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What is a Trumpet Lily?

By Mike Howells
Updated May 16, 2024
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The trumpet lily is one of nine distinct varieties in the lily family, each of which is classified according to its parentage and specific traits. This flower, in particular, is famous for its uniquely-shaped flower and strong fragrance. Common around the world, trumpets are among the most popular lily varieties.

Lilies are grown from bulbs, like tulips, daffodils, and many other flowering plants. Like most bulb plants, the trumpet lily is a perennial, meaning it does not die after one season. Instead these flowers undergo a period of dormancy underground and bloom again and again each spring.

One important difference between other flower bulbs, such as tulips, and the lily is the presence of a protective, papery outer layer known as a tunic. Tulips have what are called tunicate bulbs, which resemble an onion, with papery outer layers. Lilies are known as imbricate bulbs, which means they do not have a protective tunic. They are more akin to a peeled clove of garlic, and, as a result, are more fragile when out of the ground, and must be kept moist at all times before they are planted.

When it comes to propagating or breeding a trumpet lily, various methods exist that are common among all bulbs. At the joints &mash; where the leaves connect to the stem, known as the leaf axils — small bulbs known as bulbils develop, and can be removed and planted separately. Alternately, a complete scale can be stripped from a bulb and replanted. A bulb can also be simply divided in half to create two plants.

Instant gratification is not in the cards when it comes to these techniques, however. It can take as much as a year before a bulbil or single scale grows enough to produce a flower. Of course, once they do start flowering, they come back year after year.

Trumpet lilies do best in full sun, but can tolerate partial shade. Similarly, they prefer temperate, relatively moist conditions but can survive a moderate range of extremes. They can top out at a height of 48 inches (120 cm), but most grow to around 42 inches (107 cm) tall. A trumpet lily can be grown in a garden bed or in a pot with equal success.

Like nearly all lilies, the trumpet lily is extremely toxic to cats. Plants kept indoors should be stationed well out of the reach of curious or inquisitive household felines. Even a small amount ingested can be enough to cause kidney failure with little warning.

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