If you’re looking for flowers that make a statement, the stunning, magnificent gloriosa lily is always a perfect choice. Also known as the flame lily or climbing lily, these dramatic blooms are beloved by florists and gardeners alike thanks to their bold colors and unusual flowers that bloom on twining vines. In this guide, I’ll take you through everything you need to know about gloriosa lily meaning, symbolism, uses, benefits, types, and growing tips.
Gloriosa Lily: The Essentials
|Common Names:||Gloriosa lily, flame lily, climbing lily, glory lily|
|Native Range:||Tropical and southern Africa, Asia, and parts of Oceania|
|Flowering Season:||Summer to fall (July to October in the Northern Hemisphere)|
|Botanical Characteristics:||Perennial vine with tuberous roots, climbing stems, and showy, trumpet-shaped flowers with reflexed petals that are typically red and yellow but can also be all-red or all-yellow. Elongated seed pods follow the flowers.|
|Colors:||Typically red and yellow, but can also be all-red or all-yellow.|
|Mature Height:||Up to 3 meters (10 feet) tall when grown as a vine|
|Sunlight:||Full sun to partial shade|
|Soil:||Well-draining, fertile soil with a pH between 5.5 and 6.5|
|Fertilizing:||Gloriosa lilies prefer well-draining, fertile soil and benefit from regular fertilization during the growing season with a balanced, slow-release fertilizer.|
|Symbolism:||Gloriosa lilies are associated with beauty, pride, admiration, and good luck. They are often used in traditional medicine for their anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. However, the tubers and seeds are toxic if ingested.|
About the Gloriosa Lily
Gloriosa lilies are the only species within the Gloriosa genus. Despite these flowers’ many “lily-centric” common names — which also include fire lily, flame lily, creeping lily, and climbing lily — they aren’t actually members of the lily family at all.
Instead, G. superba belongs to the Colchicaceae, or autumn crocus, family. This group contains more than 280 species of flowering plants across 15 genera. The family is so named because all the species contain colchicine, a naturally occurring yet toxic compound that’s a traditional treatment for gout.
The gloriosa lily’s native range encompasses tropical regions of Africa and swathes of Asia stretching from India to China, where it grows in both tropical and temperate climate zones.
The lilies are deciduous, vining plants that grow from tubers. Most grow to about 6 feet long, but can grow up to 15 feet under optimal conditions. When grown in temperate regions, the plants emerge from their rhizomatous roots in spring.
Their shiny exotic foliage can be oval or slightly pointed. Leaves are usually alternate, with twining tendrils at the end that helps the plants climb.
Starting in mid-summer, dramatic blooms appear atop 7-inch-long stems. The flowers may be upright or drooping. They boast three reflexive tepals surrounded by six yellow stamens. Depending on the variety, tepals may be red, orange, yellow, creamy white, or bi-colored.
Popular Types of Gloriosa Lily:
The species (G. superba) has bright red tepals edged with brilliant yellow. Other popular cultivars include:
- Gloriosa superba ‘Rothschildiana’: This cultivar has large, showy, deep red flowers with yellow tips.
- Gloriosa superba ‘Lutea’: This cultivar has bright yellow flowers with slightly reflexed petals.
- Gloriosa superba ‘Citrina’: This cultivar has pale yellow flowers with a greenish tinge.
- Gloriosa superba ‘Simplex’: This cultivar has fewer but larger flowers than other types, with deep red petals and a yellow center.
- Gloriosa superba ‘Carsonii’: This cultivar has deep red flowers with yellow tips, similar to ‘Rothschildiana,’ but with a more compact growth habit.
- Gloriosa superba ‘Mayii’: This cultivar has striking bicolor flowers with deep red petals and yellow centers.
- Gloriosa superba ‘Crimson Glory’: This cultivar has deep crimson-red flowers with yellow tips.
- Gloriosa superba ‘Album’: This cultivar has pure white flowers with a yellow center.
- Gloriosa superba ‘Nana’: This cultivar is a dwarf form of the species, reaching only 30-45 cm (12-18 inches) in height, with smaller flowers that are typically red and yellow.
