Asiatic Lily, Purple Eye

Quick Overview


FULL SUN The Asiatic Lilies are the most popular lilies cultivated today. The species produces the shortest plants of any group. Unlike the other lily species, the Asiatics produce a closely clustered group of blossoms at the top of the blossom stem. The impression is of a grand bouquet on a single stem. That is why the Asiatics are so popular as cut flowers. Purple Eye, like Easy Dance, is one of the rare bi-colors which produce blossoms that are jet black in the center and lighter colored near the ends of the petals. Purple Eye has a deep blackish purple center that fades gently to a stunning reddish purple on each petal. This organization of petal color variation is unusual for lilies, because most bi-color lilies have light colored centers and dark colored ends of petals. One of the most famous was Netty’s Pride, a black centered, white tipped bi-color. Purple Eye is most likely related to Netty’s Pride. The plants are 32-40 inches tall and hardy from Hardiness Zones 3-9.

Height: 32-40 in.
Bloom Time: Mid-Summer
Hardiness Zone: 3-9

Type Spacing Planting Depth Days to Germination Maturity
Asiatic 6-8 in. 8-10 in. 21-35 60-75

Asiatic Lily, Purple Eye

In the horticulture world of today there are 7 major lily divisions: Asiatic, Martagon, Candidum, American Hybrids (Turk’s Cap), Longiflorum, Trumpet Hybrids and Oriental Hybrids. Asiatic Lilies are the most popular lilies grown today, and since the mid-20th century, more development work has been done on this group of lilies than all the rest. Most of the Asiatics available today have in their lineage the DNA of one of the greatest species lilies of all time, L. regale. L. regale was discovered in 1903 by Ernest “Chinese” Wilson, the Englishman who became the Director of The Arnold Arboretum, one of America’s most prestigious horticultural assets.

In her marvelous book, BULB, Anna Pavord relates the story of the Wilson’s discovery as described by Wilson himself. Wilson came across the lily, by accident, in a remote, inaccessible area of western China known as the Min Valley. He wrote,

“There in narrow, semi-arid valleys down which thunder torrents, and encompassed by mountains composed of mudshales and granites, whose peaks are clothed with snow eternal, the Regal Lily has its home. In summer the heat is terrific, in winter the cold is intense, and at all seasons these valleys are subject to sudden and violent windstorms against which neither man nor beast can make headway. There, in June, by the wayside, in rock crevices by the torrents edge, and high up on the mountainside and precipice, this lily in full bloom greets the weary wayfarer. Not in twos or threes, but in hundreds, in thousands, aye, in tens of thousands.”

Wilson, on this specific collecting trip gathered thousands of lily bulbs. Three thousand bulbs made it back to England and were cultivated. L. regale was introduced and made available to the British public in 1905. Its instant popularity has not diminished since.

Asiatic Lilies are so beloved because they tend to be shorter than either the Oriental Trumpets or the Orientals. Rarely are they taller than 30 inches. They are vigorous and love containers as well as the open garden. Some are fragrant; some are not. Their blossoms come in the widest range of colors and shapes of any lily species. They epitomize every quality that we gardeners seek in a flower.

Planting Lilies in Containers

Lilies LOVE being grown in containers, but the containers must be deep – at least 10-12 inches. Use the soil mix described in detail in our Harvesting History YouTube video. Do not use prepared soil mixes.

The Best Soil Mix for Containers

Briefly the soil mix is 60% topsoil, 20% peat moss and 20% compost or dehydrated cow manure. You can plant according to the following chart:

Type 10-12 inch 14 inch 18 inch
Asiatics 3 Bulbs 5 Bulbs 10 Bulbs
Orientals 2-3 Bulbs 3-5 Bulbs 6-8 Bulbs
Oriental Trumpets Tigrinums 2 Bulbs 3 Bulbs 4 Bulbs

Plant the bulbs 8 inches deep. Dust the hole with ¼ cup bone meal per bulb. Cover the bulbs with 8 inches of soil. Water heavily, but do not allow the pots to stand in water. Once the lilies have emerged from the soil, fertilize every two weeks with blossom booster fertilizer.

In the fall, when the top growth has died completely back, remove the dead growth and dust the surface of the soil with bone meal. Mulch with 2 inches of compost, if possible, or a mix of peat moss and dehydrated cow manure-5 parts peat moss to 1 part manure.

Make sure you water your lilies throughout the summer. Do not allow the pots to dry out.

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