I can have Lilium canadense? Really?


Flickr Creative Commons photo by Franziskas Garten

If I hadn’t already put in a sizeable order for these with Brent & Becky’s, I wouldn’t be sharing the news of their new—and startling—availability. The picture in the B&B catalog isn’t the best I’ve seen of these—use Google or Flickr if you want to see them in their full glory. According to Michele, they flourish in the wild throughout her part of New York State, but I’ve never seen them around here. I have seen amazing images on various websites showing immense chandeliers of down-facing yellow-orange trumpets. The length of the flower tube, the flamboyantly outstretched petals, and the sheer number of blooms that each stately plant can hold—it all adds up to drool-worthy in my book.

That’s why—though there are plenty of native lilium—I’ve always focused on this one. Many gardeners grow the superbum (Turks cap), but that variety is too similar to the henryi, martagon, and other downward-facers I already have. I have a feeling that canadense will flourish in the same terroir as my martagons—dense, acidic, and slightly shaded. (Speaking of martagons, there seems to be a new, cool hybrid of these on offer every year—check it out.)

Canadense is rarely offered commercially (Old House Gardens had it once), though I have seen it in various online seed exchanges. It’s getting rarer as a wildflower, and is listed as endangered in a few states and in its namesake.

Writing for Dave’s Garden, Diana Wind lists canadense as one of her top ten hummingbird attracters. The buds and roots were eaten by North American Indians. And here’s my favorite Lilium canadense factoid. It has a Facebook page, which I just liked, for the heck of it. Except that Facebook apparently thinks it’s an animal, and the page offers very little credible information.

I can have this? Really? If so, then here are the ones I want next:
L. nepalense (green outside, deep purple outside)
L. majoense (white with purple spots)
L. taliense (white recurved with near-black spots)
L. papilliferum (dark purple, rare and difficult)
L. nielgherrense (failure guaranteed, only included for name)

With bizarre species like these to yearn for (and occasionally get), who needs orange double echinacea?

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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 yahoo.com


  1. Elizabeth, I could drive over to Buffalo and hug you for this! This photo looks remarkably like a lily that I saw at a picnic at a fellow garden clubber’s home. He said it was a lily called ‘Thunderbolt’, but it’s one I’ve never been able to locate anywhere. I’ve been searching for 15 years! I haven’t yet delved into B & B’s catalog (it’s waiting – they’re all waiting), but if this is in there, it’s going to be in my garden this year. Thank you, thank you!

  2. Susan, I was so thrilled to see it finally for sale as a bulb. However, you may not want to hug me quite as much when you see the prices for this and some of the new martagons B&B has. It didn’t stop me, but …

  3. My parents found these growing in Milford, PA. Sadly, my dad thought if he pulled on the stalk, it would bring up the whole plant. He ended up pulling up just the stalk. I went back to the site later, trying to figure out where the bulb was, but no luck.

    I’ve wanted L. canadense ever since. If B&B are selling the true native bulb, then I’m thrilled.

  4. So very lucky! I’m drooling. Lilies like these don’t grow in our part of the country and even those reputed to grow here won’t grow in my yard.

  5. Super-beautiful, absolutely.

    I should say WHEN and WHERE I see them growing wild, namely when I take a canoe trip down the Battenkill River. They grow in the meadows beside the river.

    This suggests that they like rich, damp soil. In other words, very different conditions than many lilies, which do spectacularly well in the sandy, free-draining soil in my garden.

  6. These grow wild in and around my orchard, in partial shade. They do seem to take advantage of access to irrigation water. Also, I’ve seen them flourishing under and near fir and Lodgepole pine trees, which few other flowers seem to do.

  7. Beautiful. I’ve tried to grow Michigan lilly, without success. I’m tempted to give these a shot too, though I doubt they’ll love my limey midwestern soil.

  8. Back in my early garden years when there wasn’t nearly as many places to order plants or I just wasn’t aware of them (you had to look in the tiny ads in the back of garden magazines and send a SASE and a $1.00 to get no picture catalogues) I got this from WFF. It only lasted a few years before petering out. It was native, it was spotted orange, it hung down. I got it because I do not care for regular type pointing up lilles (don’t hit, me, one of my many character flaws). Was it ever offered by WFF, or was it some other type? It wasn’t called the turks caps. KNew I should have kept a garden diary.

  9. I would rather see these in a garden than datura family plants–I *think* these are safer/non-toxic/attractive to children who might eat them. They make me think of a jeweler’s elaborate version of a common lily.

    Some years ago at the SF Flower&Garden show, there was a display of a children’s garden by a pair or a firm who’d had a lovely child-centered display the year before. I looked up and back, and on the left/western edge, most of the way back, what do I see but a big yellow flowered Brugmansia, Angel’s Trumpet…related to the Datura of the same common name: beautiful and highly toxic, and not for children’s gardens. I remarked upon this to my friend, and we both wondered what possessed people who must have, should have known about the toxins in this plant–I know Amy does!

    The Wikipedia entry says: The concentration of alkaloids in all parts of the plant differ markedly. They even vary with the seasons and the level of hydration, so it is nearly impossible to determine a safe level of alkaloid exposure.

    And you’re putting this in a garden designed for children? How about some nice Castor plants, too?

  10. Elizabeth… I’m with you on l. nepalense. Check out Faraway Flowers – Kushi Mayan… a hybrid that has the good looks and better hardiness. Ooo la la.

  11. i’ve seen l. canadense growing thickly by the roadside in Maine, just across the border a few miles from Mount Washington. They were in a spot that gets full sun and run off from a road to a ski resort–which means, i assume, water tainted with road salt.

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