Lilium martagon

I have recently developed a passion for lilies; unfortunately so have those pesky little red beetles (more about dealing with them later). One of the earliest to flower is lilium martagon, a Eurasian species found growing from Portugal right across to Mongolia. Growing anything from three to six feet tall, the typical flower colour is a pinky purple with darker spots (although quite variable).

Lilium martagon - 2016

Lilies like shade at the roots, growing through low foliage to bloom in the sun. They must have good drainage at their feet to avoid the bulbs rotting in wet winters; a thick layer of gravel under the bulb certainly assists this, especially in heavy soils. I have also found a position out of full sun suits them best, especially the form with white flowers that stands out in a lightly shaded corner.

Lilium martagon 'Album' - 2016

I have also recently acquired a deep red form that looks spectacular and exotic, but is just as easy to grow.

Lilium martagon (red form) - 2016

As for those beetles I mentioned earlier, there are two options for getting rid of them. They start to appear as soon as the weather warms up, and lilium martagon is one of their favourites. The red-backed adults are often found in pairs, creating youngsters you will find on the leaves, having covered themselves with their own droppings. You can either pick the adults off before they have too much fun, and squash them between your fingers or underfoot (note if you knock them to the ground, they invariably fall red side down so you can’t see them against the soil). The other option, as recommended by the Head Entymologist of the Royal Horticultural Society at a talk I attended a few year ago, is to use chemicals (Provado Ultimate Bug Killer does the job). Spray every four to six weeks, choosing a dry, still evening when pollinators have finished for the day.

One find word of caution – these lilies are toxic (or even fatal) to cats.


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