Plant Orienpet bulbs in spring, have fragrant lilies by summer’s end

March 15, 2017

Tales of Aladdin and the magic lamp, Sinbad the sailor, genies and even magic carpets come to us from Arabian mythology. In “1001 Arabian Nights,” we hear of the king who chose a new bride every night and had her beheaded the next day so she could never be unfaithful. The young bride Scheherazade beat the system by telling the king a story at night but not finishing the tale until the next day. 

Scheherazade lives on in our gardens as a dark, red, fragrant lily with recurved flowers edged in gold with white margins. Like its timeless namesake this lily is hardy and perennial. 

Scheherazade is the most popular of a new class of lilies called Orienpet or Tree Lilies. These are hybrids between oriental and trumpet lilies, and they bring together the best of both species. They grow taller every year, and by the third year can reach eight feet tall or even higher. 

All Orienpet Lilies bloom with enormous flowers, up to 10 inches across. These fragrant, waxy flowers are among the last lilies to bloom, so they can extend your lily season well into August. Best of all, they are true perennials, and will spread or naturalize over the years. 

There are now many varieties of tree lily in addition to Scheherazade. Big Brother Orienpet Lily has incredible flowers up to 15 inches across. The outward-facing flowers are white with pastel yellow throats. 

Silk Road has clusters of white flowers with an almost crimson-pink throat or center, and the tiniest speck of yellow in the very center. Once established, Silk Road sprouts secondary buds that make this one of the longest-blooming lilies ever. 

Orienpet or Tree Lily bulbs are often available from local nurseries or mail-order companies such as White Flower Farm (800-503-9624 or or John Scheepers ( 

Plant Orienpet or Tree Lilies in well-drained soil in full sun. Space the bulbs about eight to 12 inches apart. Be sure the bulbs have the pointed end facing upward. After planting, water thoroughly and then only water as needed throughout the year. All lilies do best in cool soil, so they can be mixed with shorter ferns or ground covers. If you decide to cut Tree Lilies, always leave two-thirds of the stem on the plants. Let the foliage go yellow and die back after flowering so the leaves can produce food for the following year's flowers. 

Orienpet Lilies do fine in average soil with a pH close to 6.0. You can fertilize in early spring with a good slow-release organic fertilizer. Avoid using too much fertilizer or fertilizers high in nitrogen. Too much nitrogen results in lots of leaves and few flowers. 

If your Tree Lilies get too crowded after a few years you can dig them up and divide them in late fall when they are dormant. You may find small baby bulbs or offset bulbs which will eventually grow into full-sized lilies.  With so little effort, you can plant Orienpet liies this spring and have huge, towering, fragrant lilies by the end of summer. Best of all, they will come back year after year for more than 1001 nights. 

  • Paul Barbano writes about gardening from his home in Rehoboth Beach. Contact him by writing to P. O. Box 213, Lewes, DE 19958.

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