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cut flower of the month
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hybrid lily

Lilium x hybrida
(LIL-ee-um HIGH-bri-duh)

• Asiatic hybrid lily (formerly called Mid-Century hybrids)
• Oriental hybrid lily
• LA hybrid lily (longiflorum/Asiatic)
• LO hybrid lily (longiflorum/Oriental)
• OT hybrid lily (Oriental/Trumpet, Orienpet)
Note: The longiflorum species is the common Easter lily.
All hybrid lilies are the result of genetic crosses between at least two and as many as 12 species in the Lilium genus.

• Depending on type of hybrid, single-flowered lilies’ six-petaled blooms range from about 4 inches (Asiatic) to 8 inches (Oriental) in diameter. Relatively new on the market are double-flowered Oriental lilies, which have multiple layers of petals.

• Hybrid lily blooms typically number from three to 12 per stem and can be upward, outward or downward facing, depending on species and variety. Some petals can be strongly recurved.

• Radiating from the core of the blooms are the stamens, which consist of the stemlike filaments that support the pollen-bearing anthers (see “Challenges: Pollen Stains,” ).

• Hybrid lily stems, which range in length from about 20 to 40 inches, have spirally arranged or whorled leaves that vary from narrow and grasslike to short and broad.

• Many Oriental and OT hybrid varieties are fragrant, with some cultivars being stronger than others. Asiatic, LA and LO hybrids generally have slight or no fragrance.


Hybrid lilies are available in solid colors (with or without speckles) and bicolors (speckled, striped and/or splashed). The color range includes pinks, reds and burgundies; oranges, from red-orange and rust to peach/apricot and salmon/coral; yellows, from pastel to bright; pale green; and whites/ivories/creams/tans.


Four to 11 days is the typical vase life for a stem of cut lilies, depending on type, variety and care. Individual blooms generally last from two to four days each.


Asiatic, Oriental, LA and OT hybrid lilies are available year-round from both domestic and international growers; however, not all cultivars are produced year-round (certain varieties are grown only during specific months).
LO hybrids are newer and have more limited production and availability.


vase-life extenders

Unpack lilies immediately upon their arrival at your facility, and check flower quality. Remove all sleeves and stem bindings as well as any foliage that would be under water in storage containers.
If you cannot immediately attend to lilies, open the boxes, and place them into a floral cooler until you can attend to the flowers.


Recut stem ends with a sharp blade, removing at least 1 inch of stem. Immediately after cutting, dip or place stem ends into a hydration solution, to help the flowers absorb water more quickly and easily, then place them into containers half filled with properly proportioned bulb-flower-food solution made with cool nonfluoridated water (some lily varieties are sensitive to fluoride, which most tap water contains).
If bulb-flower food is not available, place lilies into a holding solution (low-dose flower food) in storge containers. Use a full-dose flower food only in arrangement containers—or in storage containers if you need blooms to open quickly.

Immediately after processing, place lilies into a floral cooler at 33 F to 36 F, and allow them to hydrate for at least two hours before using or selling them. Some types and varieties of hybrid lilies can begin opening almost immediately, but refrigeration will slow that process.


Lilies are sensitive to ethylene gas although the degree varies by hybrid type and variety. Asiatic hybrids are the most sensitive. Exposure to ethylene can cause bud, petal and leaf drop; bud withering; and leaf yellowing.
Make sure your purchases, especially Asiatic hybrids, are treated with an ethylene inhibitor at the farm or during shipping. In addition, keep them away from sources of ethylene in your facilities such as produce, particularly ripening fruit; decaying flowers and foliage; vehicle exhaust; and tobacco smoke.


Instruct customers to recut the stems and to change the vase solution every other day using the bulb-flower nutrient you provide.
Also advise them to remove blooms as they fade and leaves as they yellow, to keep their flowers out of direct sunlight and warm drafts, and to carefully remove anthers as soon as blooms open (see “Challenges: Pollen Stains,”).



Lily pollen will stain anything it touches, so remove all anthers immediately after each bloom opens, and advise customers to do the same. Whether or not removing anthers shortens lilies’ vase life is a point of contention: Some flower care authorities say that doing so “does” or “can” shorten vase life while others say it does not. Several pollen-free varieties have been introduced in recent years.
If pollen gets on fabric, brush it away gently with a soft brush, piece of tissue or chenille stem. Do not wet the fabric or touch the pollen with your hands. If any stain remains, place the fabric outside in direct sunlight until the stain disappears. Pollen stains also can be removed from washable fabrics by pretreating and washing them with an enzymatic laundry detergent.


Hybrid lilies experience hormone imbalances when they are cut from their bulbs. These imbalances cause premature leaf yellowing, failure of buds to open, loss of color vibrancy and reduced vase lives.
Bulb-flower foods contain naturally occurring plant hormones (or plant growth regulators—PRGs), and they have a lower concentration of sugar than standard flower foods, which can aggravate leaf yellowing. Ideally, bulb-flower-food solutions should be prepared with nonfluoridated water. (For additional information on leaf yellowing and hormone imbalances, see below and “Purchasing Tips,” No. 2.)
Postharvest treatments, formulated for use at the grower and wholesaler levels, also can correct some of these imbalances and reduce leaf yellowing.

In addition to hormone imbalances, leaf yellowing can result from a too high concentration of sugar in flower-food solution (more than 3 percent), exposure to ethylene, too low storage temperatures and/or poor growing conditions.

Causes include exposure to ethylene, refrigeration at too low temperatures and/or cold storage for too many days.

The most common cause is exposure to ethylene.


purchasing checklist

• Choose lilies that have at least one or two fully developed and colored—but unopened—buds per stem. Avoid bunches with a number of open blooms.
• Make sure the lilies you purchase are treated at the grower or wholesaler with an anti-leaf-yellowing treatment developed specifically for lilies as well as an ethylene inhibitor (see “Vase Life Extenders: Ethylene Sensitivity,”).
• Check buds, stems and leaves for bruising, browning, yellowing, mold and rot.

fun facts

Hybrid lilies are members of the Liliaceae (lily) family and are related to daylilies, Gloriosas, lilies-of-the-valley, hyacinths, tulips, stars-of-Bethlehem and Fritillarias, among others.

The lilies from which these hybrids are derived are native to Japan and China.


To view 40 additional lily varieties, please download the pdf.

(printable PDF)
If you have trouble viewing these PDF (portable document format) files, download a copy of the free Adobe Reader.

Some information provided by:
Botanica, by R.J. Turner Jr. and Ernie Wasson
Chain of Life Network® ,
Cut Flowers of the World
  by Johannes Maree and Ben-Erik van Wyk
Hortus Third
  by Liberty Hyde Bailey and Ethel Zoe Bailey
SAF Flower & Plant Care,
  by Terril A. Nell, Ph.D. and Michael S. Reid, Ph.D.


Photo: Holland America Bulb Farms, Inc.