Homeowner's Guide to Orchids and Lilies
Lilies and orchids are popular among home gardeners because of their beautiful and elegant flowers. Their potted versions also make for thoughtful gifts for loved ones on special occasions.
If you’re planning to incorporate these flowers into your garden or have been gifted potted flowers, here is some useful information and advice you should know to care for them properly.
- American Orchid Society: Orchid care
- New York Botanical Garden: Basic orchid care: Home
- National Gardening Association: Lilies: Plant care and collection of varieties
- Chicago Botanic Garden: Lilies
Differences Between Orchids and Lilies
Species of lilies and orchids are often mistaken for each other because they look very similar. In fact, there is really only one major difference between the two flower families. Lilies have long stamens that protrude from the ovule. Orchids, on the other hand, lack this part and instead have a sturdy column-like part which holds their pollen.
Still, it can be difficult to differentiate orchids from lilies sometimes; even experienced horticulturists are sometimes fooled by some species. It doesn’t help that some orchids look exactly like true lilies. What’s more, some flowers are called ‘lilies’ colloquially even though they are not true lilies. Some examples of these are water lilies, Amazon lilies, calla lilies, and fire lilies.
If you are a beginner horticulturist, having an encyclopedia of flowering plants with pictures would help greatly in training yourself in identifying flowering plants. You can also check out the resources below to get started.
- New England Wild Flower Society: Orchids and related plants
- University of Washington: Lecture week 3-1
- San Diego State University: Field identification of the 50 most common plant families in temperate regions
Types of Orchids
Did you know that orchids are the largest family of plants in the world? The Orchidaceae family has around 25,000 to 30,000 various species that can be found all over the planet with 10,000 of them concentrated in tropical areas.
Some of the most common types of orchids are:
- Phalaenopsis: Commonly known as moth orchids, these are the most common type of orchids in the market characterized by wide and dark petals.
- Cattleya: You may know these flowers as they are usually used in corsages. Cattleyas are characterized by their large, ruffled petals and fragrant smell.
- Oncidium: Found in South American countries, these orchids are known for their Christmas-tree shape.
- Dendrobium: This biggest genus of orchids looks just like Phalaenopsis orchids except they have a ‘spur’ on their back lip.
- Vanda: Typically found in Southeast Asian countries, Vanda orchids are large, circular and have very vibrant colors.
- Cymbidium: This genus of cool-flowering orchid can be identified by their grassy leaves which tend to clump together.
- Longwood Gardens: Identifying orchids
- Marie Selby Botanical Gardens: Common varieties of orchids
- Rainforest Alliance: Species profile: Orchid
Types of Lilies
Although not as diverse as orchids, lilies are still a big family of flowering plants. They are typically subdivided into nine smaller classifications of closely-related species:
- Asiatic hybrids: These are the easiest types of lilies to grow and also have the most variety of colors. They grow for up to four feet tall and don’t have any particular scent.
- Martagon hybrids: These lilies are characterized by their downturned flowers and whorled leaves. They thrive best in colder climates.
- Candidum hybrids: Candidum lilies are known for their pure white color and yellow base. They have been observed since ancient times in cities like Crete and Mesopotamia.
- American hybrids: These lilies are derived from the wild lilies found in North America. Examples of these are Tiger lilies and Panther lilies.
- Longiflorum hybrids: Commonly known as the Easter lily, Longiflorum lilies are famous for their pure white color and trumpet-like petals.
- Trumpet and Aurelian hybrids: These hardy lilies are perfect to grow in warmer climates with lots of sun. They bloom during the months of July and August.
- Oriental hybrids: These large lilies tend to grow for up to five feet tall and have relatively large flowers.
- Interdivisional hybrids: These flowers are the products of interbreeding the other types of lilies mentioned above.
- Species: This final group of lilies are the wildflower parents of all other lily hybrids. They are found all over the world, particularly in Asia, growing in the wild.
- North American Lily Society: Types oflLilies
- Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum: Liliaceae (lily family)
- IGrow: Easter lilies and garden lilies
Caring for Orchids
Orchids are popular indoor and outdoor plants but not all people who have them know how to properly take care of them, resulting in disappointment when they dry out and die.
As mentioned above, there are a lot of orchid varieties, and each of them requires different types of care. To keep your orchids blooming and happy, it is important that you know what type of orchid they are first.
If you buy or are given an orchid in bloom, refrain from repotting it right away as it might be too stressful for the plant. You can repot it once its current blooms have fallen off. It’s also important to remember that orchids do not need to be watered often to survive. Wait three days to a whole week to water it after the last time you did.
Once the flowers have dried, you can snip off the flower spikes and then think of repotting it in a better container.
- Oregon Orchid Society: Top ten orchid growing tips
- Cleveland Botanical Garden: Ask the orchid doctor
Caring for Lilies
Unlike orchids, potted/planted lilies need to be watered often, especially when there is not much rainfall around your area. It is also important to keep the soil where they are planted moist and fertilized. You can apply a high-potassium liquid fertilizer every two weeks or so.
Like with orchids, make sure to cut out the stem of flowers which have dried out to make way for new ones. However, note that lilies only bloom once per season.
To know more about caring for lilies, from planting new bulbs to repotting, take a peek at the resources below.
- Missouri Botanical Garden: How do I care for my Easter lily?
- Alaska Master Gardeners Anchorage: Growing lilies
Thinking of incorporating lilies and orchids in your garden or home? Read more about these beautiful flowering plants in the links below.
The University of California has a great section on growing lilies, while Texas A & M AgriLife Extension covers growing orchids. Wisconsin Public Radio discusses the care of orchids for people who are currently unfamiliar with the flowers: Expert: Orchids are relatively easy plant to care for.