“I’ll show you how to grow towering tree lilies,” says Anne
Are you looking for some easy ways to enjoy these towering trumpets? Anne Swithinbank explains how you can raise your expectations
There are certain plants that rise up to delight everyone with their moment of glory, before they fade gently into the background. The easiest of these are tree lilies, whose bulbs slot readily amongst existing plants, even in an already packed border.
As long as there is good soil beneath and no competition from nearby trees and shrubs, the bulbs will anchor themselves deeply, drawing water and nourishment from below the roots of most herbaceous perennials.
Strong stems push upwards until, by mid to late summer, elegant flower buds burst to reveal fragrant blooms. There are plenty of cultivars to choose from, including those with no pollen. While dark anthers provide handsome finishing touches to a lily flower, their pollen is poisonous to cats and can stain clothing.
These long-lasting lilies return well every year, gaining in height and strength until the stems reach 8ft (2½m). Lily beetles will have a chomp at them, but seem to prefer softer, weaker lilies. The bright red bugs and their grubby larvae are best picked off regularly to reduce the number of adults overwintering in soil.
Tree lilies have been bred from oriental types, themselves originating from Asian species such as L. auratum and L. speciosum. For successful cultivation, imagine their natural habitat – usually light woodland, where roots are comfortably shaded and flower buds open in sunlight. This is why in full sun, the bulbs are best cooled by the foliage of other plants and benefit from deep planting. Still, these lilies are happy to grow in containers, where good compost and regular watering meet their needs.
having succeeded with lilies, why not challenge your skills by trying other plants from bulbs or resting bodies? Some of these are described as ‘difficult’, but this just means concentrating harder on replicating their habitat in exchange for the reward of their amazing blooms.
Tree lilies are great for bringing height and colour to a mixed border in late summer. Even without extra feeding or watering, my tree lilies flowered well from the start, reaching greater heights year on year
Lilium ‘Starburst’ and ‘Pink Explosion’ from Thompson & Morgan can grow around 8ft (2½m) tall in two years
Lilium auratum ‘Gold Band’