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How To Plant, Grow & Care For Lilies

Botanical Name Lilium
Plant Type Bulbs
Sun Exposure Partial shade to partial sun
Soil Type Well-drained soil; specific preferences depend upon variety
Soil pH Slightly acidic to neutral
Bloom Time Spring to Summer (varies with type)
Flower Color Red, yellow, pink, orange, white, and other colors
Hardiness Zones 3, 4, 5, 6,7, 8 (some variation, depending on type)
Special Features Most lilies are easy to grow and make showy cut flowers.

The lily genus is one of the most varied in the plant kingdom, and includes such favorites as the tiger lily, Asiatic lily, Oriental lily and Giant Orienpet lily. True lