Thursday, May 1, 2014

Shady Areas and Lilies

Martagon lily in deciduous woodland
What sort of shade matters.

What kinds of plants do you have growing in your shady areas?  Grass, Hosta, primroses or violets?  Does the sun shine directly for an hour or two?  Do tall deciduous trees filter the sun, creating patches of bright indirect light that move around depending on the hour?

The area in this photo on the left receives 2 hours of direct light and is somewhat moderated by waving tree branches overhead.  Before a pine was removed last summer, there was no direct sunlight.  The plants flowered, but the foliage had never looked as nice as shown in the photo, because now the stems have slightly more light.

Sunshine is more intense in southern regions, high plains, and mountain areas.  Lilies that will happily flower in the shade of a tree with a dense canopy of leaves in a southern states may not do so well in cool maritime climates.  If the light is too dark, the result may be lily stems doubled in height, plus leaning dramatically towards a brighter light source.  Although pretty, the flowers will not be evenly spaced around the top of the stem.  This is not necessarily a problem in the garden, but that stem would not receive an award in competition, because the flowers would not be balanced.

'Pearl Jennifer' - available for order in 2015
Which lilies for where?

All lilies can flower just fine in dappled shade, bright indirect light or with a half day of full sun.  If you have a choice between morning sun and afternoon sun, pick the gentler Eastern (morning sun) location.  Afternoon sun is more intense and will tend to cause stems to face the sun, whereas planting lilies in full morning sun results in straighter stems and more evenly spaced flowers.

Watch the flowers to see how much shade they can tolerate.

Martagon lilies, because of their more delicate leaves and early blooming nature, are most at home in lightly shaded wooded areas where the delicate looking tiny flowers are spaced further apart and the stems lean towards the light.  In full sun, buds are tighter together, which makes a lovely stem for competition.

Oriental lilies prefer afternoon shade in warmer regions with long summers, such as in the more southern states. Upward facing flowers on Asiatic lilies are usually not as graceful looking as Orientals or Trumpets when leaning toward the sun on account of too much shade.

If stems "stretch" more than you like, you can either stake the stems or move bulbs to a sunnier location in early winter.  In Mountain areas or other short-season climates, where soil takes a long time to warm in spring, either plant in full sun to allow enough time for lilies to mature their leaves before an early winter—or only plant early-blooming Asiatics.

'After Eight' - shorter clones have limited bud counts.
Consider shorter growing varieties for shade.

In shady areas, choose shorter growing lilies, ideally not more than around 3 feet tall when grown in full sun, or you may end up needing to stake the stems.  Outfacing or pendant type flowers can be very attractive, even when the stem is leaning.  However, strongly upfacing flowers on taller-than-normal stems in shade will not be as pleasing, especially if the flowers are too high up and out of sight.

One thing to consider however, is that the naturally dwarf Oriental clones (two feet or less in height) tend to max out with only 3 to 5 flowers on a stem, even after becoming established in the garden, as opposed to their taller cousins that usually have larger flowers or more numerous blooms.  Therefore, you need to weigh the options carefully and perhaps choose medium height lilies (3 to 4 Feet) that are outfacing or are slightly up-facing and will not be damaged by low growing, overhead tree branches.

One solution for "too tall" is to plant at the edge of moderately raised deck (not second floor) where the flowers can peek over the rail.  This also works for established trumpet lilies, such as 'Pink Perfection', 'Golden Splendor', 'African Queen' and 'Lilium regale', that can top six feet in height after a couple of years, even in a sunnier locations, not just light shade.

At ground level, avoid rank-growing, invasive plants or perennials which smother emerging sprouts in the spring, in addition to overhanging trees and shrubs which steal light and nutrients.  If a network of tree or shrub roots is too dense to easily dig in an area you have chosen to grow lilies, consider planting the bulbs in pots.  Simply grow behind a garage or other out of the way place - then when the buds are just starting to open, arrange the potted plants near your outdoor living area or under the trees.

Full sun is best for 'Firebolt' because of the dark color.

Color selection is important.

Pale to medium tints of pink and yellow, as well as pure white and bi-colors show up best in part sun areas, even when viewed from a distance.  Varieties like 'Ormea', 'Nymph' and 'Bonbini' excel in light shade because there is enough light reflection to make them "pop" in the garden, plus they add a hint of color for interest.

Dark colored lilies like 'Sumatra', 'Rio Negro', and especially the mahogany-red 'Firebolt' are most effectively showcased in full sun.  (The photo on the right was lightened to show color contrast with the soil.)   Deep colors are not very good in low-light conditions—your nose may be aware of the fragrance—but the flowers will tend to blend into the background.

Eastern exposures and very bright indirect light is fine in all areas with any color, especially with lighter colored plants, since there is enough color contrast for a stunning display and stems will tend to grow straighter and more compact.

'Salmon Star' - good for pots.
Growing Lilies in Pots.

Is your ideal lily growing area in the wrong spot?  Does your entire yard have too much shade and the only sunny area is behind the garage or next to the trash can?  Growing lilies in pots may be a solution for your garden.

Keep the pots in sun until the buds begin to open, then move them to an outdoor living area for fragrance and color.  When the flowers have finished blooming, move the pots back to your sunnier area so the leaves can photosynthesize to mature the bulbs.  Winter protection for containerized lilies is very important, click on the link below to learn more.

Potting Instructions
Winter care of potted lilies

1 comment:

  1. Hi, I was looking to give some liliy bulbs as a gift, can they grow in another country....per say northern India? Thank you