Lilium 'Black Beauty'

Jim McKenney
Tue, 13 Jul 2010 13:29:18 PDT
The mid-twentieth century lily hybrid ‘Black Beauty’ has long been a
favorite among specialist lily growers, and it’s now readily available from
several mass distribution sources. Evidently it grows and performs well
wherever garden lilies are grown. It’s a big plant and it’s known for its
ability to produce a massive inflorescence. 

How big is big, and how massive is massive? There is a plant in the garden
now which is over eight feet high. I counted buds this morning and got to
over sixty! At the top of the inflorescence each flower bud has its own
pedicel; at the bottom of the inflorescence, some pedicels have quaternary
buds. I’d say that’s a big bang for my buck. This plant gets no special care
in the way of water or fertilizer. It gets a mulch of oak leaves in the fall
and that’s it. 

I think ‘Black Beauty’ is more beautiful than most of its hybrid descendants
because it retains much of the look of one of its parents, Lilium speciosum.
The flowers are not huge, and they retain the poise of what lily people call
a “species” lily. (This word “species” is often used in lily circles to
describe any lily with delicate, strongly recurved, down facing flowers.)
Its massive, extended inflorescence is inherited from its other parent,
Lilium henryi. 

If you do landscaping work professionally, this is a lily you can use
without fear of its dying out unexpectedly. It keeps good foliage right to
the end of the season. It multiplies very slowly if at all by bulb division
and remains a stable feature of the garden from year to year. It’s also

A tetraploid form of ‘Black Beauty’ was used by Robert Griesbach to produce
the famous lily ‘Leslie Woodriff’ (it was Leslie Woodriff who hybridized
‘Black Beauty’). The individual flowers of this one are larger but less
refined, and it, too, is a huge plant with a massive inflorescence. There is
one blooming in the garden now which is about nine feet tall and has over 45
buds and blooms.  

Jim McKenney
Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, 39.03871º North, 77.09829º West, USDA zone
7, where Gladiolus callianthus is blooming sweetly.

My Virtual Maryland Garden
Webmaster Potomac Valley Chapter, NARGS 
Editor PVC Bulletin 
Webmaster Potomac Lily Society

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