Lilium Candidum (Madona Lily)
Flower of Aphrodite, emblem of the Virgin and, later, symbol of the Annunciation in early Renaissance paintings. This lily, one of the
oldest garden plants in the world, has a romantic and well- documented history.
Plant Lilium candidum and you will be planting the offspring of lilies whose outward facing profiles were copied by the Minoans in Crete on their pottery and in their frescoes (2800 - 2400 B.C.); lilies whose forms were represented in Assyrian bas-reliefs some 2,700 years old.
Lilium candidum bulbs, along with other goods, were carried on Phoenician trading ships from Asia Minor to areas throughout the Mediterranean. Roman legions used them for food and medicine. During the Dark Ages, the bulbs were cultivated in monasteries. Lilium candidum appears on plant lists from 1050 A.D. for cultivation in Eastern Islamic gardens. They were a favorite subject in Persian and Moghul paintings. The name ‘Madonna Lily’ was not used until the 1800’s.
Continue the history and the romance in your own garden...
Plant bulbs immediately upon purchase in Autumn. Choose a sunny location where the soil drains well. Bulbs do best where the soil is neutral or alkaline. Set the bulb about 1 to 2 inches deep with the tip of the bulb almost showing. It is best to grow your Madonna Lily
away from other lilies. Plant alone, in herbaceous borders, or in containers. The bulb will produce basal leaves that form a small rosee or wreath which will live over the winter. Stems form in the spring and the lily blooms in June/July. Plants have very narrow, elliptical leaves on stems reaching 4 feet in height. Five to 20 outward facing trumpets of glistening white are produced on each stem. Petals are slightly recurved at the tip. The fragrance is deliciously sweet, yet never cloying.
After blooming, this lily’s green foliage dies back quickly. The plant goes dormant until fall, when the cycle begins again.