What Is a Martagon Lily?

Angie Bates

A martagon lily is a type of flowering plant native to the cooler climates in Europe and Asia. The plant has also been successfully naturalized in Canada and parts of the northern United States. Also called a Turk's cap lily, the martagon lily's flowers face downward, but the petals curl up, creating a hat-like appearance to the blossom. The scientific name for the martagon lily is Lilium martagon.

Woman with a flower
Woman with a flower

A long-lived and showy plant, the martagon lily grows relatively large flowers on a tall stem. Stem may grow up to 6 feet (1.8 m) but usually average about 4 feet (1.2 m). Although these plants can grow both in partial shade and direct sunlight, the direct light tends to inhibit their growth, and the resulting plants will be shorter than those grown in partial shade. The blossoms grow in clusters, and a single stem may have as many as 50 blossoms. Flower numbers vary considerably, however, and some stems may have fewer than 15 blossoms.

Elliptical leaves grow from the stems at varying intervals in patterns called whorls. A whorl is simply a group of leaves that completely encircles the stem at a specific location. Each leaf may be up to 6.3 inches (16 cm) long, and each whorl may contain nearly a dozen leaves.

The blossoms of the martagon lily are usually shades of pink but may be more purple or red. There are also several hybrid varieties of the plant which allow for a greater color spectrum, such as yellow or white. Six nearly identical petals surround a cluster of large stamen. The blossoms and stamen point downward, but the petals partially open and curl upward.

The curling may be small or extreme, with some flowers' petals curling completely backward onto themselves. Whether just the tip curls upward or the petal seems to fold onto itself, every petal of a given flower behaves the same. Therefore, the evenly curled petals give the appearance of a cap, hence its common name of Turk's cap lily.

The martagon lily does best in neutral or slightly acidic soil and requires average, regular watering. The plant is adapted well to colder weather and can usually survive in below-freezing temperatures. This lily normally blossoms in late spring through summer. It requires relatively low maintenance, but bulbs can be difficult to find because of the plant's slow propagation, which can occur by seed or division of the bulb's scales.

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