Doubles—it depends



The other day, while I was trying to look up why my L. tigrinum flore-plenos have white fuzz all over their stems and buds, I came across the following: “has double flowers, but, in my opinion, is rather coarse. The style and grace of a lily flower lies in its clean lines and simple architecture. Double-flowered lilies destroy such grace.”

That’s in Armitage’s Herbaceous Perennial Plants. Thankfully (as I suppose I should have known), he also informed me that the white fuzz comes with the plant. I am not so sure a single tiger lily is that much more elegant than the flore-plenos (above), which are not really fully double. I’m not sure I’d apply the word elegant to either, actually, though I like both.

There does seem to be some prejudice against double hybrids, depending on which authority you read. Here’s Christopher Lloyd: “Double daffodils may seem like an unwelcome aberration, …”,—although he does modify the statement.

I can see where a double Casa Blanca or Silk Road would make very little sense—the single forms of these are heavy enough on their slim stems and can seldom get along with staking. But the flore-pleno, rare among my lilies, can stand up on their own, and I prefer the fascinating henryi to a single tigrinum, which too often get confused with orange daylily types.  That said, I would agree double forms aren’t a good idea for lilies.

As for daffodils, I’m fascinated by the doubles, but recognize their problems (mainly, too heavy, especially in wet spring weather).  Mileage varies widely with attitudes toward extreme hybridization. Should it be anything the market will bear or are there limits? The only thing I worry about is the disappearance of the traditional cultivars or species from stores. (Imagine a world of nothing but Endless Summer hybrids with not an arborescens or oakleaf in sight.)

And then there’s the problem of all the crazy names under which lilies are sold.  Tree lilies, anyone?

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regularly radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world,and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


  1. I’d be hard-pressed to think of any doubles that are a visual improvement over singles. Part of what I love about flowers are their unique forms and shapes…that’s all lost when all flowers are reduced to a ball of petals.

  2. Meh… doubles are hit or miss for me. Double daffs always flop over, while double echinaceas and sunflowers are useless to insects and birds. Double peonies are the only ones I support, because I know that they are environmental deserts in my part of the world anyway.

    …I do love double sunflowers though…

  3. Daffodils are such a country flower, that I only like them in my city yard if they are doubles, and look like something else entirely.

    Double lilies? Don’t see the point, when the original is so very graceful.

  4. Give me an old double daffodil over those hideous, modern ‘split corona’ daffodils any day.

    I generally go for single blooms, but double peonies and dahlias I like much better than singles.

    Frankenflowers are just not my thing. Usually, the closer to the species the better. Have you seen Echinacea ‘Hot Papaya’ or ‘Milk Shake’?? Awful! People will buy them to begin with, but they won’t last on the market long.

  5. I planted 3 plants of the pictured lilies 3 or 4 years ago. Went outside to check them out. 6 stems. One plant made 3 stems, another 2, and the last 1 make six all together.
    A very trouble free plant
    No pollen or smell
    Not one bug
    Sturdy stems with only one cut.

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