Plant of the Week: Trumpet Lily

The High Line's planting design is inspired by the self-seeded landscape that grew up between rail tracks after the trains stopped running in the 1980s. Today, the High Line includes more than 300 species of perennials, grasses, shrubs, and trees – each chosen for their hardiness, adaptability, diversity, and seasonal variation in color and texture. Some of the species that originally grew on the High Line's rail bed are reflected in the park landscape today. This week we share one of our gardeners' current favorites with you.

Native to China, the trumpet lily is a new addition to the High Line, located near 30th St. Its petals are deeply re-curved, flecked with maroon, and arch backward in an elegant bell shape to show prominent stamens. It grows in shapely clusters on slender, smoky green stems with lance-shaped leaves just below the blooms. It makes a showy addition to borders and is striking when set among the High Line's grassy swaths.

This lily's botanic name (Lilium henryi) references Augustine Henry, the Irish plant explorer who collected this species and others at Ichang Gorge in Central China in 1888 while conducting research for Kew Gardens. We're lucky to have access to his notes, which he published in Curtis's Botanical Magazine, Vol. 117. He'd spotted the lily "growing on the grassy slopes of precipices at an altitude of two hundred to two thousand feet above sea-level." He wrote that the plant was "very plentiful […] on [inland] limestone cliffs [...], from which the path leads up to the Taout monastery, [and] flowers in the last half of July." The procured specimen first flowered at Kew in August, 1889. Since its discovery, this trumpet lily has been a parent in several key lily hybrid species. Lily flowers and bulbs are eaten in Asia, particularly in summer as a method of reducing internal heat, per theories of Chinese medicine. Its bulbs are also used to flavor soup.

The trumpet lily requires relatively low maintenance, with resistance to fungi and viruses, and does equally well in full sun or part shade. It makes a great cutting flower, but keep bouquets out of reach of cats, for whom lilies are notoriously toxic.

A stem-rooting species, trumpet lilies also form small bulbs at the stem bases, which can be harvested for growing. When blooms are spent, the plant should be cut back only after stems and leaves have yellowed. Trumpet lilies prefer slightly acidic, well-drained soil.

11th Avenue Bridge

Our horticultural team counts on members and friends like you to help keep the High Line beautiful and thriving. Join our community of supporters who play an essential role in the High Line's most important gardening projects – become a member of the High Line today!

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