Cardiocrinum giganteum, the giant Himalayan lily, is the largest species of any of the lily plants, family Liliaceae, growing up to 3.5 metres high. It is found in the Himalayas, China and Myanmar (Burma). Two varieties are recognised: C. giganteum var. giganteum - up to 3 metres tall, the outer part of the flower greenish and the inside streaked with purple - Tibet, Bhutan, Assam, Myanmar, Nepal, Sikkim C. giganteum var. yunnanense - 1–2 metres tall, the outer part of the flower white and the inside streaked with purplish red - Myanmar, Gansu, Guangdong, Guangxi, Guizhou, Henan, Hubei, Hunan, Shaanxi, Sichuan, Yunnan.
The plant was first described scientifically in 1824 by Nathaniel Wallich. The species was introduced into commercial production (as Lilium giganteum) in Britain in the 1850s. A bulb grown from seed collected by Major Madden flowered in Edinburgh in July 1852, while those collected by Thomas Lobb were first exhibited in flower in May 1853.
Cardiocrinum giganteum is a standout in any garden. With its flower stakes topping out at 3 metres and its ability to produce 20 heavily perfumed trumpet-shaped flowers, it is bound to be a focal point. Be prepared to be patient for these results; most bulbs take 3 to 4 years to settle in and bloom. During that time, while the bulb grows and expands, the plant earns its keep with attractive heart shaped leaves that are reminiscent of full size hostas. The bulb also develops offsets, or baby bulbs along the side of the mother, ensuring future blooms.