Types of Lilies Based on Horticulture Division & Colors

Types of Lilies

“Swan flocks of lilies shoreward lying, In sweetness, not in music, dying” – John Greenleaf Whittie.

As the great American poet, John Greenleaf, said in the above lines, lilies are those beautiful flowers that need not words to praise, for they carry enough beauty and fragrance to attract anyone’s attention.

Not only in the United States but anywhere in the world, the lilies have spread their magic. From flower cuts to lawn bordering, it has changed the way traditional gardens and gifts to your loved ones used to be, thanks to the hundreds of its hybrids.

So, today we thought, why not describe the flower which is known by almost everyone but a few people know how many variants it has. We will cover today the different types of lilies with their pictures.

What is Lily Plant?

What is Lily Plant

Before discussing types of outdoor or indoor lilies, let’s get to know what lily is.

Lilies,  well known by their genus name, Liliam, are perennial summer flowering plants that grow with either bulbs or seeds, and need not be removed and stored for the next season. They are known for their wide variety and sheer beauty of flowers.

Taxonomical Hierarchy of Lily Plants

Taxonomical Hierarchy of Lily Plants

Why do we need to classify Lilies?

The North American Lily Society (NALS) and Royal Horticulture Society, UK (RHS), provide detailed authentic information on the classification of lilies.

But, how many lilies are there in the world?

As NALS describes, there are about 90+ species of lilies in the genus Lilium. Besides the look, each of them differs slightly concerning ease of growing, bloom time, sunshine need, and more.

Moreover, major factors that made us classify lilies into several divisions are flower habitat –  up, out or down-facing; and, flower shapes: trumpet-like, bowl-shaped, flat, or recurved. Because identifying lilies by their leaves is a bit difficult. That’s why botanists also call this lily division as ‘Types of Lily Flowers’

Major Groups or Divisions

True lilies are classified into eight categories according to the traits they share in common. You may wonder why the word hybrid is used with each of the lily’s divisions?

It’s because each of them is obtained as a result of interbreeding between two different lily plants. Lily hybrids can either be genetic, structural, numerical, or permanent hybrids. However, we’ll discuss this in some other blog, as this is not out topic today.

So, let’s take a quick view of the popular types of lilies, along with different types of their flower pictures.

1. Asiatic Hybrids (Division 1)

Asiatic Hybrids
Image Source picuki

Features: These are also called hardy lilies.

Types of Asiatic lilies are too many. They are easy to grow; earliest to bloom; plant anywhere.

Flower Colors: white, pink, plum, yellow, orange, and red

Flower Shape: Outfacing, Upfacing, Or Pendant; 6 petals

Bloom Time: Early mid-summer

Fragrance: almost No

Species:  Lilium tigrinum, Lilium cernuum, Lilium davidii, Lilium maximowiczii, Lilium maculatum, Lilium x hollandicum, Lilium amabile, Lilium pumilum, Lilium concolor, and Lilium bulbiferum.

Leaves: Deciduous

Height: 8 inches to 4 feet

Origin: Asia, Europe, and North America

Pros and Cons: Easy to grow, but are poor in fragrance

Poisonous: Yes, low severity

Uses:   As fresh cut flowers in beds and sunny borders

Growing Tips:  Asiatic hybrids of lilies grow best in full sunlight. Make sure you plant bulbs to a depth of 8 inches and keep 4-6 inches space for its spreading. Keep it away from deers

2. Martagon Hybrids (Division 2)

Martagon Hybrids
Image Source picuki

Features: Also, called Turk’s cap, these early bloomers are the most unique flowers ever, that grow in cool weather. Most shade-tolerant (part to nearly full shade), tall spikes of many smaller flowers. Becoming much more popular. Expensive.

Flower Colors: Yellow,  white, pink, lavender, light orange, deep dark red

Flower Shape: Down facing; Funnel-shaped; Petals curved away from stamens; whimsical freckles and spots on petals; looks like an inverted umbrella

Bloom Time: June to August

Fragrance: Yes

Species:  Liliam Martagon, Liliam hansonii, Liliam medeoloides, and Liliam tsingtauense

Leaves: whorled to alternate

Height: 4-6 feet

Origin: Japan

Pros and Cons: Martagon hybrids take time to adjust to new gardens, up to a year even. They do not grow well in hot and humid climates. But the cup-shaped flowers are unique and looks like a table lamp.

