The torch lily, which belongs to the asphodel family, is a very decorative plant that is most notable for its bright, colorful flowers. Because of its magnificent flowers, which resemble a torch in appearance, it is also often called rocket flower. This perennial herbaceous plant is represented worldwide by about 70 species, all closely related to each other.
Most varieties are evergreen and reach heights of growth between 80 and 160 cm. The smaller relatives, the dwarf torch lilies, grow to a maximum height of 70 cm. The inflorescences are similar to a cob. The slender inflorescences are predominantly bicolored, with the upper part of the flowers being scarlet in most cases, changing to orange-yellow to golden-yellow towards the bottom. However, there are now also many bicolored flowering beauties, some monochrome flowering in yellow or orange, and particularly striking flower flares with white-greenish tints.
The mostly wintergreen foliage has a reed-like, long, narrow shape and forms a spike up to 60 cm high from which the sturdy stems with the fascinating flower spikes then grow. These slender inflorescences then appear in all their glory from June to October, depending on the variety. The leaf edges can be either smooth or serrated.
- The best time to plant torch lilies is in the spring.
- To do this, first dig a sufficiently large planting hole.
- This should be large enough so that the roots are not squeezed or bent.
- If the soil is not permeable enough, a drainage layer is recommended.
- The same applies if the substrate can not store enough water.
- An appropriate drainage layer is then added to the planting hole as the bottom layer.
- Soil improvement can be additionally achieved by adding compost.
- Now the plant is inserted with a planting depth of about 8 cm.
- Finally, the rosette of the torch lily should be planted close to the ground or level with the surface.
The torch lily prefers above all wind-protected and sunny locations in a well-drained, nutrient-rich, moderately dry and fresh as well as humus-rich soil. Soils with a high proportion of lime or sand are equally suitable. Whatever the composition of the soil, it should not dry out in summer and should not be too wet in winter.
Watering and fertilizing
During the growth phase, from spring to summer should be watered regularly, especially in case of prolonged drought. Waterlogging should be avoided at all costs. Watering should always be done in the early morning or evening hours, especially in summer.
Watering should not be done in full sunlight. Possible water drops on the leaves could cause burns and, in addition, a particularly large amount of water is evaporated in the midday sun. In winter, make sure that the torch lily is not too wet.
You should be especially careful with fertilizer. This should be administered only very sparingly. Over-fertilization should be avoided at all costs, as this could damage the plants, making them susceptible to disease and pests. In the spring, fertilizer can be applied with mature compost, which should then be lightly worked into the soil, and in the fall, if necessary, administer horn shavings. Further fertilization is usually not required.
Propagation by sowing
Seeds of this fascinating plant can be sown from spring to early fall. For this purpose, the seeds are placed flat in a sowing container, in an appropriate substrate. The substrate should be permeable and humus, and sandy or gravelly.
At temperatures of about 20 degrees, germination is relatively easy. It occurs after about 7-14 days. At lower temperatures, germination then takes correspondingly longer. The substrate should always be kept moist. Better than normal watering is moistening the substrate with a suitable sprayer or spray bottle, as available in any hardware store. This way there is no risk of the substrate becoming too wet.
Once germination has taken place, the seedlings need plenty of light. However, direct sunlight should be avoided. It is best to place them in a sheltered place outdoors. Even now, the substrate should not be allowed to dry out, but also avoid too much moisture.
After about 2-4 leaves have formed, the seedlings can be pricked out or separated into small pots. It is advisable to leave the plants in these pots until autumn, which also facilitates care. The young plants can then be planted in the garden the following spring between March and May. Autumn planting is not recommended, because then the torch lily would not grow so well until winter.
If you want to use self-harvested seeds for sowing, you have to stratify them immediately after harvesting, i.e. subject them to cold treatment. To do this, for example, put them in a foil bag and put the whole thing in the refrigerator for the entire winter. In the coming spring, they can then be pre-grown, for example, on the windowsill, and later transplant the seedlings accordingly.
Propagation by division
Division is the simplest way to propagate the torch lily. Moreover, it is the only form of propagation that produces varietally pure plants, that is, plants whose characteristics are one hundred percent identical to the mother plant. The fleshy rootstock is divided. This can happen both in early spring and immediately after flowering in the fall.
For the division, the rootstock is first carefully dug up. Then most of the soil is shaken off and the root is divided with a sharp knife. The resulting sections can then be planted separately from each other, provided that each section has sufficient root mass.
