Stargazer lilies are a hybrid that was developed in 1974 by crossing Lilium auratum and Lilium speciosum, with the specific intention of creating an upward-facing flower. They are an oriental lily hybrid, as their ‘parent’ plants were native to East Asia.
They are an easy-care bulbous perennial plant that is grown for its striking blooms and glossy foliage. With a maximum height of around 4 feet, these lilies are tall in stature, making them suitable for middle or back row planting. Unusually, in spite of their height and large, heavy flowers, they do not need staking.
Stargazer lily Overview
|Origin||Hybrid developed in 1974 from Asian parentage|
|Scientific Name||Lilium Orientalis ‘Stargazer’|
|Type||Flowering perennial bulb|
|Common Names||Oriental Lily, Stargazer Lily|
|Height||Up to 4 feet|
|Toxicity||Poisonous to cats|
|Light||Full sun to partial shade|
|Watering||Average water needs|
|Pests||Slugs, snails, aphids|
There are many varieties of stargazer lilies that have been created, but they typically all fall into three main categories. These include the following.
These are the stargazer lilies which most people are familiar with. It is the most compact of all stargazer lilies, growing to around 2 and a half feet tall. These plants produce pink colored flowers with bright white edges, which are dotted with dark spots. They are hardy through USDA hardiness zones 3 to 8, and though they prefer full sun, they are tolerant of some shade, especially in warmer climates.
These lilies were developed as a hybrid between trumpet lilies and oriental lilies. They produce deep mustard-colored flowers with contrasting red spots. Their petals curl underneath themselves at the tips to create a dramatic look. These stargazers can be grown in full sun to partial shade, and are among the tallest of all stargazers at 4 feet in height. They are suitable for growing in USDA hardiness zones 3 to 9.
These plants produce pure snow-white flowers, which contrast nicely against glossy leather-like strappy foliage. White stargazers can be grown in warmer climates, with suitability for USDA hardiness zones between 3 and 10. They are true sun lovers and should only be grown in a position of full sun. White stargazers are also a tall variety of lily, growing to a maximum height of 4 feet.
Caring for Your Stargazer Lily
To get the best quality stargazer lily bulbs, you should buy them in spring for planting immediately. Check bulbs over to make sure they’re free from rot, and that they have a healthy look about them. Bigger bulbs will produce the best flowers. Select an appropriate site for planting your bulbs, bearing in mind that they can reach heights of up to 4 feet.
Prepare your soil for planting by ensuring it is well-draining, and adding extra grit and organic matter if necessary. Stargazer lilies will grow in most types of soils, but the soil should not be heavy clay soil, and it must be well-draining. They prefer slightly acidic soil, with a pH of between 6.3 to 6.9, though they will still grow well in neutral soils.
Plant the bulbs at a depth of around 6 inches and mulch over the top of the soil. This will help to keep the soil cool, and also aid in moisture retention. These bulbs will send up clusters of flowering shoots, so they should be planted at a distance of at least 8 inches from each other to allow them enough space to grow.
Once planted, water the bulbs generously to maintain moist soil, but do not allow the soil to become boggy as this can cause the bulb to rot. Stargazer lilies also work well when planted in containers. To do this, select an appropriately sized container of at least 6 inches in diameter, ensuring it has drainage holes in the bottom. Fill the pot with a well-draining soil, and tuck the bulb into about 5 inches deep. Cover it well and water moderately.
Stargazer lilies need to be grown in continuously moist soil, and you should take care to ensure their soil does not dry out. However, these plants will not fare well in soggy and overly wet soils, so it's imperative that you strike a good balance.
The best way to make sure your plants receive the right amount of moisture but are protected from sitting in wet conditions is by choosing a good quality soil. A well-draining soil with a good proportion of organic matter will be best, as this will hold some moisture close to the plant's root system while also having the ability to drain excess water away.
Adding organic matter to your soil is a good way to achieve the level of moisture retention you are looking for. A well-draining soil without organic materials could drain too quickly, therefore not giving the plant a chance to drink any of the water. Equally, poorly draining soil will create boggy conditions, which will cause the bulb to rot and lead to the death of the plant.
Water your stargazer lilies whenever the top layer of soil feels dry to the touch. Typically, each plant will need one inch of water per week throughout the growing season, whether that is delivered through rainfall or manual watering. Water the plant heavily, with the aim of thoroughly soaking all of the soil. This is best achieved with a long and slow irrigation process.
Be careful not to water from above, as this can damage the delicate flowers. Ideally, use a hose low to the ground, or a drip irrigation system at soil level. Cease watering over the winter when the plants enter a period of dormancy.
