By: Mary Ellen Ellis
A few honey lily bulbs add a spectacular focus to a flowerbed. It growstall and produces a cluster of delicate, pretty flowers. Growing honey liliesis no more difficult than your other fall bulbs, so consider adding thisunusual plant to your list this year.
What are Nectaroscordum Lilies?
Honey lily (Nectaroscordumsiculum) have many names including Sicilian honey garlic or Sicilian honeylily plants, and they are not often seen in spring bulb beds.
They’re worth tracking down, though, as you will get someshowy flowers with these bulbs. Honey lilies grow up to four feet (1.2 m.) talland have clusters of small flowers at the top. Each little bloom is a prettyshade of purple to green with white edging the petals.
As one of its many names suggests, honey lily is actuallyrelated to the Allium family, including garlic.If you crush the leaves, you’ll notice the relationship right away as the aromaof garlic becomes obvious.
How to Grow a Honey Lily
Growing honey lilies is similar to growing any other bulbplant. They grow readily in soil that drains well and is moderately fertile.These bulbs will tolerate drought, although standing water will be destructive,and they can grow in full sun but also partial shade.
Plant these bulbs in the fall and cluster them so that youhave five to seven bulbs in one spot. This will provide the best visual impact.They grow tall, so plant Nectaroscordum bulbs where they won’t overshadow yourshorter flowering daffodilsand tulips.A cluster of honey lilies is a great anchor for the center of a bed or againsta fence or other barrier.
Once your honey lilies are in the ground, expect them toemerge in spring and bloom in late spring or early summer. Continued Nectaroscordumbulb care is minimal. In fact, they won’t need much maintenance at all, just anannual cleanup, and they should keep coming back for about ten years.
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Allium siculum (syn. Nectaroscordum siculum), known as honey garlic,  Sicilian honey lily, Sicilian honey garlic, or Mediterranean bells, is a European and Turkish species of plants genus Allium. It is native to the regions around the Mediterranean and Black Seas, and grown in other regions as an ornamental and as a culinary herb. 
- Allium bulgaricum(Janka) Prodán
- Nectaroscordum siculum(Ucria) Lindl.
- Nothoscordum siculum(Ucria) auct., published anonymously
- Trigonea sicula(Ucria) Parl.
- Nectaroscordum bulgaricumJanka
- Allium meliophilumJuz.
- Nectaroscordum meliophilum(Juz.) Stank.
- Allium dioscoridisSm.
- Nectaroscordum dioscoridis(Sm.) Stankov
Nectaroscordum: the curious bulb that ties a bed together
C ALL IT WHAT YOU LIKE, but plant it. Whether labeled as Nectaroscordum siculum or Allium siculum, it’s a wonderful oddball of a flowering bulb that always elicits inquiries from visitors at my June garden events, and for good reason—though some of its assets are not as obvious as its lovely dangling mauve and green bells.
Nectar-garlic (according to “The Names of Plants” fourth edition, that’s what Nectaroscordum means) is animal-proof, since nobody messes with onion relatives, really. It is long-lasting, perennializing in the garden and even self-sowing. If you don’t want more, simply pull the slender, onion-like seedlings, or better yet, deadhead the parent plants before seed is set. It is hardy in Zone 5-8 or even warmer.
I planted my first bulbs more than 20 years ago, and they just get better. Nectaroscordum is good-looking even after the blooms are done, forming a tan-colored seedpod that turns upward where each waxy bell once dangled. It’s a great cut flower (and some people even like the dry form for that use).
Bees love it (evidence in the photo up top). Hummingbirds are also inclined to investigate on occasion. They’re curious, apparently—and that’s a good word for nectar-garlic: curious.
First come elongated, papery-covered buds (above). Those odd-colored bells on 30-inch-tall stems the foliage that’s not flat but dimensional, twisted in a 3-D manner (a drooping leaf or two showing that characteristic, below). The seedpods that seem to shift position toward vertical as they mature.
It is one of those plants, owing to its flowers’ old-fashioned and subtle coloration in gray-greenish, cream and a pinkish or wine color, that seems to be able to knit together other plants you might not at first think would make a match.
I like it in a jumble with Rosa rubrifolia, blue hostas, the wine-colored foliage of Cotinus (such as the smokebush called ‘Grace’), blue-foliage sedums, dark-leaved Heuchera, and perennial geraniums (including G. macrorrhizum, with vivid pink flowers).
Plant it in the fall, but here’s a tip: Some bulb catalogs offer early shopping discounts, for orders placed before July, for instance.
A p.s. on the name thing
I N BOTANICAL Latin, the epithet siculus means Sicily, so at some point in its long-ago past, this was probably native there, among other places. Most references are a little vague, but “Eastern Mediterranean” is probably safe to say, if asked where it’s native to.
The vagueness may get back to the name thing—and because true N. siculum or A. siculum has a near-lookalike close cousin, A. bulgaricum (as in: from Bulgaria), with slightly different color in the flowers.
Some catalogs will list Allium or Nectaroscordum bulgaricum, not Allium siculum, which Pacific Bulb Society says is a different plant—further specifying that what we see in catalogs today are probably hybrids, not true species, anyhow.
“In cultivation it is reported that whatever distinction these two species have, they integrate readily, and most bulbs or plants offered for sale are hybrids between the two,” the society’s website says. John Bryan’s massive at 2002 bulb encyclopedia says “only N. siculum is at all common in gardens,” and that bulgaricum is actually a subspecies of it. Oy, vey.
Meaning: Who knows which I have, anyhow. It was sold to me as N. siculum, but call it what you like.
Lilium ‘Yelloween’ bears pretty yellow blooms with a green-yellow midrib. A tall-growing Asiatic variety, ‘Yelloween’ is perfect for growing in a mixed herbaceous border and makes a fantastic cut flower.
Lilium ‘Sorbonne’ bears bright pink, fragrant blooms with a white margin. A tall-growing Oriental variety, ‘Sorbonne’ is perfect for growing in a mixed herbaceous border and makes a fantastic cut flower.
Lilium ‘Nymph’ is an oriental variety. It grows to a staggering height of up to 200cm, and bears large, strongly scented, pale lemon yellow flowers with a pink stripe along each petal.
Lilium ‘Casa Blanca’
Lilium ‘Casa Blanca’ is a classic Oriental lily with fragrant, pure white flowers and dark red stamens. Flowers grow on tall stems from mid- to late summer.
Lilium ‘Belonica’ is an Oriental lily known as a rose lily, which bears fantastic fragrant, pollen-free double flowers in shades of pink.