Poisonous: Yes, less severe

Uses: Ornamental purpose as cut flower

Growing Tips:  The necessary condition for lilies under Martagon hybrids are, full sun to partial shade, soil with a PH less than 6, and space from 12 inches to 3 feet horizontally. Remember to mulch the plant for the first year, at least. The bulb should be planted with 4 inches depth. The best thing to do is to mark the site once you plant the bulb and leave it for one year. Don’t dig and see if it has germinated, because it will take it back to one more year.

3. Candidum Hybrids (Division 3)

Candidum Hybrids
Image Source picuki

Features: Also called Euro-Caucasian hybrids, these are mostly derived from European species. The species under this division have very few varieties.

Flower Colors: White

Flower Shape: Funnel-shaped; Up-facing; Edges slightly curved

Bloom Time: Late Spring to Early Summer

Fragrance: yes

Species:  Liliam candidum, Liliam chalcedonicum, Liliam monadelphum, Lilium kesselringianum, Lilium pomponium, Lilium pyrenaicum

Leaves: Thin

Height: 3-4 feet

Origin: Balkan and the eastern Mediterranean

Pros and Cons: Limited varieties. The good thing is it has species of white flowers, that’s the most liked color in flowers. Also, it attracts butterflies.

One of the reasons Myrtle flower has been an inevitable flower in marriages is because of its white color.

Poisonous: yes, low severity

Uses:  Extensively used in beds, as exhibition bulbs, and in rock gardens.

Growing Tips:  Make sure the bulbs are planted 1 inch deep of the soil and 4-6 inches away from each other. The soil must have good drainage with moisture retentive features. And keep a space up to 12 inches in its surroundings. And full to PM sun is required.

4. American Hybrids (Division 4)

American Hybrids
Image Source Flickr

Features: It’s called American because it’s native to North America. Wild but difficult to grow in the garden. Different types of lilies in Florida fall under this division.

Species:  In the eastern states, Liliam canadense, Liliam superbum, and Liliam philadelphicum. In the middle states, michiganense; Liliam columbianum, and Liliam pardalinum in the West Coast; and, in the southern states Liliam grayi, Liliam michauxii, Liliam catesbaei and Liliam iridollae

Flower Colors: Each flower is a combination of two colors, a base color, and spots of another color. The color of these spots is the same as of the anthers’. 

Flower Shape: Down-facing with petals full curved upright, and stamens hanging downwards.

Bloom Time: End of June or early July (May to June in Philadelphia)

Fragrance: yes

Leaves: densely distributed in pseudo-whorls; widely spreading

Height: 3-6 feet

Origin: North American countries

Pros and Cons: They are difficult to grow in the garden. Make huge clumps if they aren’t disturbed frequently. But, it’s easy to find it’s seeds and bulbs, as they are everywhere in the United States.

Poisonous: yes, slightly (bad for cats as cherries for them)

Uses: Ornamental and medicinal. The bulb of Tiger lily is famous for treating diseases and pains related to the heart. In Korea, it’s widely used for cough and sore throats.

Growing Tips:  Plant these bulbs 5 inches deep with a drill planter in cooler and light soil. Grows well if planted in the summer. Conducive environment for American hybrid lilies includes sandy soils, meadows, and wood openings.

5. Longiflorum Hybrid (Division 5)

Longiflorum Hybrid
Image Source Flickr

Features: Theses hybrids are derived from Liliam longiflorum and Liliam formosanum and are commonly known as Easter lilies or white lilies. Common names are Ester lily and White Trumpet Lily

Species:  Liliam longiflorum

Flower Colors: White

Flower Shape: Large, brilliant white in color; Side-facing

Bloom Time: Mid-summer

Fragrance: Yes, much sweet fragrance

Leaves: 5-8 inch long and dark green in color

Height: 3 feet

Origin: Taiwan and Japan

Pros and Cons: Easily raised from the seeds and tolerates hot and humid weather in southern states; however, they are not able to bear severe cold weather in northern states

Poisonous: Yes, slightly; dangerous for cats

Uses: Ornamental; used on Easters

Growing Tips:  Longiflorum grows well in cool soil, which means a shade at their feet from low growing plants like  Ferns. Maximum of 6-8 hours of sunlight in a day with well-drained soil and regular watering to not let the soil dry in summer. As a preventive measure, always wear gloves, preferably garden gloves with claws.

