Image of Orange Tiger Lily flowerCredit: wordspeller

The likes of Lilium lancifolium

Fiery, orange and exotic, Tiger Lilies are a well-known species of the Lilium genus. 

Grown in cottage gardens for generations, its flowers are sought-after for their vivid, 
old-fashioned look and spot-splashed blooms.

Unadulterated by hybrid flower breeders,
Lilium lancifolium is as real as you can
get when it comes to flower growing.

Voyage From The Past

Tiger Lilies, or Juan Dan as they are called in China, have a long and varied history. An ancient garden plant of eastern Asia, they have been treasured for their edible bulbs and medicinal uses for over a thousand years, and is known as Oni Yuri in Japan.

In the past centuries, this 'wild cat' of a flower has traveled the globe to many distant locations. In the early 1800s, Lilium lancifolium (synonym L. tigrinum) was transported by ship to England by plant collector, William Kerr, and later found its way to the USA and Canada.

Arriving on the shores of Australia and New Zealand in the last half of the 19th Century, Tiger Lilies became a common 'fixture' in gardens and featured alongside other beloved flower varieties from 'home'. 

Planted by colonial settlers and pioneers who sailed from the
British Isles, this lily species proved a hardy specimen, adding its
own sense of color and character to the farms and homesteads in
the bush.

Close up photo of Tiger Lily (Lilium lancifolium)Credit: wordspeller

In The Wild

Lilium lancifolium has a native distribution spanning five countries – China, Japan, North Korea, South Korea and Tibet. In China, it grows in a large number of provinces, including Anhui, Gansu, Guangxi, Hebei, Henan, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Jilin, Qinghai, Shaanxi, Shandong, Shanxi, Sichuan and Zhejiang.

In nature, this spotted flower species prefers living in a natural habitat consisting of thickets and grassy slopes, on hillsides and near river banks. It commonly grows in a temperate climate, and can be found at elevations between 400 meters and 2,500 meters.

Profile Of A Lily

In terms of physical appearance, Lilium lancifolium grows from 1.2 meters to 2 meters in height. It has one to thirty flowers, or more every flowering season and blooms in mid to late Summer. Taking the form of pendant turk's caps, its flowers are orange and are boldly marked with uniform purple-black spots.

The foliage of this old-fashioned lily is lance-shaped and narrow. Mid-to-dark green, the leaves grow in dense, scattered arrangements along the stems. Adaptable to most growing conditions, it is highly tolerant of acid and alkaline soils, and thrives in full sun and/or part shade.

A lily that is relatively easy to cultivateL. lancifolium can be propagated by a variety of means, ie seed, bulbils, scales and bulb division. Its seeds are epigeal immediate and are quick and simple to germinate, even for beginners who are new to lily growing. 

A distinctive element of this lily is its ability to produce bulbils in leaf axils on its stems. Resembling bulbs but in miniature, these can be gently removed from the stems and transplanted directly into the garden or a container with potting mix. Planting bulbils is a quick and effective way of increasing numbers of tiger lilies.

Picture of Tiger Lily flowerCredit: wordspeller

Tiger Lilies Today

With orange, spotted blooms and nature hardy fortitude, the Tiger Lily is no stranger to the world. It lives and grows in numerous countries, ranging from England and China, to New Zealand and North America, and has even naturalized in several eastern states in the USA.

In the scientific age of flower breeding, Tiger Lilies have become a valuable source of genetic material for the production of hybrid yellow and pink tiger lilies. Creating a spectrum of color for the benefit and creativity of florists, floral arrangements and bouquets of tiger lilies are more alive and vibrant than ever.

One of the most common lilies to grow, L. lancifolium shows no sign of disappearing from home gardens just yet. With modern trends in landscape design focusing on monoculture (the mass plantings of a singular variety) and no-maintenance gardening however, this may change.

Just as the wild tiger is finding less room to roam, so might it be for the Tiger Lily someday. Let's hope not.

Next article: All About Lilies