Canada Lily 

Some of the most popular posts on my Facebook page are the images of my Canada Lily (Lilium canadense). Technically not native to the part of Ontario that I live in (it could be classified as a “near native” here), it nevertheless thrives in my garden. Each year this plant sends up more shoots and has more blossoms.  

I planted it as a small potted plant five years ago. A year later it was about 4’ tall and had two blossoms. The next year it shot up to just over 7’4” and had 24 blooms. Last year a second stalk appeared and the taller one reached an amazing 7’9” and there were 53 blooms between the two plants. This year, it just got bigger and more spectacular. A total of 8 stems produced 102 flowers and the tallest of these plants reached an incredible 7’11.5”. 

In this month’s Plant of the Month I am writing about this amazing species.  As usual, the Plant Description and In the Garden sections are courtesy of Shaun Booth from In Our Nature. 

Common Name: Canada Lily 

Scientific Name: Lilium canadense 

Family: Liliaceae (Lily Family) 

Alternate Common Names: Meadow Lily, Wild Yellow Lily, Yellow Wood Lily 

Plant Description: Canada Lily features smooth, light green stems that are unbranched, except at the top where the flowers are found. Leaves are distributed along the stem in whorls of three to eight with some smaller alternate leaves occurring along the upper portion of the stem. Each leaf is up to 15 cm long, 2.5 cm wide, smooth, toothless, and narrowly ovate. Stems terminate with up to 20 nodding, trumpet-shaped flowers borne on long stalks and can range in colour from reddish orange to yellow. These flowers are up to 10 cm across and feature six tepals that flare backwards (but not past the base of the flower), six stamens, and dark dots on the inside of the tepals. Flowers become oblong, 5 cm long seed capsules that are divided into three cells containing flat seeds. 

In the Garden: Canada Lily adorns the summer garden with trumpet-like flowers that hang gracefully from the plant. Besides its blooms, it is valued for its clumping habit and interesting whorled foliage. 

Skill Level: Beginner to intermediate 

Lifespan: Perennial 

Exposure: Full sun to part shade (prefers dappled shade) 

Soil Type: Rich loamy or slightly sandy soil 

Moisture: Moist to medium 

Height: 90–240 cm 

Spread: 15–20 cm 

Bloom Period: Jun, Jul, Aug 

Colour: Red, orange, or yellow 

Flowers may be yellow, orange, red, or a combination.

Fragrant (Y/N):

Showy Fruit (Y/N):

Cut Flower (Y/N):

Pests: The caterpillars of several moth species feed on the leaves, stems, and corms of Canada Lily, and the introduced Lily Leaf Beetle or Red Lily Beetle (Lilioceris lilii) feeds on its leaves 

Natural Habitat: Wet meadows, moist rich woods, streamsides, and wetlands, and along wet roadsides and railroads 

Wildlife Value: The nectar attracts large butterflies, particularly the Great Spangled Fritillary (Speyeria cybele) and various swallowtail butterflies. Some bees collect pollen from the flowers, but they are ineffective at cross-pollination because of their small size. A number of mammalian herbivores browse on the foliage, and voles and chipmunks are known to eat the corms. Rabbits ate off several new lilies I planted last year, and squirrels dug out the corms of others before I had a chance to cover them with chicken wire – but once established the plants seem pretty robust. 

Butterfly Larva Host Plant For: None 

Moth Larva Host Plant For: Carrion Flower Moth (Acrolepiopsis incertella), Burdock Borer Moth (Papaipema cataphracta), Golden Borer Moth (Papaipema cerina), Common Borer Moth (Papaipema nebris), Sparganothis Leafroller Moth (Sparganothis sulfureana

USDA Hardiness Zones: 4–8 

Propagation: [WC; D] Canada Lily seeds must undergo a period of one to two months of warmth, at which time they will swell and become a small bulb. These then need another 60 to 90 days of cold before they begin to sprout. Seedlings typically go dormant by midsummer. Plants grown from seed will take five to six years before they flower. Propagation is easiest from division of the scaly bulb, which can be dug as soon as the plant goes dormant in late summer. 

Additional Info: Canada Lily is primarily pollinated by the Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) and large butteflies such as the swallowtails. Canada lily is listed as Threatened in Indiana. 

Native Range (shaded area on map):