Tiger lilies have a fabled background, and caring for them can bring a part of this story into your own home. Tiger lilies symbolize wealth and prosperity, and are associated with friendship in some parts of Asia. According to a Korean folk tale, once a hermit helped remove an arrow from a tiger's body. The tiger was so grateful for this help that he asked the hermit to use his powers to make them friends for eternity. The hermit agreed, and when the tiger eventually passed on, his body became a tiger lily. The hermit later drowned and his body washed away along a river. The tiger lily spread across river banks everywhere in search of his friend. You'll recognize tiger lilies as tall plants with big, bright orange flowers. They are called tiger lilies because their big orange blossoms bear tiny brown speckles and slightly resemble tiger skins. According to superstition, these brown freckles are contagious and will spread to anyone who sniffs a tiger lily.
There are two distinct varieties of tiger lilies. These are known to botanists as the Oriental variety, which propagates through bulbs that form at leaf axils, and the common wildflower variety, which propagates by tuberous roots. The tiger lily is known by different names in different parts of the world, including those mentioned above as well as devil lily, Columbia lily, and Oregon lily, amongst others. Most parts of tiger lily plants are edible for human beings and the tiger lily is known to have significant medical uses around the world. You can make a tincture from fresh tiger lilies and use it to cure uterine neuralgia, congestion and irritation as well as the nausea and vomiting associated with pregnancy. Chinese herbalists believe that the tiger lily flower has the power to suppress aggressive tendencies in people and that it can help in holistic healing. Tiger lily bulbs taste bitter when eaten raw, but when they are roasted they taste similar to potatoes. You need to be careful about where you keep your tiger lilies, though, as tiger lilies have toxic effects on cats. They can cause vomiting, loss of appetite, lethargy and eventually kidney failure and death.
Tiger lilies will grow just about anywhere. They love wet ground, though, and that is why they grow so well near ditches. Plant your tiger lilies in your backyard in a partially sunny spot that gets plenty of moisture. Tiger lilies look stunning in groups and do very well with crowding, so feel free to plant several of them clustered tightly together. Tiger lilies are extremely hardy and seldom suffer from disease or insects. They can harbor viruses, however, so you may want to keep your tiger lilies segregated from more sensitive, delicate species. Although tiger lilies hold little interest for insects, deer find them delectable. If you have a problem with deer in your area, tiger lilies may not be the best choice for you. Rabbits also enjoy tiger lilies and will turn your flower bed into an all you can eat buffet if given the opportunity. If you want to plant tiger lilies despite the fauna in your yard, spray them with a deterrent. Deer and rabbits hate the smell of raw egg. You can make a mixture of 20 percent egg and 80 percent water and spray your lilies with this potion. It should turn the noses of hungry wildlife.
Tiger lilies are exceptionally easy to maintain, but the Oriental and common wildflower varieties are not planted the same way. Tiger lilies are sterile and do not produce seeds. If you want to create a bed of common wildflower tiger lilies, transfer some plants from another flourishing bed. Dig the plants up, carefully untangle their tuberous roots and replant them where you want your tiger lily bed. If you are concerned about disease, wash the roots after you dig them up and before you replant them. The best time to transfer common wildflower tiger lilies is in the spring or fall. You can expect prolific blooming mid-summer. Once you plant your common wildflower tiger lilies, they should establish themselves. You can even expect your flower bed to grow if it has room. You do not need to replant because the common wildflower tiger lilies will thrive year after year with no winter protection. If you want to plant the Oriental variety of tiger lily, you will need to separate small bulbs called bulbils from the axils of the leaves of a thriving plant. Remove the bulb scales from the bulbils and grow them in moist peat in a cool, dark place until small bulbs form. You can start your small bulbs in a nursery and later transfer them outside. Once you have a thriving community of Oriental tiger lilies, the plants should drop their own bulbs and continue to grow with no help from you.
Tiger lilies are very hardy and can even be grown in a pot, either outdoors in the sun or in a sunny spot with plenty of space inside. Tiger lilies can grow a couple of feet tall and the flowers alone can measure four to six inches long and three inches wide. This means that you will need to get a pretty big, sturdy pot to support the weight of your plants. A half whiskey barrel or a large terracotta pot should do the trick. Remember to keep your soil very moist. Potted tiger lilies may not thrive quite like those in your yard. They like to be crowded, but within the confined space of a pot they don't have much opportunity to spread roots out and grow. If you plan to pot the Oriental variety, you will almost certainly need to replant bulbs the following year rather than depending upon them to propagate on their own.