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Lilium tsingtauense: The Enigmatic Laoshan Lily’s Secrets Revealed

The Lilium tsingtauense and also known as the Laoshan Lily, is not only beautiful but extremely rare. The Qingdao Lily has an orange-red or orange-yellow color, with light purple spots. Its flowers are star-shaped, with petals that do not curl backwards. It has whorled leaves and is suitable for planting under forests, in gaps, beside […]

The Lilium tsingtauense and also known as the Laoshan Lily, is not only beautiful but extremely rare. The Qingdao Lily has an orange-red or orange-yellow color, with light purple spots.

Its flowers are star-shaped, with petals that do not curl backwards. It has whorled leaves and is suitable for planting under forests, in gaps, beside rocks, and at the edges of grasslands.

It can also be potted or displayed as cut flowers in public places, such as lobbies and halls, due to its high ornamental value.

I. Basic Introduction

Lilium tsingtauense

The Qingdao Lily, or Lilium tsingtauense, also known as the Laoshan Lily, is a perennial monocotyledonous herb. The Qingdao Lily has an orange-red or orange-yellow color, with light purple spots.

The flowers are star-shaped, consisting of 5-7 singular flowers that form a raceme, with petals that do not curl backwards. This species is mainly distributed in the area south of Laoshan’s North Jiushui, at altitudes of 400-1000 meters, generally growing in shady or semi-shady slopes in forests.

II. Common Types

The Qingdao Lily was discovered by a German plant expert during an expedition to Xiaoqingdao in the 18th century. As Xiaoqingdao was originally named Qingdao, this lily was named Qingdao Lily, or “Lilium tsingtauense”.

Significant botanical literature, such as the International Plant Science Journal, the World Plant List, and the Botany Encyclopedia, all name it “Qingdao Lily”. In the 1930s, the range of the Qingdao Lily spread across almost all the main peaks of Laoshan.

Lilium tsingtauense

Lilies get their name from the fact that their underground bulbs are composed of dozens of scales, meaning “a hundred pieces combined”. Known as the “Fairy in Cloud Robes”, the lily is a traditional famous flower in both China and the world.

The ornamental value of the Qingdao Lily is even more outstanding among lilies. The Qingdao Lily plant has a beautiful form, elegant flowers, and refined leaves, which are very ornamental.

However, the Qingdao Lily has a weak reproductive capacity, slow growth, and strict requirements for its external living environment. Coupled with overharvesting by humans, the number of Qingdao Lilies has dramatically decreased over time.

On Xiaoqingdao, where the Qingdao Lily was first discovered, the plant is now extinct. It now only exists in the primitive forested areas of Laoshan, above 500 meters in altitude, where human footprints are rare, and its resources are extremely endangered.

The new variety of lily, L.Nepera, promoted by the American Borbelata Garden, was bred by crossing the Qingdao Lily with the Terrace City Lily (a hybrid of the white European Lily and the Hansen Lily).

II. Growth and Distribution

The Qingdao Lily is found in Korea and naturally grows in regions located at an altitude of 400 to 1000 meters south of North Jiushui in Laoshan, within mixed broadleaf forests or amongst low shrubs and grasses in slightly shaded areas.

During its seedling and mature stages, the leaves can provide adequate shade while the blossoms require ample sunlight. The Qingdao Lily is highly cold-resistant and prefers soil rich in humus.

IV. Morphology and Characteristics

Biological Characteristics

The Qingdao Lily is an insect-pollinated plant, with its major means of propagation being seeds. It flowers in June and fruits in August. This species has a weak reproductive capacity and requires specific soil pH and temperature/humidity conditions.

External environmental pressures and changes greatly impact the vitality of the Qingdao Lily, and during reproduction, occurrences of sterility and flower deformities are found.

The Qingdao Lily has a weak ability to renew its bulbs, a short lifespan, and poor adaptability, but it is extremely cold-resistant and serves as an excellent genetic breeding resource.

Generally, it stops growing new roots once the temperature exceeds 10 degrees Celsius. The survival rate of randomly transplanted Qingdao Lilies during their flowering stage in June is very low, and even if the transplant survives, it takes two to three years to recover and bloom again.