6. Trumpet and Aurelian Hybrids (Division 6)

Features: Isn’t wrong to call them true representative of the lily because of their trumpet shape. They are tall, serene, stately. Aurelians in this group is much hardy, as they’re derived from a combination of Trumpet lilies and Liliam henry.

Flower Colors: Pure white, pink, bright gold, yellow, apricot, chartreuse, plum, brown, purple, iridescent green.

Flower Shape: Trumpet like

Bloom Time: July to August; Aurelian’s bloom earlier than Trumpets.

Fragrance: Yes

Species:  Lilium luecanthum, Lilium regale, Lilium sargentiae, Lilium sulphureum, and Lilium henryi

Leaves: Thin and long

Height: 4-6

Origin: Not known

Pros and Cons: Easy to grow; Easier to grow from seeds as well;

Poisonous: Yes,

Uses: Ornamental

Growing Tips:  Planting Trumpet Aurelian hybrids are much similar to growing other lilies.

Plant the bulbs in the fall or the spring in neutral and well-drained soil. You may add some compost or gritty material to make the soil fertile. Space the bulbs 4-6 inches apart from each other and 8 inches deep int the soil.

Add either of the 5-10-10 or 10-10-10 balanced fertilizer, but not directly to the bulb as it can damage it.

7. Oriental Hybrids (Division 7)

Oriental Hybrids
Image Source Picuki

Features: These are also called fragrant lilies.

These are beautiful and fragrant flowers that are much taller and have large flowers. Lilies under this group are often called Stargazers.

Species:  Liliam auratum, Liliam speciosum, Liliam nobilissimum, Liliam rubellum, Liliam alexandrae, and Liliam japonicum

Flower Colors: White; Multi-colored with White, Pink and Purplish-red as the famous ones

Flower Shape: Outward facing

Bloom Time: Late Summer 

Fragrance: Yes

Leaves: Broader than others

Height: 2-5 feet

Origin: Japan and Korea

Pros and Cons: Difficult to grow; some people complain about Stargazers’ strange smell, that causes headache and nausea

Poisonous: Yes, toxic to cats

Uses: As cut flower

Growing Tips:  It’s recommended to give Oriental hybrids plenty of water. And the soil it requires is the one having high pH value. Also, mulch it to keep its roots cool.

8. Interdivisional Hybrids (Division 8)

Interdivisional Hybrids
Image Source Flickr

Features: These startling interspecific hybrids are relatively new, as these have been derived throughout scientific technologies, including embryo rescue, cut-style pollination, and other methods.

In other words, these hybrids result from a cross between lilies from one division with a lily from another division mentioned above. For example, crossing the Longiflorum hybrid with an Asiatic hybrid will produce LA hybrid; Oriental with Trumpet will make an OT hybrid, and so on.

Species:  Black Beauty (OT hybrid), Leslie Woodriff,’ ‘Scheherazade,’ and ‘Starburst Sensation.’

Flower Colors: Depends upon the crossing hybrids

Flower Shape: Large; Shape depends upon the parent hybrid

Bloom Time: Depends upon the crossing hybrids

Fragrance: Yes

Leaves: Depends upon the crossing hybrids

Height: Depends upon the crossing hybrids; Balck Beauty is 7-9 feet

Origin: No specific country

Usual Color: Depends upon the crossing hybrids

Pros and Cons: more variety, beauty, more hardiness, and less disease

Poisonous: NA

Uses: Ornamental

Growing Tips:  Plant in areas where strong winds cannot harm the plant. Requires partial to full sun with plenty of water during summer. Always use water spray gun or shower for watering.

In the winter, the soil should be highly drained, having pH above 6.0. Ferns can be there good companions owing to their short height, which keeps the roots of the hybrids cool.

9. Species (Division 9)

Image Source Flickr

This group has all the lilies that are originally found in the wild. In other words, the eight groups or divisions described above are a result of a cross between the wild species categorized under this division. That is the reason all of the above eight divisions are called hybrids.

The native lilies can be found in North America, Europe, and in a few Asian countries, like India, Burma, China, and Japan.

Many people love to grow these species as they have a unique elegance and attraction.

Types of Lilies Based on Colors

Now you have got a detailed look at the types of lilies; it’s time you look at them from another angle.

Why? Because 100 plus species can‘t be remembered by name. We remember the flowers by their color the most. So, let’s look at the top lilies in the United States concerning color.

