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Stargazer Lily: Care and Growing Tips

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Photo of a Stargazer lily blossom in deep pink. These lilies are popular with florists.

Picture: this Stargazer lily is an example in deep pink. They make good cut flowers.

David Beaulieu

Stargazer Lily Plant Taxonomy:

Lilium 'Stargazer' is how plant taxonomy classifies this flower. The cultivar name is sometimes written as two words: 'Star Gazer.'

Stargazer Lily Plant Type:

Stargazer lilies are herbaceous perennials. They are also bulb plants, but -- unlike snowdrops for example -- they are summer-flowering bulbs, as opposed to spring bulb plants. They are hybrid plants.

Characteristics:

Commonly growing to about 3 feet high, these tall, slender plants should be spaced about a foot apart. Stargazer lilies bloom in clusters (with six or more in a cluster, often). Flowering time is typically June or July in my zone-5 garden. The flower color can range from light pink to a deeper pink (see picture, above right) or crimson. The pink flowers are dotted with prominent darker spots, and the blooms have white edging. The tips of the flowers are reflexed, and they sport long, showy stamens.

They are among the most fragrant flowers that one will find in the landscape. With a diameter of 6 inches or more, they are also rather large blossoms.

The dark green leaves are lance-shaped.

Planting Zones:

In terms of climate, the recommended planting zones for Stargazer lilies are 4-9.

Sun and Soil Requirements:

Grow Stargazer lilies in full sun and in a well-drained, evenly-moist soil. A loam with a slightly acidic soil pH is ideal ground for growing these plants.

Although flowering will be best when the plants are grown in full sunlight, Stargazer lilies like to have their roots kept cool. You can accomplish this by:

  1. Growing companion plants around them in such a way as to cast shade at the base of the plant
  2. Applying mulch at the base

Outstanding Features of Stargazer Lily, Uses in Landscaping:

Tall enough for planting in the middle or back row of a flower bed, Stargazer lily plants can serve as focal points, as they are sure to catch the viewer's eye with their large flowers bearing such vibrant colors. Tall as they are, they nonetheless generally don't require staking. For all their beauty, I still might choose their wonderful smell as their most outstanding feature if I were forced to choose just one quality.

Stargazers also make good cut flowers, which partly explains why so many florists carry them. When used in floral arrangements, they typically take center stage, as few flowers are showy enough to compete with them. For a hybrid introduced relatively recently (namely, the 1970s), the degree to which they have become a fixture in the floral world is remarkable.

"Asiatic" vs. "Oriental," True Lilies vs. Daylilies:

Stargazer lilies are classified as Oriental lilies. Some growers wonder, "What's the difference between the Oriental type and the Asiatic type?" Generally speaking, the Orientals have more fragrant flowers, are taller, and come into bloom a little later (although, for an Oriental type, Stargazers flower rather early).

Like Easter lily and unlike Stella de Oro, they are true lilies, not daylilies.

Stargazer Lily Care:

Plant Stargazer lily bulbs either in spring or fall. Plant the bulbs 6 inches deep.

Fertilize Stargazer lily plants from early spring until they are done blooming. If you use Osmocote slow release fertilizer or compost, you can get all your fertilizing done in one fell swoop in early spring. If, instead, you choose to apply a typical commercial complete fertilizer (10-10-10, for example), it is recommended that you fertilize once per month.

An added advantage of fertilizing with compost is that by mixing organic matter into the soil, you will promote the water-retention that these plants need, while maintaining good drainage.

Have you decided to use some of your Stargazer lilies as cut flowers? Then remove the anthers from the stamens sticking out of the middle of the flower to prolong the life of the bloom and eliminate staining (the anthers contain yellow pollen, which can be messy).

Deadhead each individual flower after it is done blooming (making your incision on the small flower stalk that separates the bloom from the rest of the plant). The reason behind deadheading in this case is to prevent the formation of seed pods, which would only use up energy that would otherwise go down to the bulbs (which is a better use for this energy).

As with all bulb plants, perhaps the most important tip to remember about their care is to let the plants continue to stand after blooming is over as long as they are green. Once the foliage turns completely brown, then you may cut them down to the ground -- but not before.

Divide the bulbs in fall if you wish to propagate them.

Bonus, Caveats in Growing Stargazer Lilies:

Poisonous plants for cats, Stargazer lilies can cause vomiting or even death upon ingestion, so keep your feline pets away from them.

But as a bonus, they are plants that attract butterflies and are also good hummingbird plants.

Among the pests that plague these bulbs are voles, deer, rabbits, beetles and aphids.

Origin of the Name:

This is a bulb with a hobby: stargazing. Well, not exactly. But the rather fanciful cultivar name does have some basis in fact. You see, while the various types of Oriental lilies generally bear flowers that face down, Stargazer lily flowers face up, as if gazing at the stars.


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