Stargazer lilies should be grown in a full sun position for the best results. With around 8 hours of full sun each day, these plants will produce large luscious blooms. They will tolerate partial shade, but this can be problematic.
As the plants stretch out to seek more sun, their stems become leggy. If this happens, the stems will not be able to hold the weight of their large flowers and will droop over unless they are staked. Stargazer lilies grown in full sun will have much sturdier stems and will not require staking (Gardenia).
Stargazer lilies are hardy throughout USDA hardiness zones 3 to 9. They grow easily in all of these zones but do particularly well on the warmer end of the scale, where summer temperatures are consistently between 80 and 90º F.
These plants are truly sun lovers and like to have their foliage, stems, and flowers bathed in the sun and heat all day long. They thrive in the hot temperatures that come along with this. However, they do like to have cool roots. In order to keep the bulbs and root systems cool, apply a layer of mulch over the soil. This insulates the soil, keeping it cool in summer and warm in winter. Mulch will also help the soil to retain moisture.
Stargazer lilies produce offshoots from their bulbs, which are essentially baby bulbs. These can be removed from the main bulb and planted up separately to create a new set of lilies. To do this, you can dig up your original stargazer lily during any time of year that the plant does not have leaves or flowers, though early spring or late fall is preferable.
You should avoid digging the plant up when it is in the growing season, as this can affect its ability to produce future flowers. Carefully lift the plant out of the ground and brush away the soil so that you can clearly see the bulbs. Use a sharp knife to separate the bulbs and replant them where you wish. The baby bulbs may take a few years before they are strong enough to produce flowers, so propagating this plant does require extra patience.
Stargazer lilies, like most hybrids, do not reproduce as readily as many other bulbs, and their success rate when it comes to propagation can be hit and miss.
As you might expect from a plant that has large and dramatic flowers, the stargazer lily is a heavy feeder. Give it a generous helping of balanced fertilizer at the beginning of spring when the shoots are emerging from the ground, and water it in.
Smaller doses of fertilizer can be applied every few weeks throughout the growing season to help the plant thrive, then cease fertilizing when the summer ends.
Some growers have had good success at growing stargazer lilies without fertilizer, so it isn’t an essential part of lily care, but it is recommended to achieve the best results.
These plants require minimal pruning. When flowers are spent, you can deadhead them by cutting them off on the small stalk, which attaches the flower to the main stalk. Removing flowers once they have faded helps with the overall health of the plant, as it prevents energy from being used in seek production, and instead, that energy can be utilized in other areas of the plant.
After the flowers have all gone, the foliage of the plant will remain. As the leaves die, they will come yellow and eventually brown. It can be tempting to remove the leaves as they turn yellow, but in fact, leaving them on the plant for as long as possible is beneficial to the plant's health.
As the foliage dies, the plant sucks up all of the nutrients from the leaves, storing it for later use. You should only remove the leaves once they are completely browned, and at this point, they will come away very easily. Once the plant is bare, you should cut any remaining parts back to the ground level.
These plants produce stunning flowers that are large and showy. They are bowl-shaped, with a distinct spicy fragrance that some people find unpleasant. The flowers bloom from mid to late summer, with up to 8 blooms produced on each stalk. The petals of the flowers are a brilliant white, with a flushed pink center and dark pink spot. The vibrant colors of the petals are contrasted by the mustard yellow of the anthers.
Unusually for flowers which are so large - typically measuring more than 6 inches across - stargazer lilies do generally not need staking. They are among the easiest of all lilies to grow, and some would argue, the most rewarding. Stargazer lilies are commonly seen in bouquets, as they make excellent cut flowers.
Stargazer lilies can be grown indoors in containers. These will grow to a much smaller size than outdoor-grown lilies, but they still make beautiful gifts or houseplants. Grow them in a warm environment, ideally between 70 and 80ºF, and put them in the sunniest spot in your house.
Stargazer lilies are sometimes ‘forced’ to bloom at a particular time of year, for example, Valentine's Day or Mother's Day, so that they can be given as gifts. You can achieve this at home by first chilling the bulb before you plant it. To do this, put your bulb in a refrigerator and leave it there for 12 weeks. You can then plant the bulb when it is 90 days before your desired blooming date.
Like many other lilies, stargazer lilies are extremely poisonous to cats. Consumption of just a small amount of the plant can be enough to cause liver or kidney failure in a cat, which sadly is often fatal. Cat owners should avoid growing this type of lily in their garden or having cut flower stargazer lilies in their homes.
Even if your cat has never shown any sign of being interested in nibbling plants, you should still refrain from having this plant around your home, as it is so toxic that it is not worth the risk to your pets. Stargazer lilies are safe to have around dogs and other animals, and they are also not toxic to humans.