Turk’s Cap Lily Information: How To Grow A Turk’s Cap Lily

Turk’s Cap Lily Information: How To Grow A Turk’s Cap Lily

By: Becca Badgett, Co-author of How to Grow an EMERGENCY Garden

Growing turk’s cap lilies (Lilium superbum) is an elegant way to add towering color to the sunny or partially shaded flowerbed in summer. Turk’s cap lily information tells us that these flowers nearly became extinct a few decades ago, because of their popularity as an edible. It seems the bulb from which the turk’s cap flowers grow is a tasty addition to stews and meat dishes.

Fortunately for the flower gardener, the also edible tiger lily distracted these amateur chefs from using all the bulbs of turk’s cap flowers, and the plant was able to re-establish readily. Growing turk’s cap lilies is fairly simple and the tough specimen again blooms in abundance.

Whorls of foliage sprout from the tall stems, along with orange flowers mottled with purple and numerous black seeds. Turk’s cap lily information says flower colors range from burgundy to white, with the orange freckled ones being the most common. The seeds can eventually grow into more turk’s cap lilies, but this is not the quickest way to get summer blooms.

How to Grow a Turk’s Cap Lily

Growing turk’s cap lilies need a rich soil that is slightly acidic for the best performance. In any case, soil for the bulbs must be well-draining. Before planting, amend soil for proper nutrient holding capacity and good drainage. Getting the soil right before planting results in easier turk’s cap lily care.

Then, plant bulbs in the fall. Turk’s cap flowers may bloom as high as 9 feet (2.5 m.), so add them to the middle or the back of the flowerbed or center them in an island garden. Add short annuals at their base to help keep roots cool.

Turk’s cap lilies, sometimes called Martagon lilies, are adaptable to dappled shade when growing in the landscape. More than other types of lilies, turk’s cap flowers will bloom in areas other than full sun. When planted in full shade, however, you’ll find the entire plant leaning toward the light and in this situation turk’s cap flowers may require staking. Avoid full shade areas for this specimen, as this will also reduce the amount of blooms on the turk’s cap flowers.

Other Turk’s Cap Lily Care

Use turk’s caps often as a cut flower. They’re long-lasting in the vase. Remove only one third of the stem when using them as cut flowers, as the bulbs need the nutrients to store for next year’s show.

Now that you’ve learned how to grow a turk’s cap lily and how easy it is to care for them, get some started in the garden this fall.

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To determine if a plant is sufficiently cold hardy, the USDA created numbered zones indicating winter low temperatures the lower the zone number the colder the winter.

  • If the coldest winter temperature expected in your area is -15°F (zone 5) then any plants rated zones 3-5 will survive the winter temperatures in your area.
  • If you live in very warm winter areas (zones 9-11) plants with zones 3-4 ratings are not recommended. The lack of freezing winter temperatures do not provide a time for winter dormancy (rest).

Find Your Planting Zone:

This fabulous lily, when happy, can bloom with as many as 40 flowers on a single plant.

The name, Turks Cap refers to the recurved petals, which someone saw as similar to a turban.

Further Reading:

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12 Turk's cap lily

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you are buying 12 Turk's cap lily (Lilium superbum) mature root systems.Lilium superbum is a species of true lily native to the eastern and central regions of North America.Common names include Turk's cap lily,turban lily, swamp lily,lily royal American tiger lily.The native range of the species extends from New Hampshire south to the Florida Panhandle, west to Missouri and Arkansas, and all the way north to Alberta
Lilium superbum grows from 3–7 feet (0.91–2.13 m) high with typically three to seven blooms, but exceptional specimens have been observed with up to 40 flowers on each stem.It is capable of growing in wet conditions.It is fairly variable in size, form, and color.The color is known to range from a deep yellow to orange to a reddish-orange "flame" coloring with reddish petal tips.The flowers have a green star at their center that can be used to distinguish L. superbum from the Asiatic "tigerlilies" that frequently escape from cultivation (ATTENTION: DURING THE MONTHS OF MARCH,APRIL AND MAY THERE MAY BE A SHIPPING DELAY THESE MONTHS ARE OUR RUSH MONTHS) ****WE TRY TO SHIP ALL ORDERS ON TIME BUT DURING THE COVID-19 PANDIMIC PROCESSING TIMES MAY TAKE LONGER THAN USUAL******

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Not only have the hybridizers achieved upturned flowers (for shipability) to tingle the heart (and purse) strings of florists, but they’ve increased the color palette, bloom stint, stature and ease of cultivation for the gardening crowd. And a stronger plant translates into fewer chemicals, more lilies and a better world.

