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Casablanca lilies

If you think lilies are old fashioned or tricky to grow, you haven’t met the sensational Casablanca lily.

Now is the time to plant a few bulbs into a pot or in a sunny spot in the garden. The truth is modern lilies are simple to grow and very rewarding.


Photo - astral232 / shutterstock


Lilies date back to ancient Roman times, when they were eaten and used in medicine. Blooms were used as sacred symbols, offered to the goddesses Venus, Diana and Juno. The story goes that one day Juno, the ‘Queen of the Gods’, was nursing her son Hercules and milk fell from her breast. The milk that fell into the sky shaped the Milky Way while the milk that fell to earth created white lilies. The Romans soon passed this religious association to the Christian Church were the lilies were associated with virgin saints. Lilies were seen as a flower of heaven and a symbol of purity.

Lilies grow afresh from the same bulbs each year, so once they’re in there’s no need to plant more. Plant loose bulbs now and they will soon burst into action, pushing through the soil and growing upwards at a great rate. The fresh green foliage is the promise of things to come and the flower buds soon appear and burst into splendid bloom. The ‘Casablanca’ lily, the largest flowering of the lily family, stands alone as the most beautiful lily in the world, treasured by florists and adored by gardeners for their enormous pure glistening white, star-shaped flowers measuring 20cm across.


Photo - KPG Payless2 / shutterstock


Growing your own

Lilies grow from bulbs that look like plump onions and can be bought from mail order companies or purchased from your local nursery. Bulbs are usually stored in wood shavings. Choose fresh healthy bulbs over drier older ones to get the best start. Bulbs can be planted now in early spring, in a pot or directly into the garden. They like good drainage and dislike wet soil so find a spot that is well drained. A slope is perfect! Cover them with a 15cm layer of compost to kept them cool. In warm climates lilies need a sunny spot with dappled afternoon shade as the white flowers can bleach with the hot afternoon sun, while in cooler areas they will tolerate more sun. In 14 weeks you will have a beautiful display.


Photo - Garden in a city


Don’t disturb them for at least 6 years. Feed them each spring as the leaves emerge with bulb food. Bulbs get bigger, stems thicken, the number of flowers increases to the point you may have 45 blooms on each stem and they reach over 2m high.


In pots

Lilies love growing in pots, perfect for a sunny deck, terrace, veranda or balcony. Choose 5 bulbs at your nursery, a 25cm wide pot and a bag of the best potting mix available. Plant all 5 bulbs into the 25cm pot making sure they’re 10cm deep and give each bulb its own 60cm slim stake. Water the bulbs with some liquid bulb food. White pebbles complete the look and act as mulch to lock in soil moisture. Water once a week taking care not to over water. Repeat the liquid bulb food every fortnight for bigger and better blooms.


Potted Oriental Lilies


On the lookout

Watch out for snails and slugs as they find the delicious new shoots of lilies enticing. Protect potted plants by placing shade cloth in the base of the pot too prevent slugs from entry. Snail and slug pellets will protect garden lilies; pick off snails, keeping vigilant at night when they’re particularly active.

They need to be kept moist at all times during the growing period. If not they will have stunted growth, streaked yellow foliage and then flowers will not open. Try to keep foliage dry when watering especially at night to avoid leaf fungal diseases.

A good tip when planting lilies in the garden is to use a support. Lilies grow through the support, receiving additional stability from the frame, which avoids stems breaking with their heavy flower load.


Photo - max777 / shutterstock


Pick of the bunch

It’s hard to walk past a florist’s window full of Casablanca’s - the purity and perfume of the flowers are just too enticing. Due to ‘glasshouse growing’ they are available all year round. It’s good to buy them in tight bud, as they will flower longer, opening one by one up the stem, tending to open quicker when the room is warm. When you get home fill a vase with water, add florist preservative and cut 1cm from each stem. To prolong flowering, recut stems every 3 days and change the water.

As flower bud opens, remove the rubbery stamens from the centre of the flower. As stamens age they reveal rusty orange pollen granules, which can stain the petals. If you miss them while it’s rubbery you will need to use a tissue to remove it later, avoid washing your hands with water as the pollen quickly stains. If the pollen falls onto upholstery simply lift the pollen grains with a piece of sticky tape, do not rub or try to remove with water and a cloth. If pollen gets onto your clothing simply spray with a little prewash stain remover and wash.

“I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”


Lilium 'Casablanca' and 'Salmon-Star'. Photo -