The Madonna lily is one of the oldest cultivated lilies, believed to have been cultivation since the time of the Minoans, 1500 years before the birth of Christ. The lily probably reached western Europe via Phoenician traders, then quickly naturalized throughout much of the continent. The flower has been a symbol of purity for over 3,000 years.
The fragrant, outwardly facing, pure white flowers with yellow throats adorn tall stems in summer when the days are at their longest. Each 3 to 5 foot stem holds 8 to 15 funnel-shaped florets. The flowers are striking in a night garden where they seem to gleam in the moonlight.
Unlike other lilies, L. candidum is not stem rooting and should be planted with the top of the bulb only a few inches below the soil's surface. The soil should be rich and well-drained, and the plants will appreciate protection from mid-day sun. A little lime and an occasional light feeding with compost or bulb fertilizer will improve their performance. The bulbs should be planted a little earlier than most, preferably by mid-September. Expect new growth in early fall.