The University of Minnesota recommends Asiatic lilies (Lilium spp.) for gardens since they demonstrate good winter hardiness, show tolerance to nearly any well-draining soil and remain among the easiest to grow of all the varieties of lilies. Asiatic lilies also bloom relatively early in the world of true lilies: early summer. Their blooms span all colors except blue and purple.
These lily hybrids derive from various genetic crossings of wild lily species that hail mainly from China, the reason they receive the name "Asiatic"--of Asia. Six species historically used in the breeding include orange lily (Lilium bulbiferum), nodding lily (Lilium cernuum), morning star lily (Lilium concolor), tiger lily (Lilium lancifolium), Lilium davidii and Lilium maculatum.
Horticulturists classify all lilies into divisions to clarify origins, flower orientation and form. Asiatic lilies fall into Division I. This division further breaks down into flower orientations comprising (a) up-facing, (b) outward-facing or (c) pendent. The Asiatic lily is also given a flower form description of (a) trumpet-shaped, (b) bowl-shaped, (c) flat-faced or (d) distinctly recurved. Each variety of Asiatic lily receives a classification that is written in order as such: Division I (c,a), meaning it produces outward-facing flowers that are trumpet-faced.
Depending on parentage and variety, Asiatic lilies grow between 18 to 50 inches tall on a single stem lined with deep-green leaves with a narrow, lance-like shape. The flowers lack fragrance and comprise six petals. Blossoms appear in clusters at the top of the flower stem, in clusters botanically described as either racemes or umbels. Once a frost occurs, the foliage dies and the underground scaly bulbs remain dormant until the following spring when a new stem emerges from the soil when frost no longer threatens.
Grow Asiatic lilies in any well-draining soil that is moist. All soil types benefit with incorporation of organic matter such as compost. These lilies need at least four to six hours of direct sunlight daily for good growth and flower production. More sunlight is tolerated as long as soil does not become too dry or hot. For best performance, place a 2 to 3 inch layer of organic mulch over the root zone to conserve moisture and keep the soil cool in summer.
In general, Asiatic lilies should be grown in USDA Hardiness Zones 3 through 9. Gardeners in western North American should use Sunset Climate Zone designations: these lilies grow successfully in zones A1, A2, A3; 1 though 9 and 14 through 24.
Grow Asiatic lilies in the mixed perennial garden border alongside other flowering perennials and woody shrubs. Their stems make nice cut flowers for floral arrangements. Florists also grow their bulbs in containers across the year in greenhouse to time the lily flower display to coordinate for holiday gift plants sales, such as for Mother's Day, Easter, Halloween or Thanksgiving. Often flower color dictates which holiday decor the lily best fits.