By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer
Are Oriental and Asiatic lilies the same? The answer to this often-asked question is no, the plants are definitely not the same. However, although they have distinct differences, they also share many commonalities. Read on and learn how to tell the difference between Asiatic and Oriental lilies.
Oriental and Asiatic lilies aren’t the same, but both popular, hybrid lilies are strikingly beautiful and right at home in the home garden. Although Oriental lilies are slightly trickier, both are easy to grow, and learning to tell the difference between Asiatic and Oriental lilies isn’t all that difficult either.
Asiatic lilies are native to several areas of Asia. The plants, which reach mature heights of 1 to 6 feet (.3-2 m.), display long, slender, glossy leaves. They are hardy, early bloomers that produce flowers in a wide variety of bold colors or pastels in spring.
Unlike Oriental lilies, the flowers have no fragrance. Asiatic lilies aren’t fussy and they thrive in nearly any type of well-drained soil. The bulbs multiply quickly and can double every year.
Oriental lilies are native to Japan. The plants gain height every year, and at 2 to 8 feet (.5-2.5 m.), are considerably taller than Asiatic lilies. Many are even known as tree lilies. The deep green leaves are wider and further apart than the leaves of Asiatic lilies and are somewhat heart-shaped.
Oriental lilies bloom about the time Asiatic lilies are fading. The huge blooms, primarily in shades of white, pastel pink and pastel yellow, are heavily scented. The bulbs multiply much more slowly than Asiatic lily bulbs.
Additionally, when each of these plants put out new growth in spring, there are noticeable differences. For instance, Asiatic types resemble small artichokes as they emerge and develop multiple narrow leaves up and down the stem. Oriental types, however, will appear more torpedo-like with less leaf growth and are somewhat wider.
There is no competition! Plant both and you’ll be rewarded with an impressive array of stunning blooms from early spring to mid- or late summer. Both benefit from occasional division to keep the plants healthy and prevent overcrowding.
This article was last updated on
Oriental lilies were developed from just a few different species native to Japan, according to B&D Lilies. The flowers are larger than Asiatic lilies and heavily perfumed. Asiatic lilies bloom over a longer time period and in more colors. Oriental lilies tend to grow taller year after year and exhibit increasingly prolific blooms.
Choose a sunny spot for oriental lilies. They will grow spindly with fewer blooms if they don't get enough sun. Six to eight hours of sunlight is ideal. If you live where the summers are hot, the lilies appreciate afternoon shade.
Plant the oriental lily bulb in heavily enriched acidic soil. If you're not sure if your soil is acid or alkaline, purchase a soil-testing kit. If the soil is alkaline consider keeping your lilies in raised beds or containers with potting soil.
Dig at least 12 inches into the ground and add a 4-inch layer of organic matter. Turn the soil over and rake it smooth.
Plant large bulbs 4 to 6 inches underground, with the pointed end of the bulb facing upwards. Plant in either fall or spring. Before planting, add 3 handfuls of organic matter and a sprinkle of slow-release fertilizer per package directions. Mix in with the soil at the bottom of the hole. Group the lilies in threes and fives, spaced 5 to 8 inches apart.
Plant potted lilies in the spring and throughout the summer. The soil level in the garden should cover the soil in the pot by no more than 1 inch. Most potted lilies come in groups of three bulbs to one pot. It's risky to try to separate the bulbs while they're actively growing. Wait until the leaves have died back and then dig up the bulbs and separate.
Stake oriental lilies. It's a good idea to place the stake when you plant the bulb. That way you don't have to worry about injuring the bulb by piercing it with the stake later.
Fertilize with a food formulated for flowers rather than grass or vegetables. Follow package directions.
Mulch heavily with 4 to 6 inches of mulch before the first frost in the fall.
Cut no more than one-third of the stem if you want to cut lilies for bouquets inside the house. Do not remove leaves or cut back the stem until it is completely dead.
Depending on species and cultivar, Asiatic lilies exhibit flowers that are 4-5 inches in diameter on 20- to 36-inch stems. They display three to 12 flowers per stem. Cultivars are available in shades of white, tan, orange, yellow and red. Popular Asiatic lily cultivars include "Grand Prix" (red), "Connecticut King" (yellow), "Roma" (white), "Enchantment" (orange), "Moulin Rouge" (red), and "Sterling Star" (white). Asiatic lilies present little or no fragrance. Asiatic lilies are popular with the floral industry as long-lasting cut flowers for arrangements and corsages.
