Friday, June 1, 2012

Spotted a Leopard at the Garden this week…

'L. pardalinum'
While poking around the bulb garden at the Missouri Botanical Garden this week, my new horticultural friend Sophia, pointed out the Leopard Lily blooming near the Magnolia grove.  Many of you know this lily as ‘L. pardalinum’, one of the only native California lilies that grow outside of its native environment and just about anywhere it’s not too hot.  As you can see from the pictures in this posting, it has bright orange-red petals that are splashed with golden leopard spots.  Its leaves form a whorl around each stem…similar to the Martagon and American Hybrid lilies.  They were actually brought into gardens during the era of the California gold rush of 1848 to 1855.

Lilium pardalinum can reach heights of 6 feet and they are hardy to zone 5. They usually flower in July, with seeds ripening from August to September. But this year…our early spring has produced an early flowering of late May at the botanical garden.  The flowers are hermaphrodite, having both male and female organs, and are pollinated by bees, butterflies, and sometimes horticulturists.

L. pardalinum
This lily succeeds in almost any soil that is moist but not water-logged.  They prefer a wet soil on a slope or a well-drained soil with a high water table.  They also tolerate lime. They do like full sun to dappled shade, but rapidly deteriorate if grown in deep shade. They are also fairly wind resistant but do better grown in a sheltered environment. ..preferring a woodland garden with a sunny edge.

This plant is rhizomatous, and forms clumps.  They increase rapidly by division, for example; each bulb may produce 5 new bulbs per year.  Early to mid autumn is the best time to plant out the bulbs in cool temperate areas, in warmer areas they can be planted out during late autumn.  The plant should be protected against rabbits and slugs in early spring.  If the shoot tips are eaten out the bulb will not grow in that year and will lose vigor. This lily is also a very variable plant; it is divided into a number of sub-species.

If you happen to visit the Missouri Botanical Garden during the first week of June this year, look for the Leopard Lily in the bulb garden.  It’s truly a sight to behold!

--By Lynn Slackman

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