Lily bulbs lack an outer protective, papery layer. They’re often sold packed in sawdust or peat moss. It’s important to store lily bulbs correctly prior to planting because they have no outer layer that helps protect against moisture loss or temperature fluctuations. Keep lily bulbs cool (below 45 degrees F) but not freezing to help prevent sprouting. If sprouts form prior to planting, handle bulbs carefully. If you break the sprout, the lily won’t flower that year.
Beautiful blooms of calla lily (Zantedeschia) are a cut flower favorite that thrives in a boggy environment. Many gardeners tuck calla lily into a spot beside a pond or stream. Plants can grow in up to 1 foot of water. In cold regions, dig bulbs and store dry indoors through winter. Look for varieties that open flowers in many hues, including vibrant yellow, deep red, white and pastel shades. Plants grow 2 to 3 feet tall by 2 feet wide. Hardy in Zones 9-10.
Available in orange, pink, bicolors, salmon, purple or yellow, calla lilies are easy to grow houseplants. White callas are lovely in Christmas-red containers, and stay in bloom a long time. They're tropicals, so wait until all frost has passed if you want to transplant them into your garden. They'll thrive in a sunny spot in slightly moist, organic-rich soil, but will require repotting and bringing indoors before the first fall frost. If you prefer, you can let the bulbs go dormant and store them in a cool, dry, dark place until you're ready to replant next spring.
The deep crimson color of the 'Aflame' water lily — also known as 'Escarboucle' — gives ponds or pools exotic flair. During summer, the leaves of water lilies provide much-needed shade for water critters.
‘Stargazer’ Oriental lily unfurls large blooms that exude a rich perfume. Petals are deep pink with a white edge. Oriental lily grows from a bulb that can be planted in fall or spring. Top-heavy stems grow to 3 feet and benefit from staking. Add stakes at planting time to help avoid spearing bulbs. Flowers appear in midsummer and can scent an entire yard on a steamy summer evening. Grow Oriental lilies in planting beds or containers. Hardy in Zones 3-9.
Oriental lilies are showstoppers in the summer garden, opening richly colored and intensely fragrant blooms. Flowers appear from mid- to late summer and can linger for a few weeks. Oriental lilies grow from bulbs, which are best planted in fall in colder zones. Lily stems grow 24 to 48 inches tall and usually benefit from staking. Plants often spread over time to form a clump from 12 to 36 inches wide. Hardy in Zones 3-9. Good vase companions for Oriental lily: hosta or baptisia leaves, ribbon grass, garden phlox or bee balm.
The trick with storing rhizomes over winter is not letting them dry out. To store rhizomes, place them in barely damp peat moss and keep them at 50 degrees F for callas; 60 to 70 degrees F for cannas. Check the rhizomes one to two times over winter to make sure they aren’t rotting (too wet) or shriveling (too dry). In spring, many rhizomes in storage start to sprout, like these calla lily rhizomes. Take care not to break these sprouts prior to or during planting, or you'll diminish the flower show.
Trouble-free and beautiful, Japanese toad lily (Tricyrtis hirta) opens exquisite orchid-like blooms in late summer through early fall. Flowers measure 1 inch across and feature a white or lavender background with deep purple dots. On mature plants, stems are literally covered with blossoms. Toad lily spreads easily to form a colony. Site it in a shady spot (part to full shade) with moist soil. Plants grow 24 to 36 inches tall and 18 to 24 inches wide. Hardy in Zones 4-8.
A calla lily is another popular plant that grows from a rhizome. Other examples of rhizomes: canna, bearded iris, ginger, bamboo, lily of the valley. When growing rhizomes that aren’t hardy in your zone, dig and store them over winter. Wait for frost to kill (or at least damage) leaves. Dig up rhizomes and cut off leaves. Let a 1- to 2-inch stem stub remain. Cure the rhizomes in a warm, dry place for several days—until cut surfaces are dry.
‘Sorbonne’ Oriental lily unfurls large blooms that exude a rich perfume. Petals are a pure deep pink with a white edge. Oriental lily grows from a bulb that can be planted in fall or spring. Top-heavy stems grow to 3 feet and benefit from staking. Use care not to pierce the bulb when you insert stakes. Adding them at planting time helps avoid bulb damage. Flowers appear in midsummer and can scent an entire yard on a sultry summer evening. Hardy in Zones 3-9.
Inside a true bulb is a central shoot that contains layers of leaves and immature flowers. With bulbs planted in your garden, this central shoot forms after flowers fade. This is why it’s important to let leaves of bulbs like tulips and daffodils remain and stay green until they naturally die back. As long as leaves are green, they’re helping to store food that helps form the shoot for next year’s show. Most true bulbs have a protective papery skin (think onion, daffodil, tulip). An exception to this rule are the lilies, including Asiatic and Oriental types.
Canna lilies can grow in ponds with their roots submerged. They make a colorful addition to any water garden. Simply set the pot underwater on a pond ledge, or position a container as a marginal pond’s edge plant. This variegated canna is Tropicanna canna.
Toucan Scarlet canna is a smaller version of the classic canna, growing 3 to 4 feet tall. It’s a perfect size canna for container gardens. Here it’s planted with Vermillionaire firecracker plant (orange flowers) and purple annual salvia.