The genus Lilium

The genus Lilium and its characteristics

The genus Lilium currently includes about eighty species of plants, belonging to the Liliaceae family, native to Asia, Europe and a large part of the American continent. Known by the vulgar name of lily, the plants belonging to this genus are bulbous and, depending on the species or variety, the bulb is spherical and composed of different outer layers. The leaves, which start from the apex of the bulb and develop along the entire stem, are lanceolate, leathery and bright green. The central stem can reach two meters in height in some species (although most of the lilies on the market rarely reach one meter), at whose head the flowers develop, funnel-shaped and composed of six velvety petals. The range of colors is incredibly vast in this genre; it starts from white up to purple, passing through yellow and green. The hybrid forms and some artificially produced varieties have double or triple colors, some of which resemble the wings of some tropical butterflies.

The most common lilies

Of the more than eighty species of lilies present in nature, not many are commercialized, but some of them peep out among the various cultivars and hybrids. The best known species of all is the Lilium candidum, or “Madonna’s lily”. This species is native to the Balkans and its large but tapered flowers are pure white (hence the scientific name), with thin and shiny leaves. New cultivars with pink or amber petals were subsequently selected. Lilium bulbiferum is common in gardens and parks, where it easily lends itself to the enrichment of flower beds close to walls, but it is easy to find it spontaneously in many rural areas of the entire Peninsula; flowers are large and orange in color, flecked with yellow or brown, characteristic for being gathered in an umbrella inflorescence. Finally, the small Lilium davidii flaunts itself for its minute dimensions; in fact it does not exceed 120 centimeters in height and on its long tapered stem various flowers of modest size develop, orange and flecked with black, with petals turned backwards.

Cultivating Lilies

The cultivation of the lily is a simple practice to implement, since it requires few tricks. It starts from the bulbils, which are taken from the mother bulb in autumn and left to overwinter in a cool and dry place. In spring they are planted at a depth of about 20 centimeters, in soil mixed with sphagnum peat and river sand, taking care to water them regularly and keep the substratum constantly humid. After germination, they move into the garden or into a large pot, well exposed to the sun for at least eight hours a day. Fertilization is often not necessary, but to help the recovery of the bulbs, a granular fertilizer suitable for lilies can be used, to be mixed with the soil just before sowing. Flowering (which varies from species to species) begins in March and lasts until late autumn; during this time, dried flowers and leaves must be eliminated, to avoid the appearance of molds. When at the end of autumn the plant has concluded the vegetative cycle, the bulbs must be extracted from the ground and left to overwinter, or covered with PVC material until spring.

The main parasites

Although the genus Lilium is composed of particularly resistant plants, a recurring threat is represented by the Lilioceris lilii, a small chrysomelid beetle. This parasite, common throughout Europe, reaches the size of about 6 millimeters (8 or 9 in the female specimens) and both at the larval stage and in that of adult, infests and attacks the leaves, flowers and buds of the Lilium . The first symptom is given by the yellowing and holes (similar to burns) of the leaves; inspecting the lower side it is easy to see the larvae, small and covered with a dark substance, which constantly feast together with the adult forms, which are bright red in color. If the attack is localized, the parasites are eliminated with a cotton wool soaked in alcohol, but since these beetles are able to fly, it is good to implement protective measures to prevent the death of plants. There are several special products on the market, but it is possible to use pyrethrum or neem oil, taking care to apply it several times a week, especially in the leaf interstices and on young shoots.

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