- Gloriosa superba ‘Texas Yellow’: This cultivar has bright yellow flowers with reflexed petals and a red base and is particularly popular in the southern United States.
The Meaning & Symbolism of Gloriosa Lilies
The gloriosa lily’s genus name — Gloriosa — comes from the Latin word for “glorious,” or gloriosus. This term is also related to “famous” or “ostentatious.” The species name, superb, means superb, splendid, or proud.
The lily’s common names also reflect the flowers’ dramatic color and structure. From flame lily to glory lily, you won’t be surprised to learn that these bold flowers are imbued with rich symbolism.
In the language of flowers, gloriosa lilies are associated with traits such as passion, beauty, boldness, hope, and good fortune. They’re also a symbol of strength, resilience, and tenacity, perhaps due to the clinging tendrils that help the plants to climb.
In India, the gloriosa lily is further associated with honor and fame. In the Tamil region, the flower is known as Karthiagaipoo. It contains the colors of the flag, and it’s known as the official flower of Great Heroes Remembrance week in Tamil Elam and the state flower of Tamil Nadu.
The gloriosa lily is the national flower of Zimbabwe. Here, it’s a powerful symbol of the country’s independence.
In some parts of its native range, including Sri Lanka and northern India, gloriosa lily plants have become rare. Some worry they may become endangered. But in other parts of the world where it’s been introduced, such as Florida, Singapore, Australia, and some Polynesian islands, the plant is considered an invasive weed.
The Gloriosa Lily in Floriography
Along with its rich symbolism in Africa and Asia, the gloriosa lily has a fascinating history in Europe. The plants were first introduced to England in the late 1600s, and cultivation began in the 1700s.
In the 1940s, the flowers received international attention when a young then-Princess Elizabeth received a jeweled brooch shaped like a gloriosa lily on a trip to then-Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). After her father, King George, passed away, Elizabeth wore the brooch in her first official photos as the new monarch.
Today, the flowers are beloved by gardeners thanks to their unique appearance. They’re also popular with florists, thanks to the cut flowers’ ability to stay fresh and colorful for a long time.
Uses and Benefits of Gloriosa Lilies
In its indigenous regions of southern and tropical Africa and parts of Asia, the gloriosa lily has long been valued for its medicinal uses. In Indian Ayurvedic medicine, the plants are used to treat skin conditions such as leprosy, ringworm, itching, ulcers, and bruising. It’s also used in poultices to treat arthritis and sprains, and snakebites.
In parts of Africa, the tubers are used to make ear drops and relieve gum irritation. The leaves, tubers, and sap treat parasitic infestations, such as tapeworms, roundworms, and liver flukes.
Ash from burnt leaves is used to promote wound healing. Gloriosa lily sap is used to treat acne.
Despite its use in traditional medicine, gloriosa plants are not edible. In fact, all parts of the plants are toxic and should not be ingested, as they contain the alkaloid compound colchicine.
In fact, the plants are cultivated commercially as a source of colchicine. Seeds contain high levels of colchicine, an ingredient in some gout pharmaceuticals.
How to Grow Gloriosa Lilies
In their natural habitat — the tropics — gloriosa lilies grow in warm, humid conditions. The plants can be grown as perennials in sub-tropical and temperate zones, USDA 8 through 12. In colder areas, the lilies can be grown as summer-flowering bulbs.
When planting, wait until after the danger of frost has passed. Dig a hole two to four inches deep. Place the tubers horizontally in the hole and cover them with soil. Planting tip: If you want shorter, more erect plants, dig a deeper hole.
Provide a trellis to help the plants climb. Keep the plants moist and apply diluted fertilizer while the plants have foliage. For more flowers (and more foliage), apply more fertilizer.
The lilies will grow in the ground or in containers. In colder regions, you can carefully dig up the tubers and store them in a cool, dry place over the winter, then replant them in spring.
For the best results, choose a location with rich, well-drained soil. Sandy, loamy soil with a slightly acidic pH is best.
