Tiger Lily flowers, according to the floral dictionary found on various florist websites, signify "wealth and pride." And with its bold, bright-orange flowers dotted with black tiger-like spots, the Tiger Lily does have something of a proud, opulent look to it, as though it knows exactly how good it looks.
History and Description
The Tiger Lily is a native of northern and eastern Asia, from the Chinese mainland to Japan. It was first "discovered" in 1753 by the well-known Swedish botanist Carl von Linne. The flower was introduced to Britain in 1804 by William Kerr, the Scottish gardener who became one of the most famous plant collectors of his time. Since then, the "Tiger Lily" nickname has come to be adopted by various other species, including the orange day lily, a wildflower common to the western United States and Canada, but the true Tiger Lily is the Asian one. Its flowers are brighter and larger (up to 3 in.) than the North American variety, and it propagates through bulbs that form at leaf axils rather than through tuberous roots. The Asian Tiger Lily has six stamens that are made up of anthers and filaments; one pistil, with a long style; and a stigma with three lobes.
In Asia, the Tiger Lily is valued for its medicinal use. A tincture that is made from a fresh Tiger Lily plant can be used to treat people suffering from uterine-neuralgia, congestion and irritation, as well as nausea and vomiting associated with pregnancy. Holistic healers also believe the essence of the Tiger Lily flower can help suppress aggressive tendencies in individuals.
Use as Food
In Asia, particularly Japan, the Tiger Lily is prized as a source of food. While roots and shoots are edible, they are often bitter. A better bet is to try the flower buds, which when baked are said to taste much like potatoes. Dried Tiger Lily flower buds are sold commercially in Asian markets. To prepare them, soak the buds in warm water for 30 minutes to soften them up, then remove the stem. They can be baked on their own or added to Chinese and Japanese dishes.
The Down Side
Grow your Tiger Lilies away from other types of lily, as Tiger Lilies can carry viral diseases and pass them on to other species. The Tiger Lily also can be toxic to cats, causing vomiting, lethargy, kidney failure and even death.
Growing Tiger Lilies
The true Asian Tiger Lilies adopt well to moderate U.S. climates in subtropical and tropical regions, such as Southern California and Florida. Conversely, the North American variant thrives best in colder parts of the continental United States and Canada. Both species grow best in the shade, although some sun is required to ensure blooming. Tiger Lilies are easy to grow, as long as you break up any clay soil and mix in equal parts topsoil. They don't require fertilization, since they do a good job of drawing nutrients from the ground. They are, however, vulnerable to attack by lily beetles, snails and slugs—pests best picked off by hand as soon as they are sighted. Bloom times begin in late May and extend through the summer.