Order: Liliales
Family: Liliaceae
Genus: Lilium
Species: L. candidum

MADONNA LILY - Lilium candidum

The Madonna lily - Lilium candidum is one of the most beautiful of all the species lilies as well as being one of the oldest in cultivation. In fact it is believed that the Madonna lily was first brought the Great Britain by the Romans. Records show that the crushed bulbs were applied to corns and sore feet - an occupational hazard for Roman foot soldiers.


Native to the Balkans and West Asia it is fully hardy in northern European climates but unlike other lilies which died back to the ground over the winter the Madonna lily retails a basal rosette of leaves. However the Madonna lily can be difficult to establish as it does not like having the bulb disturbed and it can be prone to the Botrytis fungus.

Of course pot grown madonna lilies are few and far between but pre-packed bulbs should be available to purchase in the autumn. Plant the Madonna lily in any well-drained soil that has been enriched with leaf mould or well-rotted organic matter, although they will prefer the soil to be a slightly alkaline. The are tolerant of drier soil and will positively thrive on thin, chalky ground. Place them in full sun but sheltered from strong winds. Pre-packed bulbs must be planted very close to the soil surface, no more than 1 inch deep. During warm, damp weather you may well find that you will have to spray your Madonna lily once a fortnight with a systemic fungicide in order to prevent botrytis fungus from taking hold.

The leafy flower stems emerge in late spring and can reach an average height of a meter or so, however it is  not unknown for  individual specimens to reach up to 2 metres. The fragrant, trumpet-shaped blooms appear in June and July with each flower approximately 10 cm long. They are the most beautiful pure white, flushed yellow at the base and are offset by six large stamens covered in gold-coloured pollen.

You can propagate the Madonna lily in the autumn by division, bulblet transplanting or scaling. They will also grow readily from seed. Sow the seed as soon as it is ripe in containers.Using a good good quality compost such as John Innes 'Seed and Cutting' sow them on the surface and then give them a further covering of compost. Gently water using a soft rose and then place them in a cold frame. The seedling should then start to emerge in 6-8 weeks.

For related articles click onto the following links:

CROWN IMPERIAL LILY - Fritillaria imperialis   Lilium candidum    The Turks Cap Lily  The Foxtail Lily  The Japanese Cobra Lily  The Giant Himalayan Lily   The Japanese Cobra Lily  The Stargazer Lily  The Hardy Spider Lily   The Golden Foxtail lily - Eremurus bungei


About the Author

The 'Seeds of Eaden' website is the brainchild of professional horticulturist and multi-award winning gardener Simon Eade. After six years of study; two years 'Retail Horticulture' at Hadlow College, then four years Commercial Horticulture at Greenwich University, Simon has worked in a number of 'fields' within the industry for over twenty years. Most notably, managing the prestigious Alexandra Palace garden centre in London. Since then he has become an internationally published writer, and author of the popular 'Garden of Eaden' blog.

Simon Eade is also a recipient of the Royal Horticultural Society's Banksian medal

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