Lilium lancifolium ‘Splendens’

There are easier ways to grow starchy roots, but if you want a spectacular veg patch or an edible flower bed then Lilium lancifolium ‘Splendens’ (tiger lily) is a plant that erases the difference between the two. Its ornamental appeal lies mostly in its striking spotted orange flowers (which inevitably raise the question, why tiger rather than leopard lily?) the petals of which curve right back to the stem, exposing long stamens, giving an overall effect that always puts me in mind of a jellyfish when viewed from the side.


There are two edible parts. The flowers can be eaten, although an internet meme holds that the pollen causes vomiting. Eat the Weeds suggests that this arose from the fact that all parts of the plant are indeed poisonous to cats and quotes one author who has eaten the pollen with no ill effects. Next flowering season I’ll try some (tentatively) myself and let you know. The bulbs (which I have tried myself) can be either fried or boiled. They have a mild taste and a starchy texture similar to a floury potato. They are traditionally cultivated in Asia as a food crop.

tiger lily bulb - continuing the jellyfish theme

tiger lily bulb – continuing the jellyfish theme

Spectacular as the flowers are, they are completely sterile and this lily doesn’t produce fertile seed. Instead, it can be propagated by splitting the bulb or by potting up the handy little bulbils that grow along the length of the stem. These are best grown on in pots for the first year, then planted out and grown on for two or three more years until they are big enough for flowering and/or eating. If anyone would like to give it a go, I sometimes have bulbils in my seed list. Tiger lily likes a warm, sunny spot with freely draining soil.

tiger lily bulbils

4 thoughts on “Lilium lancifolium ‘Splendens’

  1. readrobread

    I’m guessing that like hostas and daylilies (and even sweet potato vine), edibility bridges all the many cultivated ornamental varieties, with variability in taste being the norm, since they are not being selected for edibility. Does that sound right to you?
    There are some tiger lilies sold here in north america that grow really big (5-6′ tall) – though eating the bulbs would be a luxury meal, as they are expensive to buy.
    I hadn’t come across info about the flower being edible before – thanks for that. I’ll give it a go in the spring (carefully, esp with the pollen).

    1. Alan Carter Post author

      There’s some debate about how careful we need to be with different varieties of edible plants, with some people even arguing that every new variety should be treated with the same care that you give to a new species. I wouldn’t go that far but I would agree that especially with species that have known toxins anywhere in their make up, any new variety has the potential to have higher-than-usual levels of that toxin. This isn’t limited to unusual edibles: I’ve heard of someone producing (through convential breeding) a celery which caused dermatitis in anyone who handled it and potato breeders always have to be careful about the levels of solanine in their new varieties. This is one reason why I am keen on sharing information. We are all effectively experimenting on ourselves every time we try a new variety, so it would be good if everone could post what they have survived!

  2. davina77

    Hello Alan,
    I stumbled over your blog just the other day and couldn’t be more thankful for that!
    This is the first time I will have a complete year of gardening here in Scotland and barely find any information, to be honest. It’s all about gardening in England, and of course in the mildest climates there, but it seems there’s never something about Scotland.
    I have moved to a lovely little house a couple of months ago, and I have a chipped garden with a wee corner of, unfortunately, lots of rubbish mixed into lots of compost etc.
    I started to clear that out and found strange bulbs and stuff. After days I was able to identify one of the alien rhizoms. It’s a crocosmia. Also, I had found little white bulbs with spiky petals and until today have not been able to find out, what they are. Well, according to your pic I must have found some sort of lily!
    I had replanted them and maybe, if I am lucky they will grow this year again and I will see what variety it is.
    Thank you! Have a great weekend, Heike


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