Tiger Lily: How to Grow Tiger Lilies
Be it for ornaments or for salads, the Tiger Lily is one of the most sought-after flowers in the world. Representing wealth and prosperity, it is a top cut flower that dazzles even when it stands alone in the vase.
Tiger lily is ideal for beginners, as mature tiger lilies can tolerate almost any growing condition. Plant these before winter and you can enjoy the black-spotted orange blooms as soon as early summer to fall.
A tiger lily (Lilium lancifolium or Lilium Tugrinum) is known for its orange petals with scarlet or black spots reminiscent of its namesake’s fur color, but not the shape—tigers have stripes as opposed to the spots. The tepals open into a shape like a star and curls towards the stem.
It is classified as an herbaceous perennial, with a slender stem that is not woody, and in a year, can shoot up from 2 to 5 feet tall.
Facts About Tiger Lily
Tiger lilies are native to North Asian countries: Korea, Japan, China, and a region of Russia, the Russian Far East. However, its true origins are unknown as these beauties are not found growing in its native lands and, thus, assumed to be a hybrid. Since these have been distributed worldwide, it naturalized in the United States with five species found in the western, central, and southeastern North America.
The original attraction of tiger lily is its orange petals darted with black or deep scarlet. These days you may find them in assorted colors as a result of crossbreeding with Asiatic lilies. The celebrated Swedish botanist Carl von Linne, of Linnean taxonomy, first identified it in 1753.
Tiger lilies are pretty tough plants that can thrive in four seasons and tolerate harsh climates. It grows best in full sun and even in partly shaded areas, where it shoots to a height facing the sun. It tolerates wet soil so long as it drains, but when soaked for a prolonged time, its roots start to basal rot.
Potted lilies need enough room that accommodates its growing roots. When it seems to be withering, it may be pot-bound and will need a bigger container. It should be planted at a similar level of soil where it was planted before.
Tiger lily is perennial, and you can enjoy its bloom beginning from early summer to fall. If you start your tiger lilies in a good bedding or a large enough pot and regular watering in its first months, it will continue to give you flowers year after year.
On regular maintenance and deadheading after the blooming period, tiger lilies can remain healthy and live for many years.
It has a vase life that lasts up to two weeks when cut as just the buds are opening.
Tiger lilies belong to a family of true lilies (genus Lilium) as it grows from bulbs akin to onions. This tends to propagate from black aerial bulbs called “bulbils” that grow into flower bulbs. The bulbils are found at the length of the stem near leaf axils.
The bulbs are spherical that measure from four to eight centimeters across, two centimeters long and wide, and are unsegmented. Moreover, a variation of the bulb is the common wild tiger lily which has a more tuberous root system than a bulbous.
The tiger lily blossoms best in the beginning to midsummer. It has tepals or the segment of the outside whorl that do not separate in petals and sepals. Healthy tiger lilies can grow as much as four to five flowers per stem.
The tepals first form a tube-shape, then opens to a trumpet where the tepals curl back to the flower’s base, and in full bloom, looks like a star. It has six tepals that usually come in its characteristic orange colors, but variations include gold, red, pink, and white, with dark spots at the top of the corolla. Its rust-colored anthers produce pollens that may stain clothes and are difficult to remove.
Lastly, Tiger lilies are not known for its scent, but it has a very faint smell.
The leaves are narrow, long, and resemble a lance. It is attached to the central stem is erect that is usually light to purplish green, moderately wooly or glabrous, and terete or cylindrical without apparent ridges. The leaf is deep and can hold up to 166.9 centimeters of water. Moreover, the leaves grow alternately along the entirety of the stem, together with bulbils found at axils.
The tiger lily is valued for its striking petals or corolla that bathes in any of these bright colors—orange to red, pink to purple, white to yellow gold. Its spots are darker ranging from deep crimson to black.
The flower is shaped like a cross of trumpet and a six-pointed star that spans up to five inches in diameter. The bud is closed into a tube that looks like an eggplant that sits atop the long, slender stem.
Types of Tiger Lily
The genus Lilium consists of many species and hybrids that separately bloom across the summer period. Not only do they disperse at different months, but their flowers also differ slightly in dominant colors. The three types of tiger lilies are the following:
Asiatic hybrids start to blossom as early as May or June and late into July. This hybrid grows well in well-draining soil. You can identify them with their size as they are the shortest lily at three feet. The color variation of the flowers ranges from pastel to tropical and, altogether, does not have a remarkable fragrance.
Easter lilies also bloom along March or April, (thus the name) and even well in June or July. Easter lilies are suited for indoors and are white in color. This trumpet-shaped lily grows best in the warmer parts of North America. Usually, these are planted in the garden after the first bloom.
Oriental hybrids are famous for being heavily scented and for the grand display of colors. The stargazer belongs to this hybrid. It grows more slowly around mid to late summer, and up to a height of 4 feet.
Trumpet lilies, the closest to oriental ones also boast a nice but fainter scent. Unlike the rest of the varieties, these have smaller flowers.