Daylilies grow up to 4 feet tall and may require staking, and the flowers last for only one day. Daylilies typically bloom in the morning and die in the evening. There are also daylily varieties that are nocturnal, only blooming during nighttime hours. Because of their short blooming period, they are unsuitable as cut flowers. There are many varieties of daylilies in many sizes and flower colors including red, orange, yellow, pink, purple and blue. Daylilies are deer- and disease-resistant. Hemerocallis "Bright Sunset" is a hybrid that displays flowers up to 6 inches wide in deep shades of orange and red. The center of the flower is a luminescent pale green. A vigorous grower with deep-green, lush foliage, the plant is well-suited for mass planting in flower beds or along a garden pathway.
On this page we explain the different divisions or classes of lilies.
Asiatics are the hardiest lilies available and are often mistakenly called tiger lilies. Flowers have different bloom orientations and vary dramatically in height and color. There are usually 3-12 flowers per stem, which open from late June through August. Asiatics are very hardy with amazing strength and substance. They are also virtually pest free!
Tiger Lilies are in fact usually hybrids of a cross between the species tigrinum or lancifolium and an asiatic hybrid. A true tiger lily is now considered to be of the species lancifolium. They reproduce prolifically, especially along the stem. ever wondered what those little brown nibs forming along the stem of one of your lilies was? They are called stem bulbils, and if you plant them, in time each one will produce another lily exactly like the mother! You can guarantee that any lily which produces stem bulbils has lancifolium in it's genes.
LA hybrids (longiflorum x asiatic) are an exciting breakthrough in lily cross-breeding. They are a cross between an asiatic and an Easter lily. Very large blooms on a hardy and reasonably tall stem, along with fragrance (on some) are this hybrid's features. They multiply rapidly and perform well in the garden, although they are bred for the cut flower trade. Because the flowers are huge, with wider leaf margins, the cut flowers have a longer blooming life. Blooming starts in mid July. We find these hybrids to be reliably hardy to zone 3, although we have reports of zone 2b hardiness, there are many in zone 2 who say they are not.
Orientals have wider leaves and a later bloom date than asiatics, but your reward is the strong and spicy perfume. Orientals have 6-12 large, open faced blossoms on each stem in shades of pink, white, yellow and red. They bloom from August through September here at our location. The most common of the Orientals is "Star Gazer", truly a beauty to behold. Orientals are borderline hardy here on the Prairies, and require extra help to make it through our harsh winters. They should be planted deeper, only in spring, and mulched heavily in the fall. Part shade is also preferred. They can also be grown and overwintered successfully in pots. Click here for a very good article on overwintering orientals in Alberta.
Trumpet lilies are hardy to Zone 4 and require the same care as Orientals on the Prairies, with the exception that they prefer full sun. Because they are not hardy, we grow our trumpets in pots. Trumpets are fragrant and usually grow quite tall, making them ideal at the back of a perennial bed, or against a building or fence. They too can be successfully grown in pots and overwintered.
Martagon lilies are a hybrid which feature dainty, down-facing or turk's cap flowers. Flowers are produced in abundance, sometimes with 50 per stem! They are ideal for shady spots and should not be disturbed once planted. Make sure you mulch your Martagons if you live in an area with hot summers. Currently we do not list any Martagons for sale. Martagons are very slow to propagate and increase, thus their higher purchase price - up to $95.00 per bulb!
Orienpets & Easterpets (OT) combine the beauty of Orientals with the garden traits of the Trumpets and Aurelian Hybrids. They often have more intense colors in cooler weather, with the colors fading in high heat. Orienpets grow quite tall and bloom later, from mid-August through to October, depending on the weather. We have listed a few Orienpets from the farm of Columbia-Platte, guaranteed to be great garden performers when it comes from the talented breeding of Judith Freeman! We also list many of Dr. Wilbert Ronald & Lynn Collicut's selections. Orienpets should be planted in spring, mulched heavily in fall or overwintered in pots on the Prairies.
Aurelian/Asiatic or Asiapets (AA) hybrids are yet another newer breakthrough in lily breeding crosses between hardy Asiatics and the Aurelian trumpets, resulting in hardy bulbs with magnificent, huge, fragrant blooms which show themselves in late August through September. Plant them 8 inches deep, mulch in zones 1 and 2 is recommended, be sure these are in full sun. Finally, a fragrant AND hardy lily for the prairies!
Species lilies are regaining in popularity, and we will slowly add to our line as time goes on. Species take a little longer to propagate as they are in their natural form, the way nature created them. Many originate in Japan or China, and require very specific growing conditions. Many are hardy for our climate, but there just as many that are not.