When do lilies bloom?

You can have lilies blooming in your garden all summer long by growing several different varieties:

  • Asiatic lilies bloom in early summer
  • Trumpet lilies bloom in midsummer
  • Oriental lilies bloom mid- to late summer
  • Oriental Trumpet (Orienpet) hybrid lilies bloom in late summer

What is the difference between Asiatic and Oriental lilies?

Asiatics, which bloom in early summer, are best known for their exceptionally broad range of colors, as well as wild patterns, brush marks, speckles and double blooms. Orientals, which bloom in late summer, are best known for their large, heavily scented flowers.

Which lilies are most fragrant?

The most fragrant lilies are Orientals, Orienpets and Trumpets, while Asiatic lilies are unscented. Some gardeners describe Orientals as having a spicy scent, whereas Trumpets emit a sweet perfume, and Orienpets offer a pleasant, light aroma (good if you have a sensitive nose).

Which lilies grow in shade?

Lilies flower best in full sun, but many gardeners find that they will also tolerate some shade. Species lilies, those originally found in the wild, are a good choice for light shade. Martagon lilies can also handle more shade than other lily types.

Are lilies poisonous?

Many lilies are highly toxic to cats, causing acute kidney failure if eaten. All parts of the plant are poisonous and many veterinarians recommend never bringing them into a home with cats. Use caution with Easter lilies and opt for floral arrangements without lilies. See more Common Poisonous Plants for Dogs and Cats.

Photo by: Carrie Critchley.

1. ‘Stargazer’

Hybridized in the 1970s, ‘Stargazer’ is one of the most popular lilies in modern history. Featuring upward-facing, vibrant pink spotted flowers up to 8” wide, this fragrant lily performs well in the garden and makes a good cut flower. ‘Stargazer’ is an Oriental lily that doesn’t require staking and can be grown in containers. As a bonus, it will attract butterflies and hummingbirds.

Wedding an Oriental and a Trumpet (OT or Orienpet hybrid) lily in 2002, the big-blooming, open-faced beauty ‘Touching’ was born, with a compact size and changing background shades starting with a creamy-yellow debut, evolving into a whiter shade of pale. Each wide petal is also streaked with peachy pink. Strong roots anchor the plant, and the flowers linger long in prime condition.


When Dutch garden designer Jacqueline van der Kloet needed a lily to span the summer months at the New York Botanical Garden’s Seasonal Walk, she headed straight for ‘Pink Twinkle’. This 3- to 4-foot, glowing coral-pink bloomer scarcely ceases its bloom stint throughout summer. With freckled blossoms that triple the size of its tiger lily parents and look you straight in the eye rather than bowing their heads, ‘Pink Twinkle’ can waltz with pink as well as orange companion flowers.


When Dutch breeders turned their hands to lilies, they went straight for the pizzazz and have been mixing suffused colors and essential traits ever since. Fifteen years ago, Mak Breeding started its foray into the Tango Lily series of Asiatic lilies, with a signature central “face” of contrasting shades. Recently introduced, Orange Art® does the series proud with its nearly neon, pumpkin-orange blossoms and densely packed shiny black dots toward the bull’s-eye.


The first lemon-colored Orienpet hybrid to jolt the lily world, ‘Yelloween’ was introduced in 2001 with seismic reverberations. This sunny-hued bloomer with lime veins still holds the championship title for its color. Economically, it offers several virtues that cut-flower growers adore—the upturned flowers and a willingness to perform at cooler temperatures than most lilies (which saves on greenhouse heating costs). As Arie Alders of Mak Breeding says, “Some come, some go, but this lily endures.”


