Garden-Tested LILY BULBS | Contact Us

Photo gallery Wild (Species) Lily Knowledge Base

Wild Lilies Photo Gallery
[Updated March, 2023] - Wild Lily bulbs making up the genus Lilium belong to the family Liliaceae comprising of approximately 20 genera made up of approximately 750 species. There are in the neighborhood of 110 to 115 distinct Lilium species. Robert J. Gibson began this project in 2008, and with the assistance of over 85 individuals now in 17 countries and it is now nearly completed, 10 years later; however editing and cross-checking will remain an ongoing project such as the addition of L. debile in Feb. of 2020 submitted by Rami Cobb. At last count there are over 500 individual photographs of all the known Lilium species (and their variants) found worldwide. Some lilies are extremely rare and not even seed is offered through plant societies, but a few easy ones like Lilium regale can be found from time to time in catalogs for sale.

Range of Distribution
As with so many familiar plants in our gardens, we often wonder, where they came from and how were they created into so many lovely and varied forms. As we trace ancestral lines back on every lily hybrid, we eventually find that its origin was two species. We find a wonderful array of color and flower forms in nature’s creations. A journey back to the lily species that made your hybrid bulbs will lead you across the entire Northern Hemisphere. From the plains, mountains, and swamps of North America to the sub-tropical jungles of Burma; the harsh regions of Siberia to the rolling grasslands of Greece and the plains and valleys of all Europe; to high in the Himalayas to the stormy beach grasses of northern Japan. We find tiny dime-sized dangling flowers to huge blooms the size of dinner plates. In the lilies of the wild, gardeners find natures full rainbow of colors, white, pink, red, orange, yellow, and cream, but no blue tones, the genetics are simply not there.

Commercial Propagation
Many gardeners after having grown and marveled at hybrid lily bulbs begin to wonder about the original species, endeavoring to include them in the garden. As the years have passed, commercial growers of lilies have mostly taken pure species out of their production fields. In the first half of the 20th Century, catalogs specializing in lilies were full of species offerings as there were few hybrids available. Most of these came by way of English, Dutch and German growers.

In the United States, the name Edgar Kline was synonymous with where to go for Lilium species. With the increased number of new hybrids requiring less toil in the garden, purity gardens with only wild collected or nursery propagated lilies started to be forgotten. With the end of the 20th Century, as more and more gardeners began seeking the simpler times of the past and a return to their “roots” so to speak, a renewed interest in wild flowers began taking place, and the specialty grower is now faced with the decision, “do I invest seven to twelve years to get crops up to numbers and size, and will there still be a demand in the years beyond if I do?” Yes, perhaps now, Lilium pumilumat four dollars each will be popular, but what about Lilium kelloggii, Lilium ciliatum , or Lilium ocellatumat twenty dollars per bulb?

Unfortunately, species lily bulbs commonly found just a mere twenty five years ago are virtually unheard of now by even the most avid gardeners. Even more tragic is the destruction of so many native stands worldwide in the name of progress. It is safe to say that we will never again see the availability of these rare beauties for the garden that our parents and grandparents enjoyed. Unfortunately it seems, wild lilies for the most part fell by the wayside for the less temperamental and nearly foolproof hybrids for a new generation of gardeners.

Recently, several species not seen in the market place for many years are now being produced by a few small growers in Holland. The downside is that they are being marketed no differently than hybrid garden lilies and failure rates are high. Lilium cernuum along with its white colored variant ‘Candidum’ as well as Lilium nepalense have very exacting requirements for successful growth. Unfortunately the catalogers often promoting themselves as “experts” are not propagators but are merely jobbers and do not provide proper growing instructions. It is easier to offer “no guarantee” for successful growth than to take the time to learn about what they are buying from brokers for resale. In the case of both the above mentioned species, each has one very simple, though different, “secret” for success. Not being actual propagators of these lily bulbs, they have no idea as to the secrets of success and are unable to properly instruct their customers.

Growing Species Lilies
Before you decide to try your hand with the wild ones, it is best to become familiar with their special requirements. Varieties such as Lilium henryi, Lilium speciosum, Lilium auratum, Lilium pumilum, Lilium superbum, Lilium canadense, Lilium pardalinum, Lilium regale, Lilium bulbiferum and Lilium dauricum , are considered to be quite easy and will forgive you your errors with them, as with most garden hybrids, if conditions are not exact from year to year. Unfortunately the number of forgiving Lilium species is quite small. Once having grown and succeeded with these and armed with the confidence of success, you may want to venture out into the slightly more difficult. Lilium amabile , Lilium monadelphum, Lilium szovitsianum, Lilium concolor, Lilium hansonii and Lilium tsingtauense for example.

All lily bulb species have special needs and with some preparation, most of us can find that special place in our garden that offers a chance at success. To start, a soil with porous gravel subsoil, permitting the essential sub drainage that species require and have in nature is a must. This is the first and a key element, but not the final answer. EVERY species has its own, special requirements for success. One of the aims in the successful cultivation of lily bulb species is to provide a deep and cool root run that will store the necessary moisture, but one that will not hold excessive amounts of water during their resting period in late fall and through the winter.

You must mimic nature as closely as possible if you are to expect even marginal success with the more difficult subjects, and again, providing the proper soil mix is only the beginning. In nature we find most species with their heads in the sun, and a low growing, native ground cover keeping the bulbs cool. Their need for an accompanying, protective ground cover in most cases is essential. Venturing out further than this requires planning, a great deal of care, and a gardening spirit that is not easily dampened by failure. Those that succeed are the ones that don’t see a loss as a failure, but see it as a learning experience. Some species have foiled even the most knowledgeable of horticulturists in the most prestigious botanical gardens in the world.

