Cottage Garden Favorites: Tiger Lilies
No cottage garden would be complete without the mid-summer blooms of tiger lilies. Their bright orange flowers with brown spots and distinctive recurved petals and long stamens add color and dimension to the garden.
Tiger lilies are originally from Asia, native to China, Japan and Korea where they were grown as food. They were introduced in Europe first in the 17th century but didn't catch on. They were re-introduced in the early 19th century where they quickly made themselves at home in cottage gardens. It wasn't long before they had made their way across the ocean to North America where they spread across the continent with the pioneers who braved the wilds of the untamed West.
Tiger lilies are a natural fit in the cottage garden. They are hardy through zone 3, are easy to grow and propagate readily either from bulbits or division. They flower profusely, producing up to a dozen blossoms on each plant ranging in color from yellow to orange to red and even pink. They are tall, reaching a height of 3 to 4 feet.
Tiger lilies love sun but prefer to have their roots shaded. Mulching your plants after planting will help or you can plant your bulbs amongst shorter perennials whose foliage will spread and cover the base of your lilies shading their roots. Make sure you plant them in well-drained soil. Tiger lilies don't like wet feet. You should plant them in a hole that is at least twice as deep as your bulb is large.
After flowering, the plants produce small black bulbits along the stems which look like large seeds but are actually immature bulbs. When ripe, they will fall to the ground and start a new plant. Or you can harvest them yourself and plant them where you want more tiger lilies. It will take 3 to 4 years for the bulbits to produce plants large enough to flower.
Alternatively, you can allow your plants to propagate themselves, forming a large clump of lilies which you can then divide making smaller clumps which can be moved to another spot in the garden.
The Typhoid Mary of the garden
It is not recommended that you grow tiger lilies in the same bed as other kinds of lilies. The hardiness which makes them such a good fit in the cottage garden makes them a danger to other lilies. Tiger lilies are immune to most viruses and diseases that plague lilies. In the garden they act like a Typhoid Mary, spreading viruses and diseases to which they are immune to other types of lilies. So grow your tiger lilies in a bed that contains no other kinds of lilies and allow them to be a star on their own!
More cottage garden favorites
© 2014 Caren White
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