I marveled at the incredible display of blooms and colors on the patch of lilies that I could see as I looked out from the deck over the Drapescape. Because of the intense colors, I just had to go get my camera and take some pictures. As I started reflecting on the names of these plants, I realized that I had to label the pictures and two names started to flip back and forth in my mind; namely, Asiatic or Oriental or are these colloquial terms or are these actually one in the same for one plant or were the plants different? What scary thoughts for a woody plant Crabarian to have about perennial plants! Ding, ding, ding—time to move from guessing about plants to knowing!
So here is what I have learned… Although the terms, Asiatic and Oriental lilies are often used interchangeably, they are definitely NOT the same plants! The Liliaceae family, to which these plants belong, is a huge, diverse and visually stunning group of related plants. The first and easiest way to distinguish between these two types of lilies is to ask when they produce flowers. The typical timing for bloom of Asiatic lilies is in late spring and early summer (June and July). On the other hand, Oriental lilies blooms come on in late summer (August and September).
Other differences involve the size of the flower, whether there is a fragrance or not and the actual colors of the flowers. Oriental lily flowers are highly fragrant, emitting a strong, spicy aroma and have petal colors that are mostly red, purple, pink, or white. The flowers themselves are quite large in diameter, ranging about 6-9" across and the petals have ruffled edges! Oriental lily plants can grow to heights of 5-6’ and because of their taller size, they’ll need to be staked upright so that they don’t flop over from the size and weight of the blooms.
In contrast, Asiatic lilies flowers have no fragrance or aroma; however, their petal colors are brilliant shades of gold, yellow, orange, rose, pink and white. Their flowers are not quite as large in diameter, only ranging 4-6" across and the petals have smooth edges. Asiatic lily plants are shorter than Oriental lilies, growing only to about 2-4’ tall therefore, they may only need to be staked upright occasionally.
Alright big flower lovers, there you go, now you know how to identify the differences between the Oriental and Asiatic lilies, so get out there and enjoy correctly identifying those beautiful blooms!