The torch lily can also be divided via so-called daughter rosettes. These sometimes form at the edge of plants that have been standing for about 3 years. In order to separate these daughter rosettes from the mother plant, the latter is dug up in the fall and the daughter rosettes are separated from the plant along with part of the root. Then these sections should be planted immediately. In any case, the root zone should not dry out during this period.
Most species of torch lily are relatively sensitive to frost or have only limited winter hardiness. Therefore, winter protection is highly recommended. To protect the heart of the torch lily from heavy frosts, the evergreen foliage of the plants should not be cut off, but should be twisted slightly at the crown and loosely tied before winter. A loose layer of piled leaves or fir brushwood around the plant provides additional protection. The foliage used for this purpose should be as dry as possible to prevent rotting of the delicate roots during the cold season.
Just as dangerous as frost, for the torch lily is waterlogging in winter in the area of the roots. This damages the plant and, in the worst case, can lead to its complete loss. Here, too, an appropriate cover can protect during the winter. In addition, it provides protection from the blazing winter sun, because the torch lily also reacts relatively sensitively to this.
For cold locations are best suited orange-red and yellow-flowered Grandiflora varieties, as well as the salmon and cream-colored variety Safranvogel and the hybrid Royal Standard with red-yellow flowers.
Especially hardy or only slightly sensitive to frost are also the varieties ‘porphyrantha’, ‘hirsuta’, ‘ritualis’, ‘triangularis’ and the hybrid ‘Galpinii’. Despite all this, they should also be protected from too severe frosts by covering them.
In spring, the leaves can be cut off about a hand’s width above the ground and the plant supplied with fertilizer, for example in the form of compost. This will allow it to sprout vigorously again. The inflorescences are already cut off in the fall, as soon as they have faded.
As with most plants, the torch lily may be subject to pest infestation. For example, if not cared for properly or if site conditions are unfavorable, it can be attacked by thrips. This pest is also known as thunderfly or thrips.
Slugs also like to eat torch lilies, and earwigs nest in the flowers of this plant very readily, but they are beneficial insects. They can be lured out of the plant by, for example, placing a wet rag next to the plant in question. The earwigs then use this rag as a hiding place and can thus be removed from the plant.
An infestation of thrips is indicated, for example, by silvery spots on the upper side of the leaves and brown spots of droppings on the underside of the leaves. The flowers may also be affected.
Useful insects, i.e. natural predators such as predatory mites, lacewings or flower bugs, can be used for control. Effective are also no-oil products and decoctions from nettle, garlic or onion.
To prepare a suitable decoction, first chop up pieces of nettle, garlic or onion and then pour hot water over them. The whole thing is left overnight, and the next day the broth is poured through a sieve and then sprayed on the infested plants. The whole process should be repeated after 10-14 days, several times if necessary.
A problem with snails is usually obvious, usually you can see the animals sitting on the plants. In addition, feeding marks on the leaves indicate a possible slug problem. In addition to slug pellets, useful insects such as threadworms can be used. You can also regularly collect the pests, preferably in the evening hours. This method is very effective in the long run but extremely unpleasant.
Particularly beautiful varieties
- ‘praecox’ – This torch lily captivates with its orange-yellow flower stalks. The plant is rather in the middle range with a growth height of 90 cm. Its flowering period lasts from June to September.
- ‘orange vanila popsicle’ – An unusual multicolored variety, with the colors red, orange and creamy white, is the variety ‘orange vanila popsicle’. It reaches a lower growth height than most at 50 cm and blooms from June to October.
- ‘Green Jade’ – The torch lily ‘Green Jade’ has a striking green and white flower color. It blooms from July to September and grows about 80 to 100 inches tall.
- ‘citrina’ – The flowers of this stunning flowering perennial shine in a bright light yellow, greenish color. It blooms from June to September and grows between 40 and 80 cm tall.
- ‘Little Maid’ – The attractive cultivar ‘Little Maid’ produces beige-yellow flowers. It also tends to be one of the smaller specimens, with a height of growth of about 40 cm. Its magnificent flowers appear from July to September.
The torch lily is an exceptionally decorative plant. It is relatively robust and does not make any special demands on care. It is hardy to a limited extent and should be provided with appropriate winter protection. Too much wetness should be avoided both in summer and winter, but especially in winter. If you take all this to heart, nothing will stand in the way of healthy growth and, above all, a magnificent and long-lasting flowering.