Lilium philadelphicum var. andium a true wonder for those people living on the Canadian prairies. It can still be found here in substantial numbers in areas which have been left relatively undisturbed.
I have to say that I am wonderstruck when I walk in a field of these lilies. As a lily enthusiast, I find it almost too good to be true. Therefore, because of my fascination for this lily, I have decided to have a closer look at those plants I have seen as well as those I have grown.
I will begin by describing the bulbs which are 1 to 1.5 inches in diameter and are made up of jointed rather than loosely arranged scales. From each bulb a single stem rises which can be from 6 to 24 inches in overall height on a mature flowering plant.
The leaves of this lily are scattered along the stem except for those located just below the inflorescence which are arranged in a single whorl. The colour is usually dull green.
The flowers are arranged in an umbel and those plants which I have observed have had from 1 to 5 flowers, although up to seven have been reported by others. The blooming period is in early June. I have found flowers in colours ranging from spotted glowing red to a clear unspotted lemon yellow. In the 'type', if I may so boldly use this term, the tepals are a soft medium orange-red giving way to a rich yellow throat. This yellow throat area is spotted with many fine or relatively few larger spots or a maroon-brown colour. The tepals are distinctly clawed at the base - a decidedly negative sounding term which I feel is not deserved. The stigma is very dark, almost black, while the pollen is a rusty red colour. Seeds are usually a rusty brown colour.
As mentioned earlier, I use the term 'type' with some trepidation as there is a great amount of variability in this species and in this particular case, the variety L.p. var andium. For example, a form which has been recognized is immaculatum (Raup, 1934). This form has clear lemon yellow flowers displaying yellow pollen and a very light yellow stigma. The seed is also a light buff-cream colour reminiscent of the seed of Lilium martagon var. album though the former is even lighter in colour and smaller in size. Perhaps because of its rarity, or simply because of its colour, the form immaculatum is truly a beautiful lily. There are also plants with spotted yellow flowers. Those which I have seen are probably more aptly described as splotched rather than spotted. This spotting or splotching is a red colour instead of the maroon-brown of the 'type'.
Intermediate colours have also been found which are what appears to be hybrids between the 'type' and the immaculatum form.
While looking at hundreds, perhaps thousands, of these lilies of the prairies this past summer, I came across a population in which some plants displayed their flowers in an outfacing fashion. This unusual conformation led one lily enthusiast, our present NALS president, Dr. Wilbert Ronald, to exclaim, 'Aha! Hardy trumpets on the prairies.'
Still further investigation of this lily led to somewhat surprising revelation. Plants were found which had very well developed stem roots. I had come to the conclusion after reading and listening to various sources that it lacked, or at best had, poorly developed stem roots. I definitely feel that some selection for these particular characteristics could lead to more vigorous plants.
Well, at this point you can imagine why so many people here on the Prairies, and I dare say elsewhere, would enjoy growing this lily in their gardens. It is well known by those who have tried, however, to be only short lived resident of an ordered garden. I have been fortunate to have had this lily in my garden for 5 or 6 years now. I must admit though, that the bulbs never seem to multiply. The flowers also have only number one to three, but never five as seen in its native habitat. It should be noted that plants bearing a high number of flowers are quite possibly genetically superior to my particular plants.
I have grown a number of plants from seed which I collected as well as seed which has been given to me by other admirers of this lily. Some of these plants or seedlings were a result of planned hybridizing between varius forms and also between widespread populations. I hope to obtain some hybrid vigour with these hybrids.
It has been my experience that roughly 30% of sown seed will germinate immediately (epigeal germination). I have not at this point done a thorough investigation into the viability of these seeds or just what percentage, if any, would ultimately be of delayed hypogeal type germination. This information would indeed be of great value in dealing with seed resulting from crosses amongst rarer forms.
Seeds are sown in a mixture of coarse peat moss, vermiculite and perlite in proportions resulting in a well draining growth medium. Germination should occur in about 4 to 8 weeks. The cotyledon will be followed by what are relatively small true leaves, that is, when compared to the first leaces of Asiatic hybrid seedlings. I try to disturb the roots as little as possible by initially sowing seed in individual cells of a plant pack. When the seedlings display their first true leaf, I repot them to a 4 inch pot - four per pot. Fertilizing is kept to a minimum using very dilute 20-20-20.
Seedlings from October sowings are placed out in the garden the following spring after what is hopefully the last frost. They will usually display 4 or 5 true leaves at this point. Exact placement in the garden is still a matter of experimentation. A few seedlings have been planted in bare ground, while other have been placed amongst a ground cover of wild strawberries. The rather loose growth habit of the wild strawberry gives a certain amount of shading and yet does not crowd out or overgrow the lily seedlings. I should say that those plants which I have had for several years are growing in a ground cover of Silene alpestris. This latter combination makes a pleasing planting, but S. aplestris unfortunately has a somewhat aggressive growth habit.
The soil in my garden is alkaline in nature, but soil that is neutral (pH7) should grow these lilies. Even soil which is somewhat acidic should not deter anyone from trying this lily. Drainage of all soil types, however, is very important.
Rainfall here in Saskatchewan is usually very scant (10-20") so plantings usually do receive some additional water before the blooming period. How much moisture can they tolerate? I honestly do not know. I have seen plants growing in very dry conditions and also in areas which would be described as very wet. Plants which were observed in those very wet areas appeared to be larger with more flowers per stem. The soil in these areas was notably sandy, and of a much drier nature by early fall.
by Jim Sullivan (CPLS Newsletter #62:3-5)
Raup, H.M. 1934. Phytogeographical studies in the Peace and Upper Liard River Regions, Canada, with a catalogue of the vascular plants. Contrib. Arnold Arboretum Harvard Univ. No. VI, 230pp.