Content Detail

The wood lily is a midsummer to late summer perennial with large, bright orange to red flowers atop an upright stem of grasslike leaves. It is a great addition to a native garden, cottage garden, butterfly garden, pollinator garden, prairie, meadow, or naturalized woodland. This species is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm’s Plants of the Chicago Region and current research.

  • Family (English) Lily
  • Family (botanic) Liliaceae
  • Tree or plant type Perennial
  • Native locale Chicago area, Illinois, North America
  • Size range Medium plant (12-24 inches), Large plant (more than 24 inches)
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7, Zone 9
  • Soil preference Moist, Sandy soil, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Occasional drought
  • Season of interest midsummer, late summer
  • Flower color and fragrance Orange, Red
  • Shape or form Narrow, Upright
  • Growth rate Slow
  • Wildlife Birds, Game mammals, Hummingbirds, Insect pollinators

Size and method of spreading:

Wood lily is between 1 to 3 feet tall and three-quarters to 1 foot wide. It spreads slowly by bulblets and self-seeding.

Native geographic location and habitat: (include C-value if appropriate)

Wood lily is native to the Eastern and Central United States. C Value: 10.

Attracts birds or pollinators: 

Wood lilies attract numerous species of butterflies including monarchs, moths, songbirds, hummingbirds, and halictid bees.

Leaf description:

The plentiful leaves of wood lily alternate up the stem with a whorl of three to 11 leaves at the top of the stem. They are up to 3 inches long and under one-half inch wide (narrow elliptic or linear). The leaves have parallel veins with a prominent midvein and are stalkless (sessile). The edges of the leaves are smooth (entire margins). Both the upper and lower surfaces of the leaves are hairless (glabrous) with the upper surface being medium green and the lower surface being slightly paler.

Flower description:

Wood lily flowers are composed of two whorls of tepals (petals and sepals that cannot be distinguished from one another) and arranged in the form of a funnel. The tips of the tepals recurve slightly, and the edges may be lightly ruffled. The tepals are orange to red in color with patches of yellow and purplish-brown, frecklelike dots near the base. The base of each tepal tapers into a narrow claw. The tepals surround six pollen-bearing structures (stamens) with tips (anthers) that are able to close when it rains to prevent pollen loss. In the center of the six stamens is a slightly longer structure (style) with a knobby tip (stigma). The flowers occur in groups of one to three on stout stalks (pedicels) at the terminal ends of the stems.

Fruit description:

The fruit produced by wood lily is oblong, dry, and splits into three chambers to release seeds when mature (capsules). The capsules are between 1 ½ to 2 ¾ inches long. Each of the three chambers have two rows of numerous seeds.

Plant Care:

Offsets of wood lily may require division. This slow-growing plant should be planted away from plants that are highly competitive.  Wood lily needs protection from animals.

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances:

Wood lilies are frequently foraged by deer and rabbits.


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