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Plant of the Month: Lilium lancifolium

Tiger Lily

Latin name: Lilium lancifolium
Common name: tiger lily
Plant type: bulb
Flowers: clusters of black-spotted, orange lily flowers
Foliage: upright spikes
Mature height: 3 to 6 ft
Hardiness: Zone 4 to 9
Soil: well-drained
Exposure: full sun
Water usage: low
Sources: mail order/ retail

Tiger lilies to me are in the “oldie but goody” category of pass-along plants. This summer-flowering classic shines in the mixed perennial border. The black-spotted, shining orange flowers appear in the hottest part of the summer like flaming torches. If you are into hot colors, then this plant is a must. 

And if you were under the impression that lilies are soft and tender plants that need babying and could never survive in our Texas climate, you would be absolutely wrong. Tiger lilies relish our summer heat and erratic weather. Plants will return each year larger and taller with more spikes of flowers. 

If you have a friend with one of these wonderful plants in his border, you can easily snag one for yourself. Just take one of the hundreds of bulblets formed in each leaf axil and plant 2” to 3” deep in your garden in well-drained soil. If you aren’t lucky enough to have a friend with a tiger in his garden, then you can purchase the bulbs in fall from numerous online sources; just make sure that they are identified as Lilium lancifolium. Not all black-spotted, orange-flowered lilies are the same. You want the original species. A good source is Yucca Do Nursery right here in Texas — Occasionally you can find tiger lilies at local retail nurseries, growing in containers.

Tiger lilies do best in full sun and must have well-drained soil. If you aren’t naturally blessed with the drainage, then dig in some expanded shale to help out.  The first year after planting you may get only one small flower spike, but every year after that, more spikes appear with more flowers. I love this plant mixed with bright chartreuse foliage and dark purple flowers. Tiger lilies also mix well with perennial grasses, adding some much-needed color to their foliage.

Grab a tiger by the bulb and add some bright orange to your summer border this year. If you’d like to see them in person, visit the Dallas Arboretum and see them in the Lay Ornamental Garden.