that you plant them in containers, where the lily beetle is less likely to get at them.