The photos shown for each species are offered as the best example we have of color and flower form. The flowers of many wild lilies have colors that vary in hue as well as spotting patterns, even within the same colony, let alone natural colonies that may be separated by hundreds of miles. Many photos shown were taken of stock plants over the years at our nursery unless otherwise noted. No, there are no commercial quantities of most of these available. Some photos came from lily friends while some that had no labeling other than to say, “in Bunny’s garden”, which has left us wondering who sent them to us after years of being in storage. Some have faded with time but do still have merit in giving an overall view of each flower.

This is not meant to be in any way a definitive work on Lilium, but is in response to many customer inquires over the years concerning these wonderful works of God and their wishes to view photos. Where there was a choice of using a photo of a nursery grown plant or one tracked in the wild, we have opted for the photo taken in the natural habitat. Or, in the case of Lilium Alexandrae for example, given us by the late Ed McRae was by far the best example of this species, far surpassing our nursery photo. We especially thank Eddie for freely sharing over many years, his firsthand knowledge and contagious love of the genus Lilium.

Many avid growers of Lilium species have come forward with beautiful examples of their gardening skills and we thank them all for their contributions to this knowledge base either sharing with us directly, or posting their photos to Wikimedia Commons. Included here are historic photos from the late 30's to the early 50's of specimens grown by the late Edgar Kline, as provided in the collection of slides given us by the daughter of the late Bill and Mary Hoffman.

A special “Thank You”, in alphabetical order, Dr. Richard Adams, David Allen , Alpsdake, Japan, Professor Leonid Averyanov, Russian Federation, Keith Baldie, Switzerland, Dr. Orrel Ballentyne, Denis Barthel, Nathan Barwick, New Zealand,, Korea, David Boufford, St. Mary's College of California, Mana and Vijay Chandhok, Paul Christian, United Kingdom, Rami Cobb, Julia Cordon, Head Gardener at the Explorers Garden in Scotland, Darm Crook, Canada, Shawn DeCew, Rimmer De Vries, Dr. Fritz Ewald, Germany, Jim Fowler, Fturmo, John Game, Steve Garvy, Scotland, Dianna Gibson, Klaus Goldbeck, Jean-Pol Grandmont , Ernest Gugel, Sonia Halm, Switzerland, Bret Hanson, George Hartwell, Melvyn Herbert, United Kingdom, Tom Hilton , Chris Hind, Scotland, Axel Hintze, Germany, Bill & Mary Hoffman, William Holden, Jason Hollinger, Frithjof Holmboe, Min Htut, Myanmar, Richard Hyde, United Kingdom, Harry Janis, The Netherlands, Christer Johansson, John Kahekuia, Zaire, Hannah Kang, Panayoti Kelaidis, Boyd Kline, Edgar Kline, Nkah Koeb Russian Federation, Karl Kristensen, Charles Kroell, Dr. Nick V. Kurzenko, Russian Federation, Lobsterthermidor, Krista Lundgren, John Longanecker, John Lykkegaard, Denmark, Vahe Martirosyan, Jason Matthias Mills, Cheung Siu Ming, Hong Kong, Gene Mirro, Alan Mitchell, Scotland, Hiroshi Moriyama, Japan, Keir Morse, Earl Nance, Oldrich Navratil, Czech Republic, National Institute of Ecology, Korea, Joseph Nemmer, Jan Nilsson, Rictor Norton, Sweden, Bjornar Olson, Denmark, Paddy Parmee, United Kindgom, Gideon Pisanty, Israel, Lee Poulsen, Thorkild Poulsen, Richard Ree, Riz Reyes, John Rusk, Claire Scobie, Australia, Doreen & Vernon Smith, Göte Svanholm, Sweden, Moto Shimizu, Japan, Steven Thorsted, Simon J. Tonge, Dr. Amadej Trnkoczy, Uleli, Ron Vanderhoff, Paul Van Egdom, Holland, Miguel Vieira, Magnus Wallstén, Switzerland, Pontus Wallstén, Switzerland, Yijia Wang, China, Lin Wei, China, Tony Willis, United Kingdom, Sheli Wingo, Bleddyn and Sue Wynn-Jones, United Kingdom, Dana York, and Peter Zale.

Please note that while this knowledge base is completely free for you to view, nearly all photographs were granted permission to be ONLY used for this project, which means they are not free to download or use in other publications or internet sites, without license or permission from the individual copyright holder (contributing photographer).

©2008-2024 Robert J. Gibson USA for layout and design - in Collaboration with Pontus Wallstén of Switzerland - whom without his lily contacts throughout the world, this work would not have been possible.

Pontus Wallstén has an excellent book titled 'The Lily Species and their bulbs' which we consider the most complete and detailed book ever printed on Lilium species. For more information on his book, Pontus can be contacted by email at . He also offers some rare, nursery grown species lilies in very limited quantities that are shipped from his nursery in Switzerland.

Our next step is to transfer this Photo Gallery to a Power Point presentation for loan to garden clubs, plant societies, or botanical gardens. It may also be moved to a separate WordPress website as well, however this will take some time to transfer.

Clicking on a photo will open a new page, with a larger image, and more information or additional photos both of the species as well as in some cases a hybrid example bred from that particular Lilium species.
Scroll to top