Curious About The History Of The Lily Flower? By, Geelong Florist...

Lilies are renowned for their magnificent beauty and are considered worldwide as the fourth most popular flower.  They are part of the Liliaceae family and there’s an impressive variety of types from all over the globe.  This diversity means lilies come in many different colours, shapes and sizes with most offering lovely fragrances as well. 

True lilies are Liliums but there are many other types are in this genus too; over a hundred in fact. Some flowers known as lilies are actually from other plant groups, examples being Day Lilies and Water Lilies. The botanical name ‘Lilium’ is of Greek origin and referred to white lilies (such as the Madonna Lily or the Easter Lily). 

A lily traditionally represents purity and refined beauty. However, the different colours and the types of lily are associated with different meanings too. For example, an orange lily represents passion, a yellow lily is about gaiety, a white lily symbolises modesty and innocence and the Lily of the Valley signifies purity of heart and sweetness. 

There are so many varieties it’s hard to know where to start. There’s the Tiger Lily, Madonna Lily, Shasta Lily, Easter Lily, Japanese Golden Rayed, Orange, Canada and Henry’s Lilies.  There’s also the Martagon (Turkscap), Panther, Regal, Krameri and Japanese Lilies. Australia even has its own versions, although perhaps not true lilies; the large Gymea Lily and the Blue Flax Lily. 

Lilies are perennial, herbaceous plants with large, prominent flowers and grow from bulbs or corms which store food during winter or dry periods. They vary from 30 to 180 centimetres in height (2 to 6 feet) with some American varieties reaching 2.5 metres (8 feet). True Lilies are never dormant and are made up of fleshy scales that don’t have a protective outer layer. They are generally native to temperate parts of the northern hemisphere such as Europe, parts of Canada and through the USA. Some species are also found in subtropical areas, including parts of Asia like Japan, India, Indochina and the Philippines. Certain bulbs have been used for medicinal purposes or food. The flowers are well-known for their trumpet and star like shapes. Flowers are borne in racemes (along a spike) or umbels (flower heads) at the tip of the stem. There are six spreading or reflexed tepals, (where petals and sepals are not differentiated), which often have attractive markings in spots or resemble brush strokes.

The Oriental Lily, including Stargazer and the more recent Casablanca varieties, has an intense fragrance. Asiatic types are not scented which may suit people with allergies. Lilies are an extremely popular flower much appreciated for striking arrangements. Florists enjoy working with them because they open up so many beautiful design options. In the garden they attract butterflies and hummingbirds. It’s worth remembering lilies are toxic for cats so try to keep them out of their reach if possible.  

Some handy hints to maximise the vase life of lilies include keeping them away from direct sunlight and heat and ensuring no leaves are below the waterline. Change the water every three days, recutting the stems at a 45 degree angle. Snip off the stamens if you are concerned about pollen stains on cloth. You’ll be able to enjoy their superb fragrance and beauty even longer.