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Known for their beautifully perfumed scent and elegant appearance, lilies remain one of the world’s best-selling cut flowers. With so much variety in their colour, from pure white to eye-catching red, yellow and purple, lilies are a firm favourite with florists and flower lovers alike and make a stunning addition to any bouquet.

Lilies have a diverse history and grow wild in many parts of the world; from Korea and Poland to Siberia and the Balkans.

Until the 16th century, the Madonna lily was the only known species until other varieties were introduced from Europe, Turkey and America. Ancient civilisations used lilies for medicinal purposes; the Ancient Greeks used them to reduce wrinkles whereas in medieval England the petals were often used to treat cuts and injuries.

Lilies burst into popularity during the 19th century after varieties such as the Tiger Lily, Purple and Scarlet Turk’s Cap Lilies were introduced from Far Eastern destinations such as Japan and Canton; although it is said to have been grown much earlier by botanist John Gerard.

Scientific name: Lilium.

Common name: Lily.

Family: Liliaceae.

Availability: All year round.

Vase life: Approx. 10-14 days.

Colour range: All colours from pure white to deep burgundy with the exception of green and blue.

Care tips

  • Re-cut stems and strip them of any foliage that will fall below the waterline.
  • Remove the stamens to prevent staining- this will not impact the life of the flower.
  • Take a clean vase and fill it three quarters full with fresh water then add your flower food as directed on the packet.
  • Keep the vase topped up with water daily.
  • Every 2-3 days recut the stems and replace the water completely.
  • Take care when handling lilies as the pollen can stain. To remove from fabric use sticky tape or gently brush off – do not use water as this will make it worse.
  • Lilies can be toxic if ingested by cats. Care should be taken to keep all flowers and foliage out of the reach of children and animals.

For the Home

Lilies look best in arrangements with taller flowers and make a bold statement in any room. They look particularly beautiful when combined with roses or statuesque summer blooms such as sunflowers or gladioli. If anyone in the family suffers from hay fever an unscented variety may be preferable as they have a lower pollen count whilst the Oriental Lily is the most heavily scented.

For Brides

The unparalleled beauty of Lilies makes them a popular choice of wedding flowers. They look fabulous in bridal bouquets and are equally impressive in vase designs and arrangements. That said, be very wary of lily stamens when going down the aisle, particularly if you are getting married in white as they stain easily- ensure your florist removes them first for your own peace of mind.

"Lilies make a statement like no other and work just as well on their own as they do when combined with complimentary blooms such as roses, gladioli and lisianthus. One of the appealing things about lilies is that they are available all year round and come in a spectrum of different colours meaning that they really can complement any wedding scheme. Fantastic flowers to use in large, showy designs for the church, ceremony room and marquee receptions, lilies really do have the wow factor."

Karen Barnes, Wedding Flowers Expert

The Meaning of Lily

Lilies are full of symbolism and carry different meanings in different cultures. They are typically seen as a symbol of grace, purity, majesty and honour. According to the Victorian language of flowers, receiving a sweet-scented lily told you that you were beloved. Their transient beauty also makes them a thoughtful choice to express condolence at a time of sorrow.

Did you know?

  • In China, lily bulbs are commonly used as an ingredient in stir fries, soups and cold dishes.
  • In Greek and Roman times brides were given a crown of lilies in the hope of a pure and fruitful life.
  • Double lilies do not have stamens.

Source: Cut Flowers - A practical guide to their selection and care by Interflora florist Su Whale

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