Oriental/Asiatic (OA) hybrids are the latest of the interdivisional crosses we have growing on our farm, crosses between the oriental and asiatic lilies. Treat exactly as Asiatics, keep in mind they are lightly fragrant and you may want them planted close to your deck or home so you can enjoy the scent. We have had no problems with hardiness of these types in Zone 3. Zone 1-2 may want to mulch the first year to ensure survival over winter.
Longiflorum X Oriental (LO) hybrids will not survive in zones 1-3 without a heavy mulch or protection of some sort over winter. These are a cross between the common easter lily and the oriental hybrids. Plant deeply and treat as you would with Orientals.
Late summer or fall planting allows the bulb to establish a good root system before it begins to grow the following spring. Asiatic lilies grow best in sun to part shade, in loose, well-drained soil bulbs sitting in soggy soil are prone to rot. You can improve the soil’s composition by working compost or other organic material into the garden bed.
'Strawberry Custard' is a dwarf Asiatic lily that requires full sun to partial shade and blooms late spring to early summer.
'Strawberry Custard' is a dwarf Asiatic lily that requires full sun to partial shade and blooms late spring to early summer.
Plant bulbs three times as deep as the bulb’s height, with the flat end down. Some gardeners advise top dressing the soil with fish emulsion or compost tea in the spring, and bone meal when buds appear to encourage larger blooms.
Remove blossoms from Asiatic lilies as they fade. Allow the foliage to remain in the bed until it has turned brown the old leaves help gather nourishment to the bulb for next year’s blooms.
You can also plant Asiatic lily bulbs in containers in winter to bloom the following spring. Fill a large pot about 1/3 full with sandy potting mix, place the bulbs (flat side down) about two inches apart and cover the bulbs up to their tips with more potting mix. Water the container well, and place it in a cool but frost-free space, such as an unheated garage, greenhouse or garden shed.
'Navarin' is a Longiflorum and Asiatic hybrid lily that needs full sun to partial shade, blooms in the summer and showcases bright orange petals.
Hardy garden lilies are from the Lilium species, with many being hybrid plants, bred for better plants or flowers. Lily flowers attract hummingbirds and butterflies to any type of sunny garden.
A garden lily has an erect plant form growing 2′ – 6′ tall. The narrow lance-shaped short leaves encircle up and down each stem. At the top of each stem are trumpet flowers that are so large they have a nodding motion, especially when a light breeze rustles through the garden. Hardy garden lilies are better at growing back each year in zones 4 – 8.
Spring and Summer Blooming Asiatic Lilies
Asiatic lily plants have heavily speckled flower petals, although some hybrids are less so, but all bloom in late spring or early summer. Asiatic lilies have unscented smaller flowers, a consideration when planting a scented garden or one to attract, or not attract, wildlife.
Asiatic lily plants are very hardy, able to withstand Northern garden climates. The generally shorter plants do not require staking and easily multiply.
Late Summer and Early Fall Flowering Oriental Lilies
Oriental lilies are late summer and early fall flowering Lilium plants. Oriental lilies have larger highly fragrant flowers. Oriental lilies often require staking because of their heavy trumpet blooms despite the plant’s strong stems.
The most notable Oriental lily is Lilium ‘Stargazer’ that has big red flower petals dotted with deep red freckles and edged in white. A more recent Oriental lily is Lilium ‘Casa Blanca’ that is pure white.
Protect from Deer a Garden of Oriental Lilies. Photographer: Chuck Eirschele
How to Grow Hardy Garden Lilies
Garden lilies are easy to grow because the plants will tolerate a variety of soil types and will flower in full sun to part shade. Remembering the garden maxim “heads in the sun and feet in the shade” will help remind gardeners that lilies need cool roots to thrive. Whatever the soil type grow the bulbs in fall where soil drains well and add a layer of organic mulch for the roots to grow healthy.
Asian and Oriental lilies can be grown in many types of flower gardens for fragrance in a cutting garden or to attract hummingbirds and butterflies for instance. Where wildlife forage among open flower gardens, consider planting susceptible garden lilies in a fenced-in vegetable garden where the trumpet flowers can be enjoyed.
Gardeners with a shade garden may be interested in hardy Lilium plants for woodland gardens. If the planting bed has a ditch, consider reading about orange tiger lilies.
Permission received for all photos used in this article.
Lilium ‘Verns Beauty’ Grows in a Shady Garden. Photographer: Chuck Eirschele
Chris Eirschele has written 8 posts in this blog.