Formosan lily – Tame this Beauty Before Adding to Landscape

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Formosan lily - Tame this beauty before adding to the landscape
Formosan lily - Tame this beauty before adding to the landscape

Formosan lily – Tame this Beauty Before Adding to Landscape

Formosan lily - Tame this beauty before adding to the landscape

It was quite surprising to see what looked like Easter Lilies in full bloom in a roadside ditch in Neely, Mississippi, but there they were. The tall, single-stemmed plants had multiple white trumpet-shaped blooms a full four to six inches long. Earlier in the week, a woman called my office to tell me about these plants she had seen and to ask if we could help her identify them.

Formosan lilyActually looking at a plant is a lot different than trying to identify one over the phone. When she first called, I thought her mystery plant might be one of the Crinum lilies but wasn’t sure how it got into the ditch bank. It couldn’t have been our native Spider Lily (Crinum americanum) since its petals are not trumpet-shaped. Neither was the location of an old home place as I thought it might be. Instead, the plants were thriving in a thicket of weeds. Our caller found them growing just far enough off the road to make her think twice about plunging headlong in to get a closer look. After all, Greene County has its share of copperhead snakes.

Most everyone knows that Easter Lilies naturally bloom in the summer months. They must be “forced” to bloom in early spring by nursery growers who use a combination of cold temperatures and supplemental lighting to make them bloom prolifically by Easter. To my surprise, the mystery plant, although very similar to Easter Lilies was actually the Formosan Lily.

The Formosan Lily (Lilium formosanum) is a striking plant. Some of those we found are easily seven feet tall. The lance-shaped leaves are smaller and narrower than the Easter Lily, but its flowers are just as gorgeous as well as fragrant. As far as plant vigor, the Formosan was making a statement of strength as it stood high and mighty among the tough roadside competition. I stood there imagining how good this plant would look in my garden, but I restrained myself after thinking of the snakes.

Before we leap out and grab the Formosa lily for our gardens there are two things to consider. First, because of its vigor, the Formosan can be invasive. These we found had escaped and were doing just fine in harsh conditions. When a plant performs this well it can flourish to the point that it displaces native species. It’s also fast. Seeds sown in January will likely bloom by September. A second caution is that the Formosan lily is susceptible to several viruses, so be forewarned that adding it to plantings of other Lilies may introduce the virus.

The Formosan likes full sun and moist, acidic, well-drained soil. It has outstanding flowers that would look great in any garden. However, consider the risks and be sure you can tame this beauty before adding it to your landscape. Happy gardening!

Source: University of Mississippi

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