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What Are Tiger Lilies?


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Spots of bright orange scattered along roadsides up close reveal daintily arched bell-like flowers dusted with freckles. Two species of Lilium carry the name tiger lily and grow natively over most of the lower 48 states and parts of Canada. Similar in appearance, these tiger lilies not only sprout from bulbs as wildflowers, but they also make an easy-to-grow addition to any yard or landscape, lending a splash of color in distinctive blooms.

Lilium Lancifolium

  • Native to the eastern half of the United States, with the exception of the southern states, and spreading into the eastern portion of Canada, Lilium lancifolium goes by the name tiger lily or lance-leaf tiger lily. It commonly grows alongside the road and in yards, according to the University of Wisconsin. This tiger lily grows as a bulbous perennial, 4 to 6 feet in height. Its characteristic orange flowers with purple spots bloom in stalked clusters from July to August and also appear in white, yellow and red. The six petals of the blooms arc backward and the flower heads dangle like bells. The leaves of the Lilium lancifolium have pointed lance-like tips and grow alternately.

Lilium Columbianum

  • Also called the Columbia tiger lily and the Oregon lily, Lilium columbianum grows native to the northwest portion of the United States and British Columbia. Preferring dry, scrubby areas, coastal prairie and forested regions, the Columbia tiger lily pops up alongside roads and in meadows, writes the University of California University Herbaria. Also a bulbous perennial, it can reach over 8 feet tall. The bell-shaped flowers bear no scent, but have sharply bent back petals in orange to reddish orange. Small brown dots speckle the face of the blooms. Oval leaves, narrow at the base and widening out, wind around the tiger lily’s stalk, ascending toward the flowers.

Planting

  • Tiger lilies, like the rest of the Lilium genus, prefer sun to part shade and need consistently moist but well-drained soil to thrive. When planting bulbs in fall or spring, leave 6 to 10 inches between bulbs and cover with 4 to 6 inches of soil to encourage root growth along the lily stem, according to Clemson University Cooperative Extension.

Care

  • Mulching around the base of the lilies helps trap moisture in the soil, as well as helps to keep the bulbs cool in hotter weather. When watering tiger lilies, the base of the plant and not the leaves should receive the moisture. Too much water can cause the bulbs to rot. Tiger lilies are notorious for carrying diseases, so keep them apart from other lilies.

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