My Asiatic lilies that in previous years were pink, white, and yellow came up orange and black this year. What happened?
—Doug Sheehan, Ludlow, VT
This is frustrating, but not unusual, and you can’t tell with complete certainty what happened to your lilies. The black-spotted orange lilies (as a child, I called them tiger lilies) are very robust. If there were any small bulbs, or even bulb scales, from orange and black ones mixed in with the pastel-flowering bulbs when you planted them, they may have grown and thrived while the more delicate bulbs diminished and eventually died out.
Little “bulbils,” the seed-like miniature bulbs that often form along the stems of Asiatic lilies, should produce plants that are identical to those from which they came. But you can’t count on real seeds from the plant’s seed pods to “come true.” So if you didn’t deadhead your lily flowers faithfully before seed pods matured, it’s likely they produced ripe seeds which reverted to the more common ancestral orange and black form. After falling to the ground, some may have grown, then bloomed orange and black after several years, eventually taking over your lily displays. They won’t revert back to pink, white, or yellow again.