Tall enough for planting in the middle or back row of a flower bed, Stargazer lily plants can serve as focal points, as they are sure to catch the viewer's eye with their large flowers bearing such vibrant colors. Tall as they are, they nonetheless generally do not require staking. For all of their beauty and low-maintenance, some gardeners might be most appreciative of their wonderful smell.
Stargazers make good cut flowers, which partly explains why so many florists carry them. When used in floral arrangements, they typically take center stage, as few flowers are showy enough to compete with them. For a hybrid introduced relatively recently, the degree to which they have become a fixture in the floral trade, as well as in gardeners' flower beds, is remarkable. They are plants that attract butterflies and are also good hummingbird plants.
- Botanical Name: Lilium Stargazer
- Common Name: Star Gazer Lily, Stargazer, Oriental Lily
- Plant Type: Herbaceous perennials and bulb plants
- Mature Size: 3 feet high and a little less than 1 foot wide; blossom is up to 6 inches wide
- Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
- Soil Type: Well-draining, evenly moist loamy soil.
- Soil pH: Acidic soil is best
- Bloom Time: Typically June or July in a zone-5 garden
- Flower Color: The inner part of the petals can range from light pink to a deeper pink or crimson, but the color at the edge is white. The flowers are dotted with prominent darker spots.
- Hardiness Zones: 4 to 9
- Native Areas: Hybrid species developed in 1978
How to Grow Stargazer Lilies
The rather fanciful cultivar name comes from the fact that, while the various types of Oriental lilies generally bear flowers that face down, the flowers of this plant face up as if gazing at the stars. The tips of the flowers are often described in garden catalogs as "reflexed" (meaning that they curve back toward the stem), and they sport long, showy stamens. They are among the most fragrant flowers that one will find in the landscape. With a diameter of 6 inches or more, they are also rather large blossoms. The dark green leaves of this popular cultivar are lance-shaped.
Stargazer lilies are bulb plants, but, unlike snowdrops, for example, they are summer-flowering bulbs, as opposed to spring bulb plants. Stargazer lily bulbs are planted in either spring or fall and the bulbs should be about 6 inches deep in the ground. These tall, slender plants should be spaced a bit more than a foot apart as stargazer lilies bloom in clusters (often with six or more in a cluster).
Grow these lilies in full sun. Although flowering will be best when the plants are grown in full sunlight, Stargazer lilies like to have their roots kept cool. You can accomplish this by growing companion plants around them in such a way as to cast shade at the base of the plant.
Keep the soil moist, but do not overwater. This can cause the soil to become soggy and rot to form on the bulb.
These plants will do well in most well-draining soil. Mulching can help the soil maintain moisture and keep the roots cool in the summer.
Temperature and Humidity
Indoors, potted stargazer lilies prefer temperatures of 60 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Outdoors, they can withstand temperatures up to 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
Fertilize stargazer lily plants from early spring until they are done blooming. If you use Osmocote slow release fertilizer or compost, you can get all of your fertilizing done in one fell swoop in early spring. If, instead, you choose to apply a typical commercial complete fertilizer (10-10-10, for example), fertilize once per month.
An added advantage of fertilizing with compost is that by mixing organic matter into the soil, you will promote the water-retention that these plants need while maintaining good drainage.
Varieties of Stargazer Lilies
Stargazer lilies are called "Oriental lilies" or, more precisely, "Oriental hybrids" (hybridization has bred this group of plants to be more disease-resistant than the species plants). With so many choices available when it's time to buy, it's important to know the difference between the Oriental type and the Asiatic type. Generally speaking, the Orientals have more fragrant flowers, are taller, and come into bloom a little later (although, for an Oriental type, Stargazers flower rather early).
Like Easter lily and unlike Stella de Oro, they are true lilies, not daylilies. The genus name, Lilium, indicates a plant is a true lily. Many plants are nicknamed "lilies" but are not in the genus, Lilium. Some, at least, do belong in the lily family, such as trout lilies. Others, though, have no family ties whatsoever, such as canna lilies.
It is also easy enough to tell a true lily from an impostor by inspecting the plant. A true lily sends up a single, unbranched flower stalk from an underground bulb; the stalk is encircled all the way up its surface by the plant's short leaves. By contrast, daylily flower stalks have no leaves and are often multi-branched. The leaves push up straight out of the ground and are longer than the leaves of true lilies. Moreover, the plant emerges from a tuberous root system, not from a bulb.
Oriental Hybrid Types Besides Stargazer
In addition to Stargazer, Oriental hybrid lilies that are popular include (all are fragrant and can be grown in full sun to partial shade):
- Black Beauty: range from a dark raspberry to a dark red; 4 to 7 feet in height, with a spread of up to 2 feet; zones 3 to 8
- Casa Blanca: white flowers; 3 to 4 feet tall and 1 foot wide; zones 5 to 8
- Mona Lisa: flower color similar to Stargazer, but without the white; 16 to 18 inches tall and 1 foot or less wide; zones 3 to 9
Toxicity of Stargazer Lilies
These flowers are poisonous plants for cats. Stargazer lilies can cause vomiting or even death, so keep your feline pets away from them.
If you've decided to use some of your Stargazer lilies as cut flowers, then remove the anthers from the stamens sticking out of the middle of the flowers to prolong the life of the blooms and eliminate staining (the anthers contain yellow pollen, which can be messy).
Deadhead each individual flower after it is done blooming (making your cut on the small flower stalk that separates the bloom from the rest of the plant). The reason behind deadheading, in this case, is to prevent the formation of seed pods, which would only use up energy that would otherwise go down to the bulbs (which is a better use for this energy).
As with all bulb plants, perhaps the most important tip to remember about their care is to let the plants continue to stand after blooming is over as long as they are green. Once the foliage turns completely brown, then you may cut them down to the ground (but not before). Divide the bulbs in fall if you wish to gain more plants to grow elsewhere.