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How To Grow Lilies (Lilium)

Orange Lilies

Everyone loves lilies and they are very easy to grow in a home garden. The name ‘lily’ encompasses all varieties of these lovely flowers that come in a wide range of bloom color, flower shape, bloom time, and mature size.

Whatever variety of lily you want to grow, the needs of this showy perennial plant will all be the same. Use these tips for successfully growing lilies.

Planting Location

Select a planting location for lilies in a sunny location that has moist, well-draining soil.

Gardening folklore will help you select the right planting location for the lilies – plant lilies in a location that will put their head in the sun and feet in the shade.

A sunny location will put their head in the sun and a 2-inch layer of mulch will keep their feet in the shade. Planting low-growing annuals or a groundcover at the base of lilies will also keep their feet in the shade.

When To Plant

Yellow and Orange Lily

Photo by Arie Wubben

Plant lily bulbs in the fall before the ground freezes. Bulbs planted in the fall will have time to establish a strong root system before the spring growing season. The lily bulbs will also benefit from a winter chill and produce larger blooms

In climates that have harsh winters, wait until spring to plant lily bulbs. Plant after all danger of frost has passed.

Lilies planted in a container should be planted during the early summer.

How To Plant Lilies

Incorporate 2-inches of compost into the soil before planting to increase soil fertility and improve drainage.

Dig planting holes three times deeper than the height of the bulb (1-inch bulb=3-inch deep hole)and space the planting holes 10-inches apart. Lilies multiply rapidly and will fill in the gaps quickly.

Cover bulbs with soil, gently firm the soil, and water bulbs thoroughly.

Size and Fragrance

The mature size of lilies depends on the variety planted, and it can range from 6-inches to 10-feet tall. Make sure to have enough vertical growing space for the variety you plant.

The fragrance also varies greatly and lilies can be fragrance-free or release a strong perfume scent when blooms open.

After Care

Lilies will only bloom once a year and the bloom time depends on the variety planted.

Remove the faded flower head so the plant won’t expend energy making seeds. Don’t remove foliage, it provides energy to the lily bulbs for next season’s growth and blooms.

Feed lilies with a high-potassium liquid fertilizer every 2-weeks during the growing season. Stop feeding after the blooms fade.

Apply a 1-inch layer of compost each spring, followed by a 2-inch layer of fresh mulch.

Water plants during times of drought or when the top inch of soil becomes dry.


Lilies create an underground clump of roots that will need to be divided every few years to keep the plant healthy.

To divide the plant, dig up the entire root clump in the fall, separate the clump by hand and replant the bulbs in different locations.

If lilies are not divided they will become crowded and produce small plants and small blooms. Crowding also impairs the airflow around the plants and can lead to disease and pest issues.

Diseases and Pests

Keeping lilies divided with good airflow around plants is the best defense you can give them against common diseases like gray mold and viruses.

Aphids, slugs, snails, and lily beetles are common pest problems that can be blasted away with water from a water hose and kept away by adding crushed eggshells around the base of the plants.  Rough, sharp mulch, like that created with crushed eggshell, will deter all crawling pests and keep them off plants.

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