How to Grow Tiger Lily
Open gardens suit tiger lilies better than indoors. They require at least six to eight hours of sunlight. They thrive in the middle of the garden and where no other plants block them from the sun, but they do well even in partly shaded areas. They adapt by growing far from their roots towards the sun. Unlike many flowers that slightly wilt in the hot afternoon sun, tiger lilies benefit from the abundance of rays.
Tiger lilies are not fussy when it comes to soil. They do well in acidic to neutral soil that is loamy, moist (not muddy), and don’t stagnate water. While in general, tiger lilies love acidic soil, some breeds like the Madonna lilies prefer alkaline soils. Lilies love cool soil that is doesn't exceed 60°F.
As proper drainage is needed for the soil, you can amend it with humus or compost. To prevent it from soaking, you can mix in the bed some sand, peat moss, or straw.
The mature tiger lily is drought-tolerant but achieves its peak health when regularly watered. It needs just an average amount of water enough not to soak the roots. If you live where there is regular rainfall, that should be enough.
As young plants, they may need consistent watering for better root growth. During active growth, keep at least an inch of water every week. Potted tiger lilies should have good drainage that must be kept moist, especially when planted indoors.
Temperature and Humidity
The first blossoms of tiger lily appear after the last frost and go dormant as fall and winter are ushered in. The bulbs can survive winter as long as it is hidden beneath the ground. You can insulate the bulbs by mulching of as thick as a couple of inches. You can mulch with shredded leaves, straw, and newspaper. However, don’t overdo it and just cover the soil enough so no weeds or grass grow on your tiger lily bed. Tiger lilies in general, perform well in low humidity.
If you are using loamy fertile soil, that would be enough to grow tiger lilies. If you are planting on sub-par soil, you can use a layer of compost spread around the base twice a year to add nutrients to the soil. Use a 5-10-5 fertilizer if you want to see more blossoms. Mulching in the late spring will help insulate from too much heat in the summer, and to preserve moisture. Use organic mulch for optimal results.
Tiger lilies are propagated through bulb division or bulbils. The bulbs are best planted beginning spring and up to the end of the fall season. Each stem of a mature bulb can grow up to ten flowers and more. You can harvest the bulbils or let them fall to the ground naturally.
If you are using bulb division to propagate tiger lilies, dig the whole plant during dormant periods, or when the stem is thoroughly dry, and pull individual bulbs from the main bulb. Dry the bulbs completely and store them in a dark, cold, and dry place until the next planting year. Replant each new bulb in the soil with the pointy side up.
The bulbs grow annually and without much effort on your part. These spread to form clumps that you can replant in a cutting garden or in containers.
To plant the bulbs, make sure that the soil is fertile, with good drainage, and has abundant sunlight. The bulbs are prone to basal ratting when left in very wet soil. You have to water your lilies as they adapt to the soil and grow mature roots deep in the bed. After a few years, they become drought resilient.
Start by tilling the soil and digging holes six inches from the surface with at least eight inches of gap between holes. If you are planting in fall, dig deeper. Upon laying the bulbs, make sure the bulb is sitting on its flat side and pointy end sticks up. Ensure that the scales are intact when laying it down the hole. Then, cover it with soil and mulch, and water thoroughly. If you are burying the bulbs at around 12 to 15 inches deep, skip mulching.
While mature tiger lilies can be left in drought, young ones need regular watering, but not on the daily. When the blooms start appearing and start wilting, water them slowly and deeply for at least twice a week.
If you are growing from bulbils, or the small pellets that grow close to the leaf axil, you have a higher chance of faster spreading the tiger lilies in your garden. The spring season is the best time to plant the bulbils, though you can divide these and plant during fall when the climate is fairly warm. The tiger lilies are very much invasive, so you must take action and pick them off as soon as they appear, and dispose immediately.
Bulbils are planted in a similar fashion with the bulbs. However, it takes a longer time to grow and mature (as long as three years). They may need another year to bloom.
After the blooming season, the flowers will start to dry and wilt albeit slowly. This is a good time to deadhead your plants. Look for the lower part of the stalks where foliage begins to die usually just as the summer season is ending. The leaves will turn yellow and wither, but this won’t be very noticeable if these are hidden in the back row of your garden. When all the foliage has turned yellow to brown, cut the stalks to the level of the bed and dispose of these.
To keep your plants attractive and reserve their energy for blooming, you can trim the dried and damaged stalks and foliage as they happen naturally as part of the growth cycle. Don’t pull with bare hands but use sterilized clippers to avoid infecting the plant. It is also advisable to sterilize your tools before going to other lily species to avoid cross-contamination.
Common Pests and Diseases
Tiger lilies, with all its varieties and hybrids, are a resilient bunch of lilies. They aren’t very susceptible to viral diseases, but they attract a few faunae and are transmitters of diseases.
