Friday, April 15th, 2011...5:40 am

Madonna Lily – Lilium Candidum

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lilium candidum by Giuliagas

Easter will soon be here and with it all the wonderful flowers of Spring will be appearing in the stores. Mostly we think of the flowers that are produced from bulbs like tulips, hyacinths and others. The most popular of the flowers is the Madonna lily, Lilium candidum. Not only is this flower spectacular but the fragrance is heavenly.

The oldest picture of this lily dates back 3500 years ago, found in Crete. Lilium candidum was a popular flower in ancient Jewish civilization and is mentioned in the Bible, both the Jewish Bible and the Christian Bible.

Lilium candidum by Nick Turland

This lily is considered to be most significant flower for the Christians and when you see early religious paintings, you will see the Madonna lily as one of the symbols.  See here. The pure whiteness of the flower is a symbol of purity, chastity,innocence, and sweetness associated with virgins and is the special flower of Mary, the Holy Virgin.

In Greek mythology, this Lily was dedicated to Hera, the wife of Zeus. The legend has it that Zeus had a baby with a mortal. He wanted this child to be divine, so he drugged Hera and put the baby to her breast to nurse. But Hera awoke and was horrified to find the baby nursing. She flung the baby away and some of the milk from her breast fell across the heavens and formed the milky way. A few drops fell down to earth and from these drops came the first lilies.

In Roman legend, when Venus arose from the sea and saw the lily she was so filled with envy at the beauty and whiteness of the flower that she created the pistil to be in the center.

Lilies were used by the Greeks and Romans at weddings as a sign of fertility. And they were also a symbol of death, being placed on graves.

There is so much folklore about this lily.  See here.

Even though the Madonna lily seems to be a religious symbol and a flower that basically appears around Easter time, TheGardenLady thinks that everyone should embrace and perhaps plant this beautiful lily in your garden.

Lily candidum grows in temperature zones 6-9 and will grow well in hot coastal climates. It is one of the few lilies that requires neutral to alkaline soil. It wants well-drained soil with leaf mold or well rotted organic matter. It prefers full sun with the base of the plant in shade, so mulch well to keep the roots cool. During the active growth stage, they should be watered freely because they need moisture. Keep them moist in the winter. They should to be planted in the in August and in the fall. Plant them more shallowly than other lilies, 2 to 3 times the height of the bulb and separate bulbs a distance of 3 times the diameter of the bulb. Be careful handling the bulbs so that you don’t damage the scales. When shoots emerge, fertilize every two weeks with a fertilizer that says 5-10-10 on the package. Remove dead flowers so that seed pods don’t form. Do NOT cut stems when flowers die, wait till the stem is brown to cut completely down to the earth.

This Lily is very susceptible to gray mold (Botrytis). If you see small brown to reddish brown spots on the leaves this is a sign of Botrytis. If you see the spots on your plants, contact the nearest MG office to see what chemical you should use on your plant. Deer have eaten my lily plants.

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