Stargazers (Lilium 'Stargazer') lilies fall in the general category of oriental hybrids, which have been selectively bred from a select group of eastern Asian species, including as L. auratum, L. speciosum, and L. japonicum). Oriental lilies are known for having large bowl-shaped of flat-shaped flowers that are unusually fragrant. Stargazers and other members of this category bloom in mid- to late-summer.
The 'Stargazer' hybrid is one of the most popular members of this group. It was developed in the 1970s as a cross between Lilium auratum and L. speciosum to intentionally create a flower with upward-facing rather than drooping flowers. The tips of the flowers are "reflexed"—meaning that they curve back toward the stem—and they sport long, showy stamens. They are among the most fragrant flowers there is, with a spicy aroma that some people find a little overwhelming. With a diameter of 6 inches or more, they are exceedingly showy blossoms—there is nothing subtle about Stargazers.
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 large flowers bearing vibrant colors. Tall as they are, they nonetheless generally do not require staking and among the easiest of lilies to grow. Stargazers make excellent cut flowers, and they are attractive to butterflies, hummingbirds, and other pollinators.
|Botanical Name||Lilium 'Stargazer'|
|Common Names||Stargazer lily, stargazer, oriental lily|
|Plant Type||Perennial bulb|
|Mature Size||Up to 4 feet tall, with a 1-foot spread|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun|
|Soil Type||Well-draining, evenly moist loamy soil|
|Soil pH||6.3 to 6.8; slightly acidic|
|Flower Color||Pink to crimson, with white edges and dark spots|
|Hardiness Zones||4 to 9, USDA|
|Native Area||NA; this is a hybrid developed in 1978; parent species are native to eastern Asia|
How to Grow 'Stargazer' Lilies
Plant Stargazer lily bulbs in either spring or fall, 6 to 8 inches deep in the ground. Planting in groups of three or five bulbs gives a pleasing look in the garden. These tall, slender plants should be spaced 8 to 12 inches apart, as stargazer lilies bloom in clusters (often with six or more in a cluster). They will do well in most soils—other than constantly wet, clay soil that may cause the bulbs to rot.
Mulch over the base of the plants to keep the soil moist and cool. Unlike many tall plants, Stargazers have sturdy stems that generally don't require staking.
Stargazers do best in full sun (8 hours per day) but will tolerate part shade. Shady locations will cause the stems to get leggy and overly long, which may require staking that is not necessary when they are planted in sunnier locations.
Oriental lilies such as Stargazers do well in any medium soil with average moisture. They prefer slightly acidic soils but grow fine in neutral soils. Feeding with an acid fertilizer helps them thrive in neutral or alkaline soils.
'Stargazer' lilies need to be kept uniformly moist, but the bulbs may rot if allowed to soak in boggy conditions or standing water. They should be watered whenever the soil becomes dry to the touch. These plants require about 1 inch of water per week through rainfall and/ or irrigation. Watering is best done by soaking the soil to a depth of 6 inches; do not water overhead, which can damage the blossoms. Mulching will help the soil remain moist.
Temperature and Humidity
Lilies do well across all climate conditions found in their hardiness zone range, provided soil conditions are suitable, but they truly thrive in hot conditions. Maximum bloom is achieved in midsummer conditions where temperatures consistently reach 80 to 90 degrees F., such as is common in hardiness zones 8 and 9.
Stargazers prefer to have their leaves and stems in full sun, but the bulbs kept cool. Planting them among other plants that shade the ground, or covering the ground with thick mulch, will help keep the bulbs cool.
Like many plants with large, dramatic flowers, Stargazers are heavy feeders. For best performance, apply a generous amount of 10-10-10 fertilizer in the early spring after the shoots have emerged, then supplement with smaller feedings every few weeks through the growing season. Water deeply after each feeding. Where soil conditions are not ideal, feeding with an acid fertilizer, such as a formulation designed for azaleas, will help Stargazers thrive.
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. Deadheading prevents the formation of seed pods, which consumes energy that would otherwise go to the bulbs.
As with all bulb plants, you should let the plants continue to stand after blooming, for as long as the foliage remains green. Once the foliage turns completely brown, cut the plants down to the ground level.
Growing in Containers
Stargazers are sometimes grown indoors in pots, and the bulbs may be "forced" to bloom at Mother's Day or other holidays. Plant them in pots at least 6 inches wide, in potting soil heavy with organic material and a pH of 6.3 to 6.5—a potting soil heavy in peat moss is naturally acidic and makes a good choice. A mixture of 3 parts garden soil, 2 parts peat moss, and 1 part sand makes a good growing medium for potted lilies.
Lilies grown indoors are usually smaller, and they require relatively warm conditions—68 to 85 degrees F. during the day and no lower than 60 degrees at night. Grow them in conditions that are as bright as possible.
To force lilies to bloom at a designated time, they will first need to be chilled for a period of about 12 weeks (this can be done in a refrigerator), then planted about 90 days before you want them to bloom. For example, if you want bulbs to flower on Valentine's Day, chilling should begin around September 1, with the bulbs planted just before Thanksgiving. It can take some experimentation to achieve the right timing to produce blooms exactly when you want.
When chilling in a refrigerator, make sure to keep the bulbs separate from fruits and vegetables, which off-gas substances that can affect lily bulbs.
Propagating 'Stargazer' Lilies
Like most lilies, 'Stargazer' bulbs create small "bulblet" offshoots attached to the parent bulb, and these can be broken off from the parent bulb and replanted to create more plants. Lilies can also be propagated by breaking off individual scale segments from the parent bulb and replanting them.
It generally takes several years for the replanted bulblets or scales to become large enough for the plants to bloom, but diligently caring for them with proper water and fertilizer will speed this process somewhat.
Hybrid plants such as 'Stargazer' lilies are often a little more temperamental than other lilies, and they reproduce somewhat less vigorously than species varieties.
Toxicity of 'Stargazer' Lilies
Many lilies, including Stargazers, are toxic to cats, though harmless to people and dogs. Even small ingestion (two or three leaves) can cause fatal kidney or liver failure in cats. Avoid growing the plant indoors if you have cats. Treatment by a veterinarian may include flushing the stomach, followed by IV fluids.
Common Pests/ Diseases
Hybrid lilies are usually pest free, but potential diseases include lily mosaic virus, bulb rot, and Botrytis (a fungal disease). Diseased plants should be promptly removed (including the bulbs) and destroyed.
Varieties of 'Stargazer' Lilies
'Stargazer' varieties may carry proprietary names particular to the company selling them, but in general, they fall into three categories:
- Pink Stargazers: This well-known type is dark pink to red with white edges and rose- or brown-colored spots. It is hardy in zones 3 to 8 and flowers in early to mid-summer. It is fairly compact, growing to about 30 inches. This type tolerates some shade.
- White Stargazers: White Stargazers have very large, showy blooms with petals that curl back at the tips. They are good for warmer climates, through zone 10. This type requires full sun, and grows as much as 48 inches tall. It flowers in mid- to late-summer.
- Golden Stargazers: This new category is a cross between Oriental lilies and trumpet lilies. It has deep yellow blooms with red spots, with petals that curl back at the tips. It does well in part shade to full sun, grows to 4 feet tall, and flowers in mid-summer. It is suitable for zones 3 to 9.
Comparison to Other Hybrid Lilies
In addition to Stargazer, other popular Oriental hybrid lilies include:
- 'Black Beauty': dark raspberry to a dark red in color; 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': similar to Stargazer in color but without the white; 16 to 18 inches tall and 1 foot or less wide; zones 3 to 9