By Chuck Gleaves
The European native martagon lilies (Lilium martagon and hybrids of five closely related lilies) bloom around here in north central Ohio in about mid-June. As I write this on June 11th, 2018 my martagon lily flowers are close, but not yet open. Martagons have smaller and earlier blooming flowers than most of the popular hybrid lilies; they are more shade tolerant: and they seem to be more resistant to deer predation. Since lilies in general are a favorite snack for deer, that says a lot.
My first couple of attempts to grow these lilies ended in failure. I’m not sure why because I have several now and don’t seem to have any problems. They are known to resent being moved, especially when moved in the spring which sometimes prompts them to take a year off from growing, at all. Many a gardener would lose hope or forget where they were. (Another plant in the lily family, Paris verticillata, is well known sitting dormant for a year after planting, especially in my garden.) Martagons also like well drained alkaline soil that doesn’t get too soggy in the winter and dries out in the late summer. So, they can be easily loved to death by doing something like incorporating a lot of sphagnum peat moss into the soil for them.
Martagons offer something just a bit different in appearance, habitat and as a horticultural challenge. Since they are not widely sold at garden centers and should probably be planted in the fall, bulb catalogs are the best source.