Morphological Features

The bulb of the Qingdao Lily is nearly spherical, 2.5 to 4 cm in height and diameter. The scales are lanceolate, 2 to 2.5 cm long and 6 to 8 mm wide, white, and without nodes. The stem is 40 to 85 cm tall and lacks small nipple-like protrusions.

The leaves are whorled, with 1 to 2 whorls, each consisting of 5 to 14 leaves, which are rectangular-oblong to lanceolate or elliptical, 10 to 15 cm long and 2 to 4 cm wide, tapering sharply at the tip and broad-wedge shaped at the base with a short stalk.

Apart from the whorled leaves, there are a few scattered leaves which are lanceolate, 7 to 9.5 cm long, and 1.6 to 2 cm wide.

The flowers are solitary or arranged in cymes of 2 to 7; the bracts are leaf-like, lanceolate, 4.5 to 5.5 cm long and 0.8 to 1.5 cm wide; the pedicels are 2 to 8.5 cm long; the flowers are orange-yellow or orange-red, with purple-red spots; the tepals are long-elliptical, 4.8 to 5.2 cm long and 1.2 to 1.4 cm wide, with no nipple-like protrusions on either side of the nectaries; the filaments are 3 cm long, hairless, and the anthers are orange-yellow; the ovary is cylindrical, 8 to 12 mm long and 3 to 4 mm wide; the style is twice as long as the ovary, with an enlarged stigma, usually trifurcated.

V. Cultivation Methods

The Qingdao lily enters its blooming period in mid-to-late June. Plants with a bulb circumference of 15-16cm generally produce 3-4 flowers and larger fruits, each containing around 100 seeds.

Plants with a bulb circumference of 9-10cm usually produce only one flower and smaller fruits, each containing around 40 seeds. The fruit matures in early November, splits along the back, and the seeds at the top and bottom of the fruit often fail to develop.

The seeds in the middle are full, with prominent embryos, and under natural conditions, they go dormant in the winter and sprout in early summer.

For artificial propagation, seeding can be done in a greenhouse to extend the growth period of the bulbils: Harvest the fruit in early November, stir the seeds in 30℃ water until they sink, mix the seeds with moist sand and place them at a constant temperature of 20℃ to promote germination.

Regularly spray water to keep the sand moist; after about 10-15 days, germination will occur in succession, with a germination rate exceeding 70%. The germinated seeds are then planted in peat soil and covered with 1cm of peat or vermiculite, maintaining soil moisture (ideally 30-40%).

After 40-50 days in an environment where the room temperature exceeds 25℃, the cotyledon with the seed coat will emerge from the soil. After the seedlings emerge, they should be shaded with a net that blocks 80% of the light to avoid exposure to strong light, thereby extending the growth period.

After the seeds germinate, the front end of the embryonic axis swells to form a small bulb, which in its first year of growth is narrow and ellipsoidal in shape, with a diameter of 8-10mm and 2-3 scales. Most seedlings only grow one leaf in their first year.

Substrate Preparation

Choose a breathable substrate for cultivation, such as perlite, fine river sand, peat, or vermiculite, all of which are suitable for scale rooting and propagation.

Experiments have shown that a substrate mixed in equal parts with fine peat soil and vermiculite has good moisture retention and breathability, preserving scales for a longer period and promoting root growth.

This is the preferred substrate for burying cuttings in low-temperature environments. Sand has poor water retention, but under intermittent spraying conditions, the germination rate of small bulbs is higher.

Large-grain vermiciculite has good water and heat retention and is also conducive to the formation of small bulbs in a suitable temperature environment. Zhao Yu and others believe that perlite has good drainage and breathability and is quite suitable for the propagation requirements of Qingdao lily bulb scales.

The substrate should be sterilized by sun exposure or fumigation and wetted with water 2 days before burying, then dried in the shade indoors for later use.

Scale Selection and Treatment

Choose healthy plants free of pests and diseases, dig out the bulbs, and depending on the size of the bulb, peel off the outer 2-3 layers of scales (about 40-60 pieces can be peeled from a bulb with a diameter of around 10cm), leaving the seed core for continued cultivation.

Soak the scales in a 1000-fold solution of carbendazim for 30 minutes, then dry in the shade for 24 hours before use.

Forced Bulb Germination

Choose a container such as a tile basin, wooden box, or styrofoam box with a depth of 20-25cm to act as a cultivation box, and line the bottom with 5cm of peat soil.

After evenly mixing the spare scales with the substrate, spread them over the peat soil (each liter of substrate can hold around 100 scales), then cover with 3-5cm of peat soil for moisture retention. Place the stored scales in a room temperature environment of 25-28°C during the day.

After 15-20 days, the germination rate of the small bulbs can reach around 70%, and 80% of the scales can grow small bulbs after 30 days. At this time, place the seedling box in a room temperature environment of 15-20°C to encourage root growth in the small bulbs.

Check the dryness and wetness of the upper layer of peat soil during this period, and spray water as needed to maintain moisture. After 60 days, transfer to a room temperature storage environment of 0-10°C.

Scales forced into germination in the fall can be transplanted into the field in late March of the following year. Experiments have found that temperature significantly affects the formation time of small bulbs, but has less effect on the germination rate of the scales.

Maintaining a diurnal temperature of 25-28°C and a nocturnal temperature of 5-10°C, the scales will first form small bulbs, then root; maintaining a diurnal temperature of 15-20°C and a nocturnal temperature of 5-10°C, the scales will first root and form small bulbs after 60-70 days.

Thus, maintaining suitable temperatures can extend the annual growth of small bulbs, which is beneficial for bulb weight gain.

Field Planting

In the first year of growth, a seedling will only sprout 1-3 basal leaves from the base, taking up very little ground area and suitable for dense planting. For convenience in management, it is advisable to use ridge cultivation.

Choose a deep, well-drained sandy loam plot. Before the soil freezes in winter, deeply turn the soil 20-25cm, and after the soil thaws in the following spring, break up the clods and level the ground.

Mix equal amounts of peat soil and perlite, add organic fertilizer, and use this substrate to make planting ridges. The substrate should be 10-15cm thick, and the length and width of the ridge should facilitate drainage and ease of work.

Place the small bulbs with scales neatly on the substrate at intervals of 2-3cm, cover with 2-3cm of peat soil, and cover with non-woven fabric. Regularly water to keep the surface soil moist.

Seedling Management

After the young leaves emerge from the soil, promptly remove the non-woven fabric, cover with a shade net with 80% shading rate 1m above, avoid direct sunlight, and regularly spray to maintain air humidity.

After the leaves fully unfold, apply diluted phosphorus and potassium fertilizer in conjunction with watering. The soil should be kept moderately dry and moist.

Long-term drought can cause bulb shrinkage, waterlogging can cause bulb rot, and drainage should be paid attention to during the rainy season. Lily seedlings are prone to wilt and leaf spot diseases.

In the cultivation process, severely diseased plants should be promptly pulled out and burned. Leaf spot disease can be prevented and treated by spraying with Bordeaux mixture, or 50% carbendazim wettable powder at 800-1000 times dilution, spraying once every 7-10 days, for 3-4 times in a row, with good results.

The main pests of lilies include mole crickets, tiger beetles, and wireworms, which can be controlled by watering the soil with a 1000 times dilution of 25% phoxim.


First and second year small bulbs are planted shallowly, and in Qingdao region, they are prone to freeze damage when overwintering outdoors. Therefore, after the leaves wilt, harvest the bulbs and store them indoors for overwintering.

For storage, use the stacking method, lay 10cm thick peat soil in a paper or wooden box, mix the bulbs, perlite, and peat at a volume ratio of 1:2:2, spread on the peat soil, and cover with 10cm of peat. This method can safely overwinter the bulbs.

VI. Modes of Propagation

Seed Propagation

In their natural habitat, Qingdao lilies are found in groups, with the number of individuals per group varying from a few to several dozen.

