Types of lilies: an overview of the most popular varieties
Lilies are one of the best-known ornamental plants. In this article, we list all of the lily species with the most beautiful colours as well as hardy lilies.
Some species of lilies (Lilium) belong to the oldest ornamental plants cultivated. If you take a look at the large, elegant flowers of the lilies, you will immediately understand why the plants have been arousing the interest of countless flower enthusiasts for so long. There is a specific way, in which lilies are classified. In fact, there are nine divisions which serve to classify over 2000 lily species as well as their varieties and hybrids. Eight of these divisions are devoted to hybrids and provide information about crosses between species. Intensive crossing has resulted in a plethora of lily varieties in all possible flower colours and shapes. However, these varieties differ not only in appearance. They have different demands on the location and are sometimes more, sometimes less hardy. We can help you find a lily plant that will be perfect for your garden or for a pot of your choosing.
The 10 most beautiful lily species and varieties
Beauty is, of course, highly subjective. Which of the innumerable species and their hybrids are the most beautiful depends on the individual taste. But with such a wide range of flower colours, shapes and sizes, one thing is certain: every flower lover is sure to find a variety that will make their heart beat faster. Oriental and Asian lily hybrids produce strikingly colourful and large flowers that you won’t be able to take your eyes off. Here are a few gorgeous lily varieties of the most beautiful (hybrid) species in an overview:
1. Oriental hybrids
Usually, oriental lily hybrids have intensely fragrant flowers that are enthroned horizontally on the flower stems. They are great for flower arrangements and bouquets.
- ‘Casa Blanca’: tropical white flowers with striking red stigmas; flowering time: August – September; growth height over 1 m; sunny to semi-shady location; hardy and suitable for pot cultivation
- ‘Muscadet’: innocent white flowers; flowering time: July – August; growth height up to 1 m; winter-hardy to -15 °C; semi-shady habitat
- ‘Stargazer’: white fragrant flowers with bright red markings towards the middle of the leaf; flowering time: July – August; growth height up to 1 m; also suitable as potted plants; semi-shady habitat
- ‘Tiger Woods’: white and purple striped flowers; flowering time: July – August; growth height over 1 m; sunny location
- ‘Roselily Carolina’: beautiful white flowers with honey yellow midrib; flowering time: July – August; growth height up to 1 m; sunny location; suitable for pot cultivation
- ‘Big Brother’: large white to honey-yellow flowers; flowering time: August – September; height of growth about 90 cm; for full sun and dry locations
- ‘Gold Band’: cream white flowers with yellow midrib and red-orange speckles; flowering time: August – September; growth height about 90 cm; for full sun and dry locations
- ‘Blushing Girl’: adorably white, double flowers with yellow midrib and red spots; growth height about 80 cm; for full sun and dry locations
- ‘Exotic Sun’: double yellow flowers with a striking flower edge; growth height about 1 m; semi-shady to shady habitat
- ‘Montego Bay’: sunshine yellow to red flowers; flowering time: July – August; growth height over 1 m, half shady location
- ‘Extravaganza’: dainty white flowers with cute pink speckles; flowering time: August – September; growth height about 90 cm; for full sun and dry locations
- ‘Dizzy’: white flowers with a pink midrib and striking pink speckles; growth height over 1 m; sunny to semi-shady habit
- ‘Pimento’: flowers with a beautiful range of colours of white, pink and bright carmine; flowering time: July – August; growth height up to 75 cm; winter-hardy to -15 °C; semi-shady location
- ‘Josephine’: fragrant, delicate pink flowers; flowering time: July – August; frost hardy down to -15 °C; semi-shady location
- ‘Magic Star’: double pink flowers with pink centre; grows over 1 m tall; sunny to semi-shady habitat
2. Asiatic lily hybrids
Asiatic lilies and their hybrids come in three different flower forms. The flowers can be elegantly upward-facing and star-shaped, sideways and star-shaped or over-hanging with their petals curved backwards. A truly unique feast for the eyes are the double-flowered varieties, which are a sinus-friendly alternative for those of us who are allergic to pollen. The hybrids are crosses of various Asiatic lilies such as the tiger lily and are extremely easy to care for. The main flowering time is July.
