Stargazer Lily: Care and Growing Tips

Oriental Masterpiece

Closeup of Stargazer lily flowers.
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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. Learn all about growing and caring for these must-haves for the fragrance garden.

Plant Traits

Stargazer lilies are herbaceous perennials. They are also bulb plants, but, unlike snowdrops, for example, they are summer-flowering bulbs, as opposed to spring bulb plants. They are hybrid plants. Lilium Stargazer is how plant taxonomy classifies this flower. 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.

Commonly growing to about 3 feet high and a little less than 1 foot wide, these tall, slender plants should be spaced a bit more than a foot apart. Stargazer lilies bloom in clusters (often with six or more in a cluster). Flowering time is typically June or July in a zone-5 garden. The flower color on 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. 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.

Planting Zones, Sun and Soil Needs

Stargazer lilies are suitable for growing in planting zones 4 to 9. Grow them in full sun and in a well-drained, evenly moist soil. A loam with a slightly acidic soil pH is ideal for growing these plants.

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
  • Applying mulch at the base

Uses for Stargazer Lilies

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 1970s), the degree to which they have become a fixture in the floral trade, as well as in gardeners' flower beds, is remarkable.

Difference Between Asiatic and Oriental Lilies, True Lilies and Daylilies

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: flowers 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

Stargazer Lily Care

Plant Stargazer lily bulbs either in spring or fall. Plant the bulbs 6 inches deep.

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.

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. 

Bonus, Warning in Growing Stargazer Lilies

Poisonous plants for cats, Stargazer lilies can cause vomiting or even death, so keep your feline pets away from them.

But, as a bonus, they are plants that attract butterflies and are also good hummingbird plants.

Among the pests that plague these bulb plants are voles, deer, rabbits, beetles, and aphids. Here are some ways to deal with these pests: