One of our most beautiful and elegant native lilies rarely appears in American gardens. Lilium michiganense or Michigan lily is native to much of central and eastern North America calling prairies, savannas, and woodland margins its home. I have monitored several colonies in wild areas not far from my home in southwest Iowa for about five years. I’ve found the most detrimental factor to wild populations appears to be the encroachment of woody plant species thereby increasingly shading the populations. Stalk height decreases and flower size (those that are able to) diminishes significantly though most of these colonies are making slow comebacks after the removal of the encroaching species.
In the garden I would suggest a lightly shaded area with morning sun. Plants can easily reach four to five feet tall in a moist, yet well-drained soil. As the bulbs age and the colony increases, many of the stems will sport multiple reddish-orange pendant shaped flowers. The spotting is especially attractive as well especially on larger flowers that can span to four inches across.
If you are interested in trying this fair maiden in your garden, Tony Avent’s wonderful Plant Delights Nursery offers nursery propagated stock. Please do not harvest this exceptional plant from the wild or condone such practices by purchasing from the few nurseries that continue to do so. I abhor such activity and shy not from calling those individuals idiots whose ruinous behavior only serves to widen the communicative gap between the ecologists who strive to preserve and the horticulturists who try to educate about the preserved.
All controversy aside, Michigan lily will make a great plant in your garden and will certainly give your yard a distinctly native conversation piece.