- ‘Purple Eye’: dark purple flower; flowering time: July – August; height of growth up to 1 m
- ‘Orange’: pleasant orange, star-shaped flowers; full sun and dry locations; flowering time: July
- ‘Tango Strawberry and Cream’: delicate vintage pink, star-shaped flowers with a dark pink centre; flowering time: July
- ‘Whistler’: brown flower centres with salmon coloured star-shaped petals; flowering time: July; for full sun and dry locations
- ‘Cinnabar’: bright red star-shaped flowers with dark brown speckles; grows up to 80 cm tall
- ‘Connecticut Glow’: bears many dark carmine red star-shaped flowers; flowering time: July; grows up to 1 m tall
- ‘Enchantment’: star to cup-shaped flowers in bright orange with black speckles; flowering time: June; grows to 1 m tall
- ‘Fire King’: striking red flowers protruding from the side of the stem; grows over 1 m tall
- ‘Nutmegger’: sunshine yellow, overhanging flowers with dark brown dots; flowering time: July; growth height over 1 m
- ‘Annemarie’s Dream’: white, double flowers; flowering time: May – August; growth height up to 1 m; sunny location
- ‘Night Flyer’: dark purple flower with backward curled petals; flowering time: May – August; growth height about 1 m; sunny location
- ‘Luxor’: beautiful white flowers with a honey yellow centre and orange dots; flowering time: May – August, growing height up to 1 m; sunny to semi-shady habitat
- ‘Linda’: yellow to red flowers of the colour of sunrise; flowering time: May – August; growth height up to 1 m; sunny location
- ‘Forever Susan’: red pattern on orange background; flowering time: May – August; growing height up to 1 m; sunny location; hardy
- ‘Spring Pink’: develop gorgeous double pink flowers; flowering time: May – August; height of growth: up to 1 m; hardy
- ‘Cancun’: beautiful colour gradient from yellow to orange to red; flowering time: June – August; height of growth: up to 1 m; sunny location; hardy
- ‘Rosellas’s Dream’: pink flowers with darker tips; flowering time: June – August; semi-shady to sunny location
- ‘Cocktail Twins’: double orange to red flowers with yellow shading; flowering time: May – August; growth height: up to 90 cm; sunny location
- ‘Red Electric’: fragrant red flowers with pink edges; flowering time: June – August; growth height over 1 m; sunny to semi-shady habitat
- ‘Little Kiss’: many small, peach-coloured flowers; growing height up to 1 m
3. Tiger lilies (Lilium lancifolium)
The exotic Asian lilies are guaranteed to be winter hardy and extremely undemanding beyond the offered location. The plants, which rarely grow higher than a metre, thrive in the full sun as well as in the partial shade and complete shadow. The flowering time is usually from June to August but can also extend well into September. The flowers are usually conspicuously spotted.
- ‘Flore Pleno’: orange flowers covered with dark brown speckles; flowering time: July – August; growth height over 1 m
- ‘Splendens’: orange flowers with brown dots; flowering time: July – September
- ‘Pink Flavour’: vintage pink flowers with a golden yellow centre and dull pink speckles; flowering time: July – September
- ‘Salmon Tiger’: salmon coloured, speckled flowers
- ‘Tiger White’: delicate, white flowers
- ‘Flore Plenum’: double orange flowers with black spots
- ‘Double Sensation’: dark pink double inflorescences with white centres and tips
4. Turk’s cap Lillies (Lilium martagon)
Martagon lilies, also referred to as Turk’s cap lilies, are very eye-catching with their strongly curled and rather small flowers. They reach growth heights of up to two metres and bloom from June to August. Their lovely scent spreads all over the garden especially in the evening hours. The small-growing lilies of this group are suitable for rockeries.
- ‘Album’: white flowers
- ‘Pink Morning’: pink flowers with dark, fine speckles; sunny to semi-shady habitat
- ‘Orange Jam’: warm orange flowers; sunny to semi-shady habitat
- ‘Maroon King’: dark Bordeaux flowers with orange rings; sunny to semi-shady position
- ‘Guinea Gold’: bright yellow flowers with red dots; sunny to semi-shady location
- ‘Manitoba Morning’: flowers in a vibrant salmon shade with pink yellow dots; sunny to semi-shady position
- ‘Terrace City’: orange flowers with pink speckles and curled petals
- ‘Peppard Gold’: pink dotted flowers with a golden yellow base and a pink shimmer
5. Royal lilies (Lilium regale)
Royal lilies, also called regal or king’s lilies, usually do not start flowering until mid-June. In the wild, the slightly drooping flowers are usually white. Crossing has introduced a lot of colours even to these types of lilies. The funnel-shaped flowers have slightly curved petals. These lilies can grow up to one and a half metre tall.
