Double lilies—what do we think?


Late summer flowers are hard to come by around here. Dahlias and zinnias don’t do well in my conditions, so in August I get by with roses, rudbeckia, buddleia, phlox, the ever-blooming hydrangeas, and plenty—plenty!—of annuals. By this time of year, the only lilium blooming in my garden are a few speciosum rubrum and album. However, thanks to a test program, this summer I also have a batch of late-blooming “double” lilies, most of which are still in bud, with only one or two petals unfurling. Is it exciting to anticipate lilies this late in the season? Yeah baby.

This is not the first I’ve heard of double lilies. The Lily Garden offers one or two of these every so often, and I’ve also bought bulbs at garden shows from Maplecrest. I regularly grow L. lancifolium Flore Pleno (above), a wacky spotted orange that looks kind of like a flying squid before it opens up.

These doubles are fragrant whites and pastels; they were offered for testing by Longfield Gardens, a mail order house in New Jersey that sells bulbs and perennials. They must be the slowest-opening lilies I’ve ever had, for that alone I love them. (In comparison, the garden show doubles blew out in a week or so.)

It seems breeders select for plants that already create a fused section of petals in the center, breed more, and then you get bigger doubles. Other than that, it’s all a big secret.

This center fusing also makes the stamens magically disappear, so you have no pollen.

Some may call these fluffy green echinacea of the lilium world, but so far, I’m impressed. The stems are short and strong, there are plenty of buds, but mainly, they’re here now.

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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 regular 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 need some suggestions from all gardening friends everywhere….I’m designing some borders and need to know how much to charge for the design work.

    My work is primarily maintenance and planting, and I work alone most of the time, sometimes hire an extra hand.

    I work in the Lower Hudson Valley, New York.

    Some general ideas would be helpful.

    I love Rant, it’s my favorite source for information & camaraderie.


  2. Of course I forgot to comment on the double Lilies….they look great. I have a double orange daylily that bothered me at first…so ‘in your face’ but guess what, Ive gotten used to it and now look forward to it, even protect it from deer!

    Love your posts, Liz

  3. I was excited at the notion when I first read an advertisement for double lilies. On first seeing a double Oriental in a garden center, I was reminded of Christopher Lloyd’s (the garden writer, not the guy from ‘Taxi’) reaction to double snapdragons:
    “I had not realized, before, that snapdragons had entrails; but there they are, being coughed up before our eyes.” From ‘The Well-tempered Garden’. 1970. Now that’s some dry British wit.

  4. The white one is pretty, the orange one does look squid-like, and the pink one will probably look better when the extra petals open. Personally I like flowers to have stamens–and pollen. I know it’s messy, but I like it anyway. Clearly a minority position.

  5. I like them…at least with reservations. I don’t have any yet, but I like the idea of no lily pollen and I like the idea of late-blooming lilies. What will tell the tale is how they perform next year; do they reliably return? Expand? Suffer insect damage? We’ll see. You’re our explorer, Elizabeth, our Byrd, our Perry.

  6. Never saw the appeal of the double lily; it seemed so over the top as to be silly. Hearing about the seasonal lateness, however, challenges me to take another look. Perhaps I’ll try one & see if it grows (sorry!) on me!

  7. Sorry. No thanks. Looks like something from The Little Shop of Horrors. The bees are not impressed either.

  8. What about fragrance? One of the reasons some (if not many) of us grow lilies is their fragrance and I have noticed that the more a plant is breed the less its fragrance remains. Please tell us about this. Thanks!

  9. I tried some doubles, but they definitely did not look as wonderful as the pictures advertised. Perhaps these ones are better.

  10. I just came across an image of Chthulu. It reminded me of these double lilies. And who doesn’t like a few monsters lurking in the yard?

  11. I planted 6 double lilies this year, and they were slow to bloom, not until August, but there were beautiful and very fragrant! I plan on getting more next spring to plant if I can find them. I got mine off of QVC. They had nice sturdy stems, and grew from between 18″ high to maybe 24″ high. Only negative was I was supposed to get 2 bulbs each of 3 different colors and ended up with 1 white double lily and 5 of the pinkish ones. They were all pretty and they do finally open completely up, just takes them a while and the flowers last about 3-4 weeks (at least mine have).

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