In its native Siberia, China and Korea, Lilium pumilum weaves discretely through the grasslands. But when infused into the garden, its fiery colors spark, with an orange that verges on saffron. Standing about 1½ feet tall, this is one of the more demure lilies. The fact that the bulbs themselves are small makes it easy to nestle them in natural plantings. Bulb expert Anna Pavord recommends cutting the seed heads to allow as much of the plant’s strength as possible to return to the bulbs.


Legend has it that Lilium lancifolium sprang from the friendship between a hermit and a wounded tiger. When the tiger died, the hermit transformed his friend’s body into a lily. When the hermit passed, the flower spread over the Earth looking for its companion. Among the easiest lilies for naturalizing and readily visible from a distance, this species has tall (staking is imperative) candelabras bearing a constellation of luminous orange, speckled, nodding blossoms with recurved petals.


When a lily flower is described as a Turk’s-cap type, it’s the back-flung petals and the shape of the flower that the term describes, and lilies of several divisions share the trait. Martagon lilies are generally some of the easiest and hardiest to host. Although the flowers are relatively small, martagons go for quantity. In the case of Lilium martagon var. album, spires with two-dozen or more sparkling white flowers gradually open in a long, choreographed display.


The creation of Judith Freeman, an American breeder from the West Coast, ‘Scheherazade’ is a classic Orienpet hybrid and the love child between ‘Thunderbolt’ and ‘Black Beauty’. This towering lily can stand 8 feet tall and carry a bloom load of 40 sizable flowers per stem. Blossoms can appear to be edged with white or gilt with bright-rose markings darkening to burgundy. Although the flowers are dispersed, the spires require staking.


Ten years ago, Mak Breeding’s holy grail was to achieve an Asiatic lily that verged on black. Still considered the darkest maroon on the market, ‘Dimension’ is a deep, sultry shade of burgundy right down to the stamens and pistil. The petals are thick and waxy with the sheen of silk, and each flower is edged in red. Not only is ‘Dimension’ a great cut flower due to the shipability of the upturned flowers, it’s a strong garden contender as well.

Lilium lancifolium (Tiger Lily)

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Detailed Information


A raceme of a few to 40 nodding flowers on lateral stalks arising from the upper leaf axils and at the top of the stem. Flowers are about 4 inches across with 6 orange-red petal-like tepals strongly recurved backward, covered in many purplish brown spots and hairy near the throat. A long style and 6 long stamens flare out from the throat, the stamen tips (anthers) dark rusty brown and up to ¾ inch long.

Leaves and stem:

Leaves are smooth with distinct parallel veins, webby edges on the upper leaves, narrowly lance-like, 3 to 7 inches long and about ½ inch wide, numerous and alternate throughout becoming more oval and clasping at the top of the stem. In the axils of upper leaves are 1 to 3 small purplish black bulbets, that can emit roots while still on the plant. The main stem is unbranched, purple to nearly black, covered in fine cob-webby white hairs.


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Photos by K. Chayka taken at Battle Creek Regional Park, St Paul. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in both garden and roadside settings in Hennepin and Anoka counties.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Tiger Lillies are my favorite flower. We have about 3 plants in our backyard. Next-door neighbor has about 8, across the alley have about 20.

Maybe they are pretty but there are native plants I find more beautiful, especially where it comes to contributing to the local eco-system. Tiger lily fails in that respect.

A number of them were growing well on the basalt cliff and pothole trails.

I have probably 100 of these. my sister has maybe more. friends have the same.

Where can I acquire some of these tiger lilies. Thanks.

I wonder if people in general care at all about the disappearance of our natural landscape.

I think people care. I'm just not sure that it is such a sin to have a tiger lily in your garden. Certainly they don't seem as thuggish as many of the other terroristic plants you list as invasive.

The native Michigan Lily (or turk's cap lily) is a more tender and slender version of this. For gardeners to contribute to wildlife, now and in the future, we must be willing to forego many non-native beloved plants from our youth, before we knew better, and replace with species that are native to our area. If we all do this, we will help keep alive the native bees, native birds, native butterflies, and other native plants. What wonderful work! And how fun to discover all the native plants that we might not have even seen before. (Most plants travel by seed so if a person keeps a non-native species, they are making sure it grows in the wild areas too.)

I have these growing in my yard in a few places. Thanks for the info that they are non-natives. I am trying to get hold of the native types and will replace these interlopers.

