Western lilies (was Lilium candidum)

Mary Sue Ittner msittner@mcn.org
Mon, 14 Jun 2004 20:23:32 PDT
Dear Jim,

I don't think the western lilies are necessarily easy to grow even for 
those of us who live here. A number of them are rare as well. Last summer 
our topic of the week was Species Lilies and you might check out the 
archives for that discussion. In addition there is information on the wiki 
Lilium page.

One year Diana Chapman and my husband and I went on a CNPS trip to "Lily 
Heaven" to visit a number of them in the wild. They were very pretty making 
me want to grow them. I have a few coming along, but only blooms from L. 
maritimum, L. pardalinum, and L. pitkinense which is in fact blooming right 
now. I saw L. pardalinum blooming in two gardens over the weekend, but mine 
are still to come. In the past late June and July has been when they bloom.

As Jane says some of them grow at higher elevations and in places where the 
drainage is good.

L. pitkinense is only known from two populations, both wetland. But do 
remember that it doesn't rain usually stopping some time in May until 
September and October. The later months before it stops to rain are also 
dryer as are those first months when we hope to get rain and don't always. 
There is some summer fog, but humidity is not very high.

L. maritimum is a forest plant, but it grows best in the ditches next to 
roads where it would be wetter. The soil dries out almost completely 
eventually where it grows and it never gets very hot. It cools off a lot 
most evenings. So hot humid and summer rainfall wouldn't be normal for it.

L. pardalinum is found in a lot of different places and in different 
elevations as well so I'd think it might be more adaptable. It grows near 
the river where I live where the water table is high and in the shade, but 
I've seen it in dryer places too. It wasn't happy in a bed I had it in 
where I watered only every couple weeks (and then the trees probably sucked 
it up.) I try to remember to water it more where I have it now.

Lilium occidentale is restricted to seeps and bogs of coastal prairie, 
scrub, and coniferous forests.

The two I have grown from seed that each year are getting bigger, but yet 
to bloom are L. kelloggii and L. humboldtii. I never been able to get seed 
of L. washingtonianum to germinate so I could kill it.

Glen Keator who has written a book on growing native perennials describes 
the natives as being in two groups. The ones with large single bulbs that 
grow on hillsides need a summer or late summer rest.  He lists: L. 
bolanderi, L. columbianum, L. humboldtii, L. kelloggii, L. rubescens, and 
L. washingtonianum in this category.

The second group is those with creeping rhizomatous bulbs which grow along 
bogs, streams, and wet meadows, need year round water and shade. These he 
lists as L. maritimum (but I disagree with this as it isn't rhizomatous), 
L. pardalinum, L. parryi, and L. parvum.

Dirk Wallace in Australia has success with some of our native lilies so 
perhaps he can tell us what he does. Ken Hixson is another resource on 
lilies. Perhaps he'll speak up too.

Gophers also like the bulbs. Do your snakes eat squirrels and gophers? My 
husband saw a snake on a hike last week working on swallowing a mouse which 
was a little two big for its mouth. Eventually it got tired of being 
photographed and moved away. So snakes can be useful predators for rodents 
who are found of bulbs.

Mary Sue


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