red and white lilies

Flowers belonging to the genus Lilium have three petals and three petal-like sepals. Like the many other varieties of lilies, Asiatic and Oriental lilies share this distinctive physical feature. People commonly grow these types of lilies as landscape and garden flowers. The Stargazer Oriental lily with its large and fragrant blossoms, bright colors, dark spots and white petal edges is another lily favorite that consumers frequently select for floral and bridal bouquets.

Making the Distinction Between Petals and Sepals
Lilies have just three petals in addition to three sepals. However, the sepals of a lily resemble the petals, making it look as if the flower actually has six petals. Since the sepals and petals are identical in size and color, it is difficult to distinguish any difference between the two. Although a flower’s petals are brightly colored to attract pollinators, the petals also help protect the lily’s reproductive organs.

Telling Sepals From Petals
Three sepals make up the first layer on the outside of the flower. The petals make up the second layer toward the inside. Sepals and petals together make up the outer part of the lily that surrounds the stamens and pistils. In most plants, the sepals are green and look like small leaves. Lilies and tulips are exceptions. The sepals are colored and look a lot like the flower’s petals. Sepals and petals that are difficult to distinguish from each other are known as tepals.

peruivian lilies - alstroemeria

Role of the Sepal
The sepal is the part of a plant that surrounds and protects the petals when the flower is in the bud stage. Although not easily distinguishable on a lily, the sepals of most plants are green in color and lie under the larger flower petals. The sepals form the calyx of a flower. Petals form what is known as the corolla. Together these two parts of a flower form the perianth, or outer part of the flower. Most flowering plants like lilies produce nectar at the base of the petals.

Petal Characteristics
Lilies come in a variety of species, patterns and colors. All lilies share a basic form — three outer petals, or sepals, and three inner petals. Some of the most familiar petal colors are shades of yellow, orange, white, pink and red. The shape of the petals is another trait that classifies the flower. A lily’s blooms can face down, upward or outward to the side. The arrangement of a flower’s petals helps determine what kind of pollinators the plant attracts.