There is a significant difference in the size of the bulbs within each group, with the larger bulbs reaching diameters of 18-20cm, and the smaller bulbs, which are the offspring of actual seeds, having diameters of only 8-10mm. Seeds are an important means of propagation for this plant.

Bulb Propagation

Qingdao lilies often exhibit renewal growth, where the bulbils replace the growth of the parent bulb. Natural populations also reproduce through bulbils, which occur in various parts such as the root plate, internal basic roots, underground stems, and the base of loose or broken scales.

  • Basic root bulbils. This occurs more often in bulbs with a diameter of over 8cm. The basic roots originate from the axils of the scale leaves, extend and creep to form a bulbil.

    The number of bulbils produced by each parent bulb varies, and loose scale fusion tends to produce more basic root bulbils.

  • Root plate bulbils. After observing bulbs that have been cultivated for 1-2 years, it was found that 1-2 bulbils develop inside the parent bulb.

    The bulbils originate from the axils of the scales on one or both sides of the stem of the parent plant, continuously differentiate scales, forming new individuals.

    Typically, one bulbil replaces the parent bulb in the renewal process, but in rare cases, two new bulbils form on either side of the stem in larger, older bulbs.

  • Stem bulbils. Above-ground stems do not produce bulbils. However, bulbils can form on the stem axis buried in the soil, although this is not common.

  • Scale bulbils. Under the influence of drought, pests, and physical damage, the scales can become loose or broken, and bulbils can form at the base of the scales. When all scales are dislodged due to damage, the bases of the outer, middle, and inner layers of scales can all form bulbils.

    It was found that the thicker the scale, the larger the diameter of the bulbil. In old, large bulbs that have grown for many years, bulbils can form at the nodes in the middle of the scales.

VII. Value and Other Aspects

Primary Value

Aesthetic Value

This plant is suitable for planting under trees, in open spaces, near rocks, and at the edge of grasslands. When in bloom, its graceful and attractive flowers brighten the surroundings. It can be potted or used in flower arrangements in public halls or rooms, adding a touch of elegance and soft beauty.

Edible Value

The bulbs of the lily are edible. Lily bulbs are rich in starch and can partially be used as vegetables.

Medicinal Value

In traditional Chinese medicine, lily bulbs are known as “Bai He”. They are sweet and neutral in nature and are believed to have the ability to moisten the lungs, relieve coughs, calm the heart, and soothe the mind.

They are used to treat chronic tuberculosis cough, blood in phlegm, residual heat from fever, restlessness, palpitations, confusion, nervous exhaustion, and insomnia.

Reasons for Endangerment

The Qingdao lily has extremely stringent requirements for water, soil, and environment. Its distribution range is narrow and its reproductive capability is weak. Due to human destruction of the environment, the number of this species has sharply declined since the 1970s and 1980s.

Current Population Status

After more than 30 years of effort, a common citizen, Ji Qun, has domesticated the Qingdao lily for pot cultivation. He has planted more than 600 mature Qingdao lily plants and over 1500 young ones. This has attracted scholars from both home and abroad, making a significant contribution to the protection of endangered species.

Plant Culture

The lily is named for its bulb, which consists of dozens of scales that form a lotus-like shape, indicating the meaning “hundreds of pieces combined”. Known as the “fairy in cloud dress”, the lily is both fragrant and beautiful, elegant and pure.

It’s a traditional renowned flower in China and worldwide. In botanical classification, the term “lily” typically refers to perennial herbaceous plants in the Liliaceae family, with nearly a hundred species worldwide and countless horticultural varieties, distributed in the Northern Temperate Zone and subtropical mountains.

China alone has 39 species and 26 varieties, of which 25 species and 19 varieties are endemic. The Qingdao lily (Lilium tsingtauense) is one of the most outstanding representatives of the lily genus in terms of ornamental and edible value.

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Founder of FlowersLib

Peggie was once a high school mathematics teacher, but she set aside her chalkboard and textbooks to follow her lifelong passion for flowers. After years of dedication and learning, she not only established a thriving flower shop but also founded this blog, “Flowers Library”. If you have any questions or wish to learn more about flowers, feel free to contact Peggie.

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