Did Bees Cause This Lily to Change Colors?

Bees are extraordinary creatures. They move from plant to plant transferring pollen, making sure that the species thrives.  They are so necessary in our gardens and it is a shame that their numbers are decreasing in part due to huge mega farming operations, loss of their habitats and pesticide use.

Parent lily before pollination

Change of Lily Colors – Bees or Genetics?

One of the Fans of the Gardening Cook on Facebook, Jennie Alaya, has shared two extraordinary photos showing the change of color that she believes the bees have had on the original parent lily.

This is her original lily, before bees mixed pollen from a near by stargazer lily into the parent plant.  Notice how the colors are subdued and very creamy overall.

The next photo shows the dramatic change.  It is the same lily but a new bulb and shows the flower that has changed color.  Look at the difference in color!

Lily after pollination by bees with stargazer pollen.

Jennie says that “streaks appeared in 4-5 of the flowers last year. This year, they are in nearly all of the offshoot bulbs from parent bulb. The peach bulbs were planted 6-7 yrs ago,  and the stargazers about 4-5 yrs ago. Bulb clumps (off parent plant) are full bulbs now, not bulblets, so the colors are very noticeable. The lilies are in 2 different gardens, about 20 ft apart.”

Was it the bees?  Perhaps, but there could be other reasons too.

For hybrid lilies to be created, a male and a female parent was needed.  It is possible that one parent was white and one purple and the bees did not make the change but the original parents did.

It is also possible that the purple lily probably was the stronger genetically and has slowly reverted the hybrid to it’s color.  The whole clump may be pink next year!

If the lily is not sterile and the bees pollinate the bloom, the bloom produces seeds that are not sterile.  These seeds can be released and be transferred.  Plants springing up nearby might be either color as well.

Whatever caused the  color change, there is no denying that it is dramatic.  Thanks so much for sharing the story Jennie!

Dramatic lily color change

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  22 comments for “Did Bees Cause This Lily to Change Colors?

  1. Karen
    07/23/2017 at 11:19 pm

    This is interesting. My pink lilies all came up yellow this year, I mean complete color change.

    • Carol
      07/24/2017 at 10:57 am

      Hi Karen. I’ve had it happen to hydrangeas but never to lilies. Carol

    • Marge
      07/22/2019 at 2:24 pm

      I have had three different coloured lilies growing in a pot for three years. One was white, one pink and one red. This year all are yellow. I suppose they have reverted to a parent colour somehow. One or two small bulblets appeared at the base this year which I have just removed and planted elsewhere.

      • Katrina
        06/22/2020 at 2:13 pm

        I have grew white oriental Lilly’s for many years now. I started with 4 bulbs which were all white for about 6 years. The bulbs of course multiplied each year but I have reduced them each year too.
        Last year they started to show a hint of pink where as this year they are completely pink although I do have some in a separate pot so it will be interesting to see which colour they will be.
        Happy growing everyone.

  2. Elaine
    05/21/2019 at 8:04 pm

    My lilies that were a dark red last two years (and I was so happy to finally have red lilies) are all yellow this year. I wish I could change them back… have other yellow lilies so maybe the bees did it!! Just really weird that they have all changed color.

    • Carol
      05/21/2019 at 10:06 pm

      I once had two entire huge sections of Black eyed Susan turn into a plant with entirely different leaves and purple fuzzy flowers. It blew my mind. Nature is odd. Carol

      • 11/07/2019 at 3:31 am

        Hi Carol
        I have been doing much home research into looking for blue flower genes of the same kingdom. I am no expert but I found out that blue cornflowers are wind pollinated and another similar two similar blue fuzzy plants of the same description you mentioned. All from the plantae kingdom which may have cross pollinated with the assistance of bees. Hope that helps. Heather, Australia

        • Carol Speake
          11/09/2019 at 11:16 am

          Thanks for the info!

    • Charlene
      07/27/2019 at 3:58 pm

      My day lilies were orange when I bought my condo 6 years ago. A few in another part of my yard were bright yellow and I loved them. This year all my lilies are a beautiful bright yellow. Awesome

      • Carol
        07/27/2019 at 4:31 pm

        So many people have said that this happened to them. It makes me think it’s cross pollination.

  3. Annika
    07/04/2019 at 6:54 am

    My seven year old orange lilies are dark purple this year!

    • Shawna Robertson
      07/06/2019 at 6:22 am

      Annika – Mine are dark too! I got them from my mother’s garden 4 years ago & they were/continued to be a light orange… This year they are a deep burgundy!

  4. Jan Belmont
    07/17/2019 at 8:59 pm

    I have a garden with burgundy/red lilies, cream colored ones and orange ones. This year I have a single plant with mainly reddish orange petals and cream colored stripes!
    Is it possible this could be a hybrid combination from the others?

    • Carol
      07/18/2019 at 2:01 pm

      it could be the way they were pollinated. Sometimes soil ph can have changes on color. I once had 2 clumps of black eyed Susans turn into a completely different purple colored plant and am still mystified by this.

      • Kimberly
        07/09/2020 at 1:33 am

        I am so glad that I found thread! My beautiful dark orange lilies, that I have had for nine years, have turned a very light peach and white this year. I could not imagine what had happened to them. After reading this, I am wondering if they will be all white next year.

  5. Jordan Henderson
    07/19/2019 at 9:46 am

    hi my lillies are the same last year they where a gorgeous bright orange this year one set has went light orange while the rest of them have all turned white.
    and in the other pot next they where once orange now they are all white.
    seems as if they havent opened either to there usual selfs.
    looks asthough they have opened half way and stopped

  6. Dee Bostic
    07/27/2019 at 5:23 pm

    Have four patches of multi colored Lillies. There are 2 or three original colors in each bed this year but the rest are a beautiful yellow. Do you think they will change color back to their original?
    I’m convinced it is lack of pollination as my Cucumbers are not maturing properly.

    • Carol
      07/27/2019 at 7:33 pm

      it’s hard to say how any plant will act over time, but once the color has changed, in my experience, it does not revert back.

  7. Maureen
    06/25/2020 at 11:20 am

    I moved around some of my orange tiger lillies, now I have three different colors! beautiful.I thought it was the soil.

  8. Joette Thomas
    06/27/2020 at 8:31 am

    I have so appreciated reading this thread, in my search for an explanation for my lilies completely changing colour! Last year I bought a sole orange lily for my window boxes- and this years I have two pink/red ones, and the original plant has just today opened the first of its 4 WHITE flowers! They are in two window boxes- the pink/red in both- including one shoot from the original orange bulb. Maybe cross pollination- but the only other lilies I see from my window are a neighbors orange ones, in window boxes on a neighboring building. Mother Nature is so fascinatingly unpredictable!!

    • Linda
      06/28/2020 at 5:23 pm

      I have lilies in 6 different tubs. . Some tubs had white, one very pale pink, one burgundy. They were all different variety’s. They have all come out beautifully but are all burgundy! I have one pot of a tall variety that I am waiting to see what colour they will be hopefully very pale pink. So very strange I will have to buy more white ones

  9. Joan Giammarino
    07/23/2020 at 11:00 pm

    I had 5 different colored asiatic lilies which I planted about 20 years ago (pink, yellow, orange, red, white). The last few years they have all completely changed to a two-tone orange-red flower. So weird.

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