Tricolor Oriental Lily

"I Looked upon the lilies
When the morning sun was low,
And the sun shone through a lily
With a softened honey glow.
A spot was in the lily
That moved incessantly,
And when I looked into the cup
I saw a morning bee."

-Henry Lawson


The highly fragrant upward-facing tricolor oriental lily 'Arena' is white-edged with flashy stripe that is yellow toward the center & red at the tip, with a dusting of red freckles & magenta-tipped stamins. Deep in the throat it is apple-green. It stands about two feet high its first couple of years, three feet high by their third year.

Stems are sufficiently sturdy even with the weight of multiple blossoms that they are usually fairly upright, though when planted against a wall they will lean toward the sun & some gardeners may want to brace them upright.

Large six to eight inch blooms occur in late July & in August. These make excellent cut flowers. It is best to take a flower just as the bud is bursting open. It will finish opening indoors & last a week or nine days.

Some folks like to remove the stamins when using lilies in bouquets, because the pollen can stain cloth. If pollen gets on clothing or linen, it should be allowed to dry out completely, then brushed off with a bristle brush. If wiped when fresh, or wiped with a damp cloth, it will permanently stain.

The perfume is sweet & pleasing but surprisingly strong, so that a small room might become oppressively scented with more than one stem of blossoms. Oriental lilies are in general great to plant in a sunny spot near the door or around the patio for the sake of the rich perfume outdoors. They're as hardy for containers as for the open garden.

Suitable for zones 4-8, at the colder end of their tolerance they will want winter mulching. Even in temperate zones, a winter mulch of leaves & composted manure can be better than fertilizer.

They prefer full sun but if attempted in Zone 9 they may want a bit of shade. The root likes to be shaded, so hybrid lilies planted behind short shrubs do quite well, putting only their heads into the bright sunlight. They love humusy soil, moist but well draining in spring & summer, dryish during autumn & winter.

They will want to be dug up every three or four years for division. The clump can be dug up shortly after the foliage dies back. Because oriental lilies are hybrids, they don't necessarily grow true from seed, but will grow true from scales, bulbils & offsets, which can all be removed from the parent bulb & immediately planted separately.

On-sale "left over" bulbs sold late in their season are not as apt to be a bargain as are the more storable bulbs. Lily bulbs & bulbils are never really dormant, not even in winter, & they do not store well, so should be planted right away, usually around mid to late October.


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