9 Lily Types to Grow in the Garden

Speckled white oriental lily
NicolasMcComber / Getty Images

The term "lily" gets bandied about quite a bit by flower gardeners, but the Lilium genus refers to a specific group of perennial plants that includes beloved flowers like the Easter lily and the infamous 'Stargazer' lily that are so important to the cut flower trade. Daylilies, toad lilies, peace lilies, and water lilies, while possessing many desirable attributes, are not true lilies. The North American Lily Society recognizes nine horticultural divisions of lilies, and while not all are common in the nursery trade, lily admirers are sure to find a new favorite in this list of lily types. 

Easter lilies, tiger lilies, Asiatic lilies, and Oriental hybrid lilies are toxic—and potentially fatal—to cats. All parts of these plants are poisonous, particularly the flowers. Dogs typically are not affected by these true lilies.

Here are the nine lily varieties.

  • 01 of 09

    Asiatic Lilies

    Asiatic Lilies
    Lollypop

     

    Stephen J. Krasemann / Getty Images

    Asiatic lilies, like the 'Lollypop' cultivar, are arguably the easiest lilies to grow for beginning flower gardeners. The flowers are mostly unscented, but this shortcoming is more than made up for with the ​rainbow of luscious colors available. Flowers may face up, down, or outward and usually bloom in June or July. Although lilies aren't common in container gardens, dwarf Asiatics like the 12-inch-tall 'Buff Pixie' will adapt to pot culture. 

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 8
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained soil
  • 02 of 09

    Martagon Lilies

    Martagon Lilly

     

    Linda Burgess / Getty Images

    Martagon lilies have a reputation for being difficult to grow, but viewing the ethereal 5-foot wands of the mature plants makes a little pampering worth it. Plant bulbs of martagons like these 'Mrs. R.O. Backhouse' in the fall, choosing a sheltered location with excellent drainage. Martagon lilies are the most shade-tolerant of the bunch, so a location at the edge of a woodland garden, but away from competitive tree roots, is best. Choose your location wisely, as martagons don't take well to transplanting. Expect fragrant blooms in May or June. 

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 9
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part sun
    • Soil Needs: Moist, well-drained soil
  • 03 of 09

    Candidum Hybrid (Madonna) Lilies

    White flowers of Madonna lily (Lilium candidum)
    Lastovetskiy / Getty Images

    A true heirloom plant, the Madonna lily has been cultivated for thousands of years. Candidum hybrid lilies need a sheltered spot; an eastern exposure with morning sun is preferred. Amend the soil if needed to bring the pH to a neutral level, and plant the bulbs just under the soil's surface, about 1 inch deep. Plants prefer slightly dry conditions and will succumb to grey mold in damp locations. Trumpet-shaped white blooms appear in summer on stalks that can grow up to 6 feet tall, a stunning and unusual lily for collectors.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 6 to 9
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part sun
    • Soil Needs: Moist, well-drained soil
  • 04 of 09

    American Hybrid Lilies

    Humboldt
    Photo © Kelly Kalhoefer/The Image Bank/Getty Images

    Hybrids derived from North American natives like the Humboldt lily pictured here will form large colonies over the years in gardens with humus-y soil and good drainage. The large floral candelabras feature blossoms with sharply recurving and downward-facing petals. These lilies are best in wildflower gardens and informal landscapes. 

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 9
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Moist to wet, well-drained soil
    Continue to 5 of 9 below.
  • 05 of 09

    Longiflorum Hybrid Lilies

    Easter Lily growing outdoors

     patty_c/Getty Images

    The longiflorum lily division is familiar to most gardeners as the seasonal Easter lily, forced by growers to bloom in the spring. In the garden, longiflorum lilies produce their white, trumpet-shaped blooms in July or August. Unlike many seasonal gift plants, you can successfully move the Easter lily to a permanent spot outside. To grow outdoors, choose a sheltered spot where ideally the flowers will be in the sun but the roots will be in the shade. Leave the foliage intact, and provide regular moisture.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Rich, sandy to loamy soil
  • 06 of 09

    Trumpet and Aurelian Lilies

    Trumpet

    David Q. Cavagnaro/Photolibrary/Getty Images

    Everyone should experience the pomp and circumstance of a trumpet lily at least once in a lifetime. Aurelians are trumpet hybrids that are easy to grow, as long as you stake them to protect their massive blooms and give them a layer of insulating mulch to help them through the winter. Trumpet lilies like this 'Golden Sunburst' variety are more drought-tolerant than other lilies but may exceed heights of 8 feet with a little TLC. 

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Rich, sandy to loamy soil
  • 07 of 09

    Oriental Lilies

    stargazer lily

    Michael Davis/Photolibrary/Getty Images

    Oriental lilies are similar to Asiatic lilies in form and color selection, but the perfume of Oriental lilies is unparallelled, which helps gardeners forgive their finicky ways. Oriental lilies appreciate acidic soil, which you can achieve with the ample addition of organic materials like compost and leaf mold. Expect to see the first blooms of pictured 'Stargazer' and others sometime in August, when many other flowers are winding down for the season. 

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 9
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Moist, well-drained soil
  • 08 of 09

    Interdivisional Lilies

    Pink Oriental Lily with Yellow Center
    Maria Mosolova / Getty Images

    Like the cockapoos and labradoodles of the flower world, Orienpets and other interdivisional lilies combine the best traits of their parent flowers. For example, an Orienpet lily has the perfume, tall stature, and color of an Oriental lily, with the hardier growth habit of a trumpet lily. L.A. lilies, which are crosses between longiflorum and Asiatic lilies, yield flowers with interesting color combinations, a trumpet shape, and a sweet fragrance

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 9
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part sun
    • Soil Needs: Moist, well-drained soil
    Continue to 9 of 9 below.
  • 09 of 09

    Species Lilies

    Lilium auratum
    kororokerokero / Getty Images

    To explore the diversity of the wild lily species is to marvel at the adaptability of these plants, as wild lilies come from swampy jungles and frigid mountain regions and many habitats in between. Although the number of species lilies offered in the nursery trade varies, by seeking out specialty nurseries or connecting with members of lily societies you can include flowers like the pictured Lilium aratum 'Gold Band' in your garden. It's possible there are still undiscovered lily species growing in remote regions, waiting to lend their genetic material to the next great hybrid development. 

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 9 (varies by type)
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to full shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, dry to moist, well-drained soil