Tiger lilies are carriers of the mosaic virus, and while they are not affected by the virus, they can possibly transmit this to nearby lilies of a different variety. This is why experts recommend not planting them near other lilies. The virus causes the leaves to have yellow or white spots, to mottle or to streak, and to become brittle. On the petals, it starts with a grey or brownish spot and leaves the flower malformed.
Red lily beetles (Lilioceris lilii) and aphids (Aphidoidea) are the common pests for lilies in general. These insects munch on the leaves which make infestation relatively easy to spot.
Lily beetles are red bugs with black spots. They not only feed on leaves, but on buds, stems, and blooms as well.
Aphids are tiny yellowish-brown found most of the time on the underside of leaves or attached along the stems. In addition, aphids are the culprits in spreading the mosaic virus.
Treat your lilies at the first sign of infestation by removing these insects and by adding a biological agent like spinosad or neem oil. You can also use insecticidal soap since aphids carry diseases.
Tiger lilies also attract slugs and snails, so it is best to plant them in raised pots and inspect your plants once in a while, to keep these at a minimum.
Wildlife such as deer, groundhogs, rabbits, and voles are fond of eating tiger lilies entirely. If you live in an area where your garden is accessible to these critters, surround the bulb in wire cages.
Gray mold appears in the rainy seasons, and in cool spring and summer. This becomes more prevalent when the tiger lilies start crowding in their bed or pot, where moisture is not controlled, and air circulation is scant.
Tiger Lily Health Benefits
Tiger lily is popular in East Asia for its medicinal properties as well as health benefits.
- Tiger lilies are used as remedies for nasal congestion and nausea.
- The bulb is diuretic (for increasing urine), anti-inflammatory (for relieving pain), emollient (for moisturizing), emmenagogue (for stimulating menstrual flow), and expectorant (for releasing mucus by coughing). For longs, they have a sedative effect and are used to treat cough and tuberculosis.
- In Korea, these are used in traditional medicine for sore throats, boils, palpitations, bronchitis, and pneumonia, to name a few.
- More on the circulatory system, these are used to treat heart diseases, angina pectoris (chest pain due to coronary heart disease), and to relieve pain in the cardiac region.
- The tiger lily flowers, with stamen removed, has a carminative property, meaning it relieves flatulence.
- The flowers also help in treating myopic astigmatism and bring back the strength of eyelid muscles.
- The tincture gathered in the flowers are used in the therapy of uterine neuralgia (damage or irritation of a main nerve in the pelvis). It also helps in congestion, irritation, and pregnancy-induced nausea. Tincture also aids in reducing the inflammation of the pelvis and vagina, as well as relief from fibroids, menstrual and menopausal pains.
- Tiger lily is also important in relieving pain from uterine prolapse, and ovarian neuralgia.
- The flower essence is naturopathic as it aids in suppressing or calming aggressive tendencies in individuals. It also helps in relieving anxiety, stress, and depression, when incorporated in a soup, used as a tea, or packed as perfumes.
Uses of Tiger Lily
The tiger lily has been used in East Asian traditional medicine for many years. A few of these are relief from respiratory, circulatory, reproductive, and nervous systems. Each part of this wonder plant can be used separately or together to make the concoctions, from flowers down to the bulbs.
Tiger lily bulbs are foraged and, in East Asia, cultivated for their bulbs that have a flavor and texture of a turnip. The bulbs are roasted and pickled, and in Chinese cuisine, its fleshy scales are eaten raw or cooked. These are eaten during the summer season and are believed to have a cooling effect.
Furthermore, the bulbs are grated, ground to a flour, and baked as it is rich in starch. It is considered as a vegetable with a taste akin to parsnips.
The flowers, with stamens removed, are also edible and eaten fresh, as part of salads, or dried and used in soups. The flower and the pollen are also used as a spice for seasoning and give a delicate flavor to many dishes.
Whether you are looking for an ornamental flower in your garden or as cut flowers for home decor, or a tasty and pretty addition to your salads, tiger lilies are your best bet. Not only is this plant very resilient from drought and diseases, but you can also rely on this to heal you from various illnesses, whether you have cough, skin problems, or are suffering from anxiety. It is also very easy to grow and propagate either through its clumping bulbs or bulbils. Remember to plant it in well-drained soil and to maintain a good drainage system, and you are good to go.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Tiger Lilies poisonous to humans?
Contrary to most warnings, tiger lily is not poisonous to humans. It is edible and has medicinal properties.
Are Tiger Lilies safe around my pets?
Ingesting any part of the tiger lily can be fatal for cats. The pollen is most especially to avoid, as it can be carried by the wind and stick to your cat’s fur. Accidentally feeding on any part of the plant, even in small amounts, can cause severe kidney failure leading to death. Any water that touches the plant is also toxic to them. If your cat is exhibiting lethargy, vomiting, and loss of appetite, consult the vet immediately.
Is a Tiger Lily annual or perennial?
Tiger lily is naturally a perennial plant and blooms the most during summer seasons. It is dormant during the lowest temperature in fall and during the winter season.