Sunday, September 9, 2012

Differences between Oriental and Asiatic lilies

A question that comes up from time to time is how to tell the difference between different lilies when tags have been lost, a gift plant was received, or bulbs were already there when you moved.  The photos show stems without flowers, so you can more easily judge their differences without being distracted by a flower shapes or colors.  In a commercial field, except for the couple dozen plants at the end of the row, all the flowers are removed before the buds open.  We sacrifice the flowers to make larger bulbs at harvest.  Although there can be clonal differences, especially with Interspecific hybrids (hybrids between different classes), the following is a general guide.

Asiatic leaves vary from short to long in length.
Asiatics perform wonderfully in full sun or light shade in all areas, even in very cold climates of USDA Zone 3.  They also do well in most areas of the South, but prefer more winter chilling to reset the blooms. Soil pH is usually not a factor, they grow equally well in both strongly acid and alkaline soil and will bloom several weeks before Oriental lilies.  

Bloom time usually begins in late May through late June and there is either no fragrance or a very light one on windless days.  Asiatics generally have shiny, 4-inch to 5-inch leaves clustered close to one another on the stem.  Leaves may be wide and short or long and skinny like the picture.

Oriental leaves are spaced further apart..

Oriental lilies like cooler summer temperatures and so need to be planted in afternoon shade or all day dappled light in hotter climates.  In mild climate summers, where the average temperature doesn't usually exceed 90 degrees during July and August, Oriental lilies do equally well in full sun or light shade. No winter mulch is required if your climate is warmer than Zone 6, and they are very happy all the way up through Zone 9.

Oriental flowering time is July to early August and the fragrance is spicy and strong on most clones. Leaf shape is typically wider in the middle of the flower (almost heart-shaped) and the leaves are usually spaced further apart on the stem, especially on taller varieties.  Leaf color is typically duller green.

The Oriental lilies shown on the right have a layer of copper-based fungicide applied to the leaves, because a few brown spots of Botrytis began to show during a cool, wet spring - so this foliage has a slight blue cast, which is not the usual color.

OT, Orienpet and Oriental-Trumpet Hybrids (all the same, just different descriptive names) are lilies that  have some Lilium henryi and/or Trumpet lilies in the breeding line.  They are more heat resistant than purebred (or regular) Oriental lilies and tolerate alkaline soils better.  They can take full sun in most areas and are not affected by the occasional 105 degree heat blast, but the flowers will last longer on the stem with afternoon shade if it is over 100 degrees most of the summer.  Fragrance is less spicy than purebred Oriental lilies - more closely related to Easter Lily plants in the stores in spring.

Leaf shape will more resemble Oriental lilies and can be difficult to determine without a flower to match, but in general, they will have a thicker substance to the leaves.  The flowers also tend to be more substantial in thickness as well, giving them their long-lasting qualities in warm weather.


  1. I love fresh flowers and Lilies are amongst my favourite's. But before i read this i wasn't aware of this facts. Thanks for pointing out this differences. Hope this facts will be useful for all the flower lover's around the globe.

  2. I love the oriental lilies for the lasrge flowers and they are so fragrant! I just had my last oriental lily flower bloom today. Check out my picture.

    Oriental Lilies and Geraniums