10. White Lilies

White Lilies
Image Source Flickr
Lily Name Scientific Name Division or Group
Easter Lilly (large white lilies) Lilium longiflorum Longiflorum
Regale/Royal Lilium regale Species
Madonna Lily Lilium candidum Candidum
Lady Alice Lilium lady alice Trumpet/Aurelian
Casablanca Lilium ‘Casa Blanca’ Oriental

11. Pink Lilies

Pink Lilies
Image Source Flickr
Lily Name Scientific Name Division or Group
Nodding Lily Lilium cernuum NA
Stargazer Lilium ‘Stargazer’ Oriental
Lollypop Liliam Lollypop Asiatic
Starlight Express Liliam starlight express Oriental
Tom Pouce Liliam Tom Pouce Oriental
Silk Road Liliam Silk Road aka friso Interdivisional

12. Orange Lilies

Orange Lilies
Image Source pixabay
Lily Name Scientific Name Division or Group
Tiger Lily Lilium lancifolium American
Michigan Lily Lilium michiganense American
Columbia Lily Lilium columbianum American
Fire Lily Lilium bulbiferum Species
Turk’s Cap Lilium superbum Martagon
African Queen Liliam African Queen Trumpet

13. Purple Lilies

Purple Lilies
Image Source picuki
Lily Name Scientific Name Division or Group
Martagon Lily Lilium martagon Martagon
Pink Perfection Lilium Pink Perfection Trumpet
Night Rider Liliam Night Rider Asiatic x Trumpet
Night Flyer Liliam Night FLyer Asiatic

14. Red Lilies

Red Lilies
Image Source picuki
Lily Name Scientific Name Division or Group
Canada Lily Lilium canadense American
Gray’s Lily Lilium grayi American
Black Out Lilium blackout Asiatic
Do You Know: Hardly any lily can survive in extreme cold weather. 40- 100°F is considered good temperature for all types of lilies. So, there’s nothing like Winter Lily that exists.

Plants Mistaken as Lilies (Flowers that look like lilies)

Just like some plants look like weeds, when in fact they aren’t, some plants have the ‘word’ lily in them, but does not fulfill the definition of a lily botanically.

Following plants are usually referred to as lilies, owing to their symbolic importance, but they are not true lilies because they do not belong to the genus, Lilium.

1. Calla Lily

Calla Lily
Image Source Flickr

It belongs to the genus Zantedeschia. Types of Calla lilies are six.

2. Lily Of The Valley.

Lily Of The Valley.
Image Source Flickr

Also called Lady or Mary’s Tears. Highly poisonous but beautifully fragranced

3. Flame Lilies.

Flame Lilies
Image Source Flickr

Also called Gloriosa or fire Lilly is dangerously toxic

4. Daylilies.


As the name suggests, it opens in the morning and wither during the following night. Many types of daylilies exist today.

5. Water Lilies.

Water Lilies

These flowers float on the water surface, although rooted in soil under the water

Amaryllis. Also, known as Jersy lily or Naked Lady(a poisonous flower).

It’s from an entirely different family, Amaryllidaceae.

North American Lilly Society (NALS)

Seeing nearly a hundred lily species and multiple colors in each of the divisions, some people from North America decided to make a society exclusively for them.

The club was founded in 1947 to promote interest in the Lilium genus. The members are not restricted to American states but have members all over the world.

The society owns a store for selling publications relevant to lilies as well.

Following are the main functions of NALS:

Quarterly Bulletins

Members of this society enjoy four quarterly color bulletin which contains complete information sharing on Lilium species, from seeding to hybridization

Seed Exchange

Members can exchange seeds of rare species of lilies and hybrids that would be impossible otherwise.

Annual Meeting

You must have heard about the Annual General Metting of the companies around the world. Surprisingly this society also holds an annual meeting to discuss the researches on lilies and issues if any

Lily Show

Lily show is the core of this society, in which all the members meet together in summer to show their grown varieties of lily. It’s also a great opportunity to meet like-minded people.


Lilies are too many. Despite classifying into eight groups, many remain unclassified. The interbreeding between different types has resulted in newer and newer hybrids.

The trumpet-like and other beautiful shapes of flowers with unique color combinations make the people do more crosses between different divisions of lilies. Almost all types of lilies are poisonous to cats. So, better you keep them away from your cat.

So, it’s time you go to your backyard garden and take a picture of the lily you already have and find which type of lily plant is it. Or, if you haven’t had any, buy one and beautify your garden.

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