Gloriosa lilies grow in full sun to partial shade. If you’re growing in a hot, dry area, provide protection from the afternoon sun.
Caring for Gloriosa Lilies
You don’t need to prune your gloriosa lily. After flowering is over and the stems die, you can cut the plants to the ground. Don’t cut back while the leaves and stems are green, however. The plants store energy in their tubers while the foliage is live.
Not many pests bother gloriosa lilies. Aphids are one exception; if you find aphids on your lily’s leaves, immediately knock them off with a strong spray of water or apply horticultural oil.
If the soil is overly wet or too dense, the lily may be susceptible to root rot, anthracnose, or viruses such as the cucumber mosaic virus. Prevent these issues by immediately removing aphids, not letting plants sit in water, and using clean, well-draining containers.
Creative Uses for Gloriosa Lilies
Gloriosa lilies add a dramatic look to the landscape and to floral arrangements. Outdoors, consider planting a lily in a container next to a trellis for a bold climbing effect.
In floral arrangements, gloriosa lilies lend an otherworldly look. Incorporate long stems, leaves, and buds to extend the line of an arrangement. For an organic look, you can encourage the plants’ natural sprawl.
Gloriosa Lilies Flower Crafts
Gloriosa lily flowers are known for their long-lasting nature. Make them last even longer by pressing them:
- Choose flowers at the height of their bloom.
- Cut stems at an angle and immerse into cold water.
- Gather flat, smooth paper such as newspaper, printer paper, blotting paper, or coffee filters (don’t use textured paper towels).
- Dry the flowers (and stems and leaves if using) altogether.
- Place between two sheets of clean paper.
- Set a heavy, flat object, like a book or brick, on top.
- Check after one week and replace paper if needed.
- Leave for two to three weeks or until completely dry.
Gloriosa Lily FAQs:
What is the difference between Gloriosa lilies and other types of flowers?
Gloriosa lily flowers consist of reflexive tepals surrounded by yellow stamens that resemble flames. Their bold color and structure set them apart.
How long do Gloriosa lilies bloom for?
Gloriosa lilies bloom from mid-summer through fall. Flowers last about two weeks on the vine and about one week when cut.
What is the ideal climate for growing Gloriosa lilies?
Gloriosa lilies grow best in conditions that mimic a tropical environment. this includes rich well-draining soil, full sun to partial shade, high humidity, and slightly acidic soil.
Can Gloriosa lilies grow in containers or indoors?
Lilies grow well in well-draining containers. You can grow them indoors, but provide a dormant period in winter by reducing watering after flowering ends in fall. In early spring, increase watering and expose the plant to more sunlight to restart growth.
How often should I water my Gloriosa lilies?
Provide regular moisture from spring to fall, then taper watering the rest of the year. Make sure the plants never sit in water.
When is the best time of year to plant Gloriosa lilies?
Plant tubers in spring after the danger of frost has passed.
How can I protect my Gloriosa lilies from pests and diseases?
Keep an eye out for aphids and remove them with water or horticultural oil. Prevent disease by avoiding overwatering.
How can I extend Gloriosa lilies’ lifespan after being cut?
Cut stems at an angle and immediately place them in cold water. Refresh water every other day and keep away from drafts and heat sources.
Gloriosa lilies add a dramatic, bold touch to any landscape or floral arrangement. These flame-like blossoms catch the eye and offer rich symbolism connected to strength, resilience, passion, and bold beauty. For optimal growth and maximum blooms each season, providing well-drained soil, the right amount of light, and humid conditions will help keep your gloriosa lilies happy and lovely.
Linsay is an American copywriter based in the Pacific Northwest with a background in academic writing and research. Linsay holds Master's degree in both Anthropology and Library and Information Sciences and has written for numerous national and international publications including USA Today, SFGATE, Hunker, and The Bump across an array of topics in the gardening, green living, and travel sectors. When she's not writing, you'll usually find Linsay reading, kayaking, sailing, snowboarding, or working in her garden.
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