Plant of the Month: Lilium ‘Stargazer’

Lilium ‘Stargazer’

The Stargazer Lily is on my top-ten list of best perennials. There’s almost no excuse for not being able to find a spot in the garden for this reliable performer:  at two and a half  feet, it’s short enough to be tucked in anywhere—even a container—with no need to worry about floppy stems; it begins blooming in mid-late July—perfect timing for teaming with white phlox, or long-blooming roses, or Russian sage; its dark pink color blends in with just about any color scheme; it has a lovely fragrance; and, it even blooms in light shade. 

Stargazer is an Oriental Hybrid, developed in 1974 by lily hybridizer Dr. Leslie Woodriff, who, in 1954, introduced the famous Lilium ‘Black Beauty’. The Stargazer cultivar was given its name because it was the first Oriental lily to face upwards. It is hardy in Zones 4-9. 


I’ve grown my Stargazers in unamended clay soil in light shade and they’ve done very well; however, they have good drainage, which is critical for healthy lilies. I also planted mine from nursery grown plants rather than bulbs. If planting from bulbs in Zones 5 and 6, observe the following: 

1. Buy bulbs from a reputable grower to ensure healthy, disease-free stock (B&D Lilies , John Scheepers and Van Bourgondien are three reliable sources that have been in business a long time);

2. Plant the bulbs 12”-18” apart and 6” deep, covered by loosely packed soil;

3. Lily bulbs should be planted immediately upon receipt, or may be kept in their original packaging for a couple of days in the vegetable container of the refrigerator. According to B&D Lilies, lily bulbs should never be planted after the end of May, since lilies require 90-150 days to flower and then another 4-6 weeks of frost-free weather to store nutrients for the following year’s growth. 

Whether growing from bulbs or nursery plants, here are some other growing tips:

    • Lilies prefer a soil pH of 5.5-6.5, so if you’re growing other perennials successfully nearby you shouldn’t need to adjust the soil pH just for lilies;

   • Fertilize plants with a 5-10-10 or 10-20-20 fertilizer when the stems start to emerge in spring and again just before flowering;

   • Wait until the first hard frost before cutting back any part of the lily stem, and then cut the stem back to about 3” above ground. Winter mulch is not necessary.

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