These were growing naturally in my woods right at the North west side of Rush Lake. I planted some in my Iris garden believing they were 'the' native lily 'Turk's Cap'.

Here in Northern MN right across from Fargo ND in Glyndon, MN in Clay County we have native Tiger lillies growing in our ditches in the countryside next to redtwig dogwoods and the cattails. They are just thick off highway 9 by stockwood sighting which is 2 miles east of Glyndon city limits. Hope this helps my clay county friends find some tiger lillies! They are gorgeous.

Molly, I just want to note that the common name "tiger lily" might be applied to multiple species, as often happens with common names. What you see in your road ditch may actually be the native Lilium philadelphicum (better known in MN as wood lily) rather than non-native L. lancifolium (tiger lily).

There are quite a few of these growing by Otter Lake here in Hutchinson right along the road that runs behind my house.

The Tiger lillies near Glyndon, MN would be the same ones we had near the farm I grew up on. They did not grow in the woods. They grew out in the open in the ditches along side the open farm land in the flat prairie like Red River valley.

I have never seen a wild lilly but I want to anyone know where I can find them in the brainerd/baxter area

Brandon, tiger lily is not a "wild" lily, but a garden variety plant that can escape into the wild. If you're just interested in seeing lilies in the wild, they are not common but you may find them in prairie remnants along roadsides. Or try the Northland Arboretum in the Baxter/Brainerd area.

My Dad planted a tiger lily garden in Parkville (northern MN) in the early 50's and it was still there in 2014. We never found any new plants outside of the rock bordered four foot diameter garden. I started my own tiger lily garden in his memory in 2003 in Mountain Iron, MN. It seeds itself and is low maintenance. It is gorgeous when in full bloom. Your pictures and description confirm that it is a tiger lily.

I have some of the original Tiger Lily plants from my Mom's house in Coleraine, MN. (Hello Debbe- Mountain Iron!) We had them in Coleraine 1950s-present. The are the ones with the little black-ish seed-type balls between the leaves & black/purple spots on the orange petals. I have taken them to every house I've had in MN & still pass them out to friends & new home owners. LOVE THEM!

My husband found this lily growing all alone in the field next to our house. He asked me what it was and I recognized it as a lily but never one I have seen before. Very unusual. It appears to be a lilum lancifolium. Is it rare to be in Wisconsin?

growing in the ditches along County Rd. 22 west of Wyoming in Linwood Township.

Wanda, orange daylily is common along roadsides. You might see tiger lily but orange daylily is much more widespread.

LOVE tiger lilies and called every nursery within 50 miles. No one had them. Happy to hear there are so many near Glyndon. My husband's father was born in Glyndon, and it would be ever so sweet to have 3 or 4 lilies from Glyndon in our garden. Thanks Molly!

More of a question. Just wondering what to do with those little black bulb looking things at the base of the leaves. Can you plant those and make more plants?

Just because a plant isn't native doesn't mean it's not beneficial for wildlife. Nor does it mean it's bad and should be eradicated. If you want to talk about invasive, consider "real estate" "development", corn, soybeans, canola, McMansions, et cetera. There certainly are terrible invasive plants, like garlic mustard. However, I doubt that tiger lilies are really a problem. They're probably far more beneficial to pollinators than most plants that could be growing in their location. I'll take them over the giant ragweed + garlic mustard + hemlock + Asian honeysuckle combo that runs utterly rampant in moist areas in my childhood state. Some research has found that certain hybrid plants can be more beneficial for pollinators than their species counterparts, at least in garden settings, by producing more nectar and/or pollen for square foot.

Richard Fleming, whether tiger lily is all that beneficial to native insects is a matter of opinion. Generalist insects may visit it but it takes space that more specialist insects cannot utilize, so it more likely decreases biodiversity. You didn't cite any specific research on the hybrids you noted so whether the claim is true is TBD. BTW, giant ragweed is native to MN. It hosts a variety of native insects and the seeds are eaten by many small animals. Don't knock it.

I have a tiger Lilly I planted and it is now 6' 8" tall in bloom.

We have several growing under pines and boxelders. The deer kept eating them off so I transplanted them into our yard.

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