Philippine Lilies (Lilium formosanum)

Cynthia W. Mueller, Galveston County Master Gardener
Philippine lilies
Philippine Lilies, Lilium formosanum
Hummingbird Moth
Hummingbird Moth, Hyles lineata
Philippine lilies
Philippine Lilies, Lilium formosanum

In Texas, and especially in Central Texas, growing lilies is not easy. Gardeners with exceptionally good soil sometimes have success with the 'LO' strains of L. longiflorum crossed with L. orientale, or the 'LA' strains which are longiflorum x L. asiaticum, and with tiger lilies (L. tigrinum) in its single or double forms. Lilium candidum, the Madonna lily, is rather particular in its need to rest during the summer in a rather dry environment.

But one lily species which has proven to be adaptable to soils both heavy and light, clay-filled or sandy, over a large range of pH, is the Formosa or Philippine lily (L. formosanum).

The Philippine lily greatly resembles the common "Easter Lily" - a close relative - which blooms for us in the spring, although usually too late for the actual Easter holiday. L. formosanum usually flowers in late July-August or early July and for a period of two weeks or so creates a wonderful picture at the back of the flower border with its tall stalks (up to 5-6 feet) bearing whole clusters of nodding white trumpets, sometimes streaked on the outside with reddish markings, other times pure white). As golden pollen is shed, the inner parts of the trumpet become suffused with a golden hue.

After nightfall these flowers are a wonderfully scented attraction for hummingbird moths, which greedily whir and bumble into and around the flowers. In many cases while in flight their dark, mottled bodies of grey and black-and-white shades touched with tan seem to be even larger than hummingbirds. This plant is especially useful in an "evening" or "scented" garden, planted with old fashioned petunias, night-blooming jasmine, daturas and brugmansias, which also exude much more perfume at night than during the day.

It's always heartening to Texas gardeners when a plant not only thrives mightily, but sets many seeds that manage to fall to the ground, germinate and turn to new lilies without any assistance. There will always be numerous small plants to gently pull from unwanted places so that they may be shared with friends and family.

Saved seed should be crumbled into the top surface of the flower bed, covered lightly and watered occasionally until the young bulbs have good started growth. Let the stalks that remain after flowering slowly die back. When they are finally dark brown and dried, they may be cut off at ground level. Take care if trying to pull up the dead stalks, as the entire bulb may come up.

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