Unveiling Lilium michiganense: A Captivating Native Lily

Rooted Wisdom: Growing Native Plants with Enrique Rodriguez

Enrique Rodriguez is the Production Foreman at Midwest Natural Garden. He has been with the Midwest Companies since 1999. This article was compiled from insights and production practices shared by Enrique.

The lilies have burst into a breathtaking display of beauty! Behold the enchanting Lilium michiganense, also known as the Michigan Lily, which defies the ordinary conventions of its lily counterparts. Standing tall at 4 to 6 feet, this native treasure can be discovered in scattered pockets across Illinois and many other states throughout the country. Although its bloom time is relatively brief, spanning a few weeks in the heart of summer, the vivid and captivating deep orange blossoms are remarkable. What sets the Lilium michiganense apart is the fascinating curvature of its tepals, as they elegantly arch backward, giving the impression that the flower is gently suspended, almost as if defying gravity.

Cultivation of Lilium michiganense is an endeavor in patience, spanning a lengthy two-year journey from seed sowing to the final stage of retail sale. The process begins with the collection of flat, papery capsule seeds during the late summer or early fall. These treasured seeds are then carefully sown in April, requiring up to a full year for germination to occur. It is not until the following spring that the plants mature, ready to embark on their journey into the eager hands of native plant enthusiasts, restoration contractors, and stewards of native plantings.

The delicate art of maintaining and collecting seeds from the Lilium michiganense stock beds poses a greater challenge compared to other native plants. Despite the stock bed at the Midwest Natural Garden boasting a remarkable age of 30 to 40 years, seed collectors have long wrestled with the arduous task of gathering a sufficient number of seeds for cultivation. The delicate stems of the Lilium michiganense make encroaching weeds particularly difficult to control, which for a considerable time hindered their growth. It was not until a few winters ago when Enrique ventured out to the stock bed, armed with a sturdy spade, that a significant discovery unfolded. Beneath the surface, dormant seeds lay patiently, yearning for an opportunity to sprout and flourish. Since then, the diligent management of weeds during spring has allowed the plants to thrive, leading to an abundant supply of seeds for cultivation, thereby enabling more Lilium michiganense to be available for sale.

The exquisite blooms of Lilium michiganense lend themselves splendidly to serving as a border plant, injecting vivid colors, and striking contrasts into any landscape. While Lilium michiganense thrives in moist and well-drained soil, these hardy plants have also demonstrated remarkable drought tolerance once established. Acting as a magnet for butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds, this unique gem adds a touch of elegance to any garden.

Posted July 2023

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