Lilies are one of the most spectacular blooming plants. There are many varieties from which to choose, with hybrids a common part of the market. The most cold hardy lilies are the Asiatic species, which easily survive down into USDA zone 3. You are not reduced to using only Asiatic lilies in cold regions. Often, growing lilies in zone 5 will require early starting indoors and lifting to store for winter, but don't let that stop you from enjoying a full array of the bulbs.
Best Zone 5 Lily Plants
Lilies are classed as belonging to Lillium, a large genus of herbaceous flowering plants which arise from bulbs. There are nine main divisions of lily hybrids, dividing them by form but mostly by their parent plants. Not all of these are suitable for zone 5 climate conditions, which may range between -10 and -20 degrees F. (-23 to -29 C.). Lilies need a period of cool dormant conditions to promote flowering, but a word of caution to northern gardeners – bulbs may be prone to freezing in cold climates, which can ruin the plant and cause bulbs to rot. Choosing the best lilies for zone 5 will contribute to your growing success. Also, growing lilies in zone 5 that are marginally hardy can be achieved by locating them in a warmer "microclimate" in your garden and mulching the bulbs heavily for winter to protect them from cold. One of the best lilies for zone 5 is the Asiatic lily. These are extremely hardy, need little care, and thrive in areas where the tender Oriental lilies cannot. They are also available in many colors such as white, pink, orange, yellow, and red. They are the earliest lilies to bloom, generally in early to midsummer. A popular hybrid, LA Hybrids, bloom longer into the season and with a mild, delicious scent. Other hybrids to try might be Red Alert, Nashville, and Eyeliner. Neither the true Asiatic nor their hybrids require staking and have long-lasting upturned faces with gently curved petals. The University of Minnesota states that a few of the Oriental lilies are suitable for that zone 5a and 5b climate. Oriental hybrids are hardier than pure Oriental lilies. These bloom later than the Asiatic and bear a heady fragrance. These cold hardy lilies will still benefit from mulch over the site in winter and well-prepared soil that drains readily. The Oriental hybrids range from 3 to 6 feet (1-2 m.) in height with large, often frilled blooms and heavy scents. Some of the hardier Oriental hybrids are:
- Casa Blanca
- Black Beauty
- Journey's End
- Yellow Ribbons
Additional Hardy Lily Options
If you want to try something different than the Asiatic or Oriental varieties, there are a few other types of lilies that will be hardy to USDA zone 5. Turk’s Cap lilies grow 3 to 4 feet (1 m.) tall and are also known as Martagons. The blooms are small and dainty, with recurved petals. These are very hardy little plants and may produce up to 20 flowers per stem. Trumpet lily is another class of Lillium. Most commonly known are the Easter lilies, but there are also Aurelian hybrids. Tiger lilies are probably familiar to most gardeners. Their freckled flowers increase over the years and colors range from gold to orange and some hues of reds. Rubrum lilies are marginally hardy in zone 5. Growing lilies in zone 5 from this group may require extra mulch or even lifting if in the colder parts of the region. Colors in this group are among the pinks and whites. Zone 5 lily plants are not only possible but there are many hardy plants from which to choose.
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Bonnie Grant is a professional landscaper with a Certification in Urban Gardening. She has been gardening and writing for 15 years. A former professional chef, she has a passion for edible landscaping.