- ‘African Queen’: orange flowers
- ‘Golden Splendour’: golden yellow, large flowers
- ‘Lady Alice’: yellow flowers with an orange centre
- ‘Pink Perfection’: dark pink flowers
- ‘Regular Album’: snow white flowers with a yellow centre
- ‘Casa Rosa’: pink coloured flowers with a touch of apricot-orange and a blush of red
- ‘White Heaven’: heavenly white flowers
- ‘Lankon’: white flowers with purple speckles
- ‘Triumphator’: bright pink flower centres with primarily white petals
- ‘Royal Gold’: bright sunshine-yellow flowers
6. Fire lilies (Lilium bulbiferum)
The flowers of varieties of this species and their hybrids are usually orange-red with brown speckles. The stem is reminiscent of flamed wood with its red and black spots. The flowers, which stand upright and form umbels, appear on the plant between May and July. Unlike most of the other lily species, fire lilies form their bulbs in the leaf axils.
7. Madonna lilies (Lilium candidum)
The spicy-scented flowers of the Madonna Lily are innocently white in their wild form. They grow up to one meter tall and are hardy. Its flowers, which appear from May to September, are the epitome of the elegance, which is frequently associated with lilies. The religious symbolism is reflected in the names of some of the varieties, such as ‘Saint Anthony’.
8. Goldband lilies (Lilium auratum)
Goldband lilies, also referred to as golden rayed lilies, have high stems of up to one and a half meters at the end of which large, bowl-shaped flowers are enthroned. The wild forms have white flowers with a yellow midrib and reddish-brown spots, which have an intense scent and appear from August to September. The varieties ‘Miss Lucy’, ‘Fata Morgana’ and ‘Red Twin’ display especially beautiful double flowers.
9. Lilium speciosum
The species has small flowers with petals that bend strongly backwards. These types of lilies prefer a nice sunny location where they will show their flowers from August to September.
- ‘Rubrum’: pink flowers with pink speckles that brighten towards the edge
- ‘Album’: pure white, red or pink flowers with dark anthers
- ‘Uchida’: waved pink petals with slightly darker dots
10. Easter lilies (Lilium longiflorum)
Another lily species on our list are the Easter lilies. They grow to a height of about one metre and flower from May to June. The strongly scented flowers are trumpet-shaped and tend to face to the side. Apart from a touch of green at the base of the outer petals, the flowers are completely white. These plants do best in calcareous soils.
- ‘Nellie White’: white flowers with a yellow centre
- ‘Deliana’: cream yellow flowers
- ‘Elegant Lady’: pink flowers with a beautiful pattern
- ‘Triumphator’: white flowers with a pink centre
- ‘White Elegance’: many white flowers
Some lily species are at home in temperate latitudes of the northern hemisphere. They are therefore accustomed to harsher winters and can also be overwintered in temperate climates with the right protection outside in the garden bed. The plants retreat into their bulbs in autumn, only to sprout again in the spring. Most of the garden lilies offered on the market as hardy belong to the group of Asian lily hybrids. They reach heights of up to one metre and form several star-shaped flowers that bloom from June or July. A sunny to semi-shady location with fresh, humus-rich, nutrient-rich and permeable soil is the best for winter hardy lilies. Here are a few particularly robust varieties:
- ‘Monte Negro’: orange, early flowering variety
- ‘Netty’s Pride’: deep purple flowers with white tips
- ‘Grand Cru’: warm orange-red flowers
- ‘Mapira’: elegant dark purple flowers
- ‘Yellow County’: small, sunshine-yellow flowers
- Nepalese lilies, for example ‘Kushi Maya’ with crimson petals and white-yellow tips
- ‘Forever Susan’: red pattern on an orange background
- ‘Spring Pink’: bright pink flowers
- ‘Cancun’: beautiful colour gradient from yellow to orange to red
It is not just the Asian lilies that are winter hardy. The following types of lilies can also withstand a winter outside provided that appropriate winter protection is ensured:
Tree lily: Fragrant large flowers between June and August; can grow up to 2.5 m tall; location: sunny and sheltered from the wind with permeable, nutrient-rich and humus-rich soil; hardy varieties: ‘Anastasia’ with pink flowers, ‘Honeymoon’ with sunshine-yellow flowers, ‘Lavon’ with yellow flowers and a red centre, ‘On Stage’ with delicate pink flowers and a yellow midrib, ‘Boogie Woogie’ with honey-yellow flowers that turn copper towards the edge.
Panther lily (Lilium pardalinum): American variety; the backward curled flowers appear in August; the flowers shine in yellow-orange with red tips and brown dots; growth height up to over 2 m; location with lime-free soil.
Canada lily (Lilium canadense): American variety; in June and July the umbel-shaped inflorescences bloom, containing up to 20 flowers; growth height over 1 m; location with lime-free soil.
Lilium oriental: Several, strongly scented flowers; flowering: July – August; flower colours: white and yellow or pink; petals mostly curled or wavy; especially beautiful in flower arrangements; location: partial shade with calcareous soil; hardy varieties: ‘Casa Blanca’, ‘Josephine’, ‘Muscadet’, ‘Pimento’.
Lilium aurelianum: Several trumpet-shaped, hanging flowers; strong, sweetish fragrance; up to 1.5 m tall; flowering time: July – August; habitat: light shade; hardy varieties: ‘Royal Gold’, ‘Pink Perfection’, ‘White Elegance’.
Turk’s cap lily (Lilium martagon; Lilium cernuum): Up to seven delicately scented flowers, shaped like a turban; habitat: semi-shade with calcareous soil; hardy varieties: ‘Manitoba Morning’, ‘Orange Jam’, ‘Guinea Gold’.
Fire lily (Lilium bulbiferum): Usually orange flowers with brown spots; umbel flowers up to 20 blooms and 1 m tall; habitat: sunny and slightly calcareous soil.
Tiger lily (Lilium lancifolium): Several hanging flowers with spotted petals that bend backwards.
Madonna lily (Lilium candidum): Canadian variety; up to eight beautiful white flowers; growing height up to 1 m; hardy with winter protection; habitat: sunny with fresh and loose, calcareous soil.
Goldband lily (Lilium auratum): Several fragrant, large flowers on a single stem; hardy with light winter protection; habitat: cool and moist; hardy varieties: ‘Cupido’, ‘Sphinx’, ‘Nobility’.
Lily species for the pot
Smaller varieties of lilies are particularly suitable for cultivation in pots. Of course, you can also cultivate larger lilies in a correspondingly large pot. Representatives of Lilium oriental and their hybrids have shown the best results in pots. With the following varieties you can also bring the flowering splendour of the lilies to your balcony or living room:
- ‘Apricot Fudge’: striking round buds and orange flowers; flowering time: June – July; growth height up to 80 cm
- ‘Avignon’: Asian hybrid lily with scarlet red flowers; flowering time: May – July; grows up to 60 cm tall
- ‘Anges Dream’: large growing variety
- ‘Conca d’Or’: several large yellow flowers with white edges; flowering time: July – August; growth height up to 1 m
- ‘Corsage’: pink to yellow petals with pink spots; flowering time: June – July; height up to 60 cm
- ‘Eyeliner’: elegant white flowers with purple speckles and borders; flowering time: June – July; height up to 60 cm
- ‘Hotline’: white flowers that turn a bright pink towards the edge; flowering time: August – September; growth height up to 1 m
- ‘Le Rève’: bright pink flowers; flowering time: July – August; height up to 80 cm
- ‘Marco Polo’: delicate pink flowers with pink speckles; flowering time: July – August; height up to 1.5 m
- ‘Mona Lisa’: fragrant pink flowers; flowering time: May – September; height up to 90 cm
- Varieties of the Goldband lilies (Lilium auratum): white flowers with yellow colouring in the leaf vein area and small red speckles; flowering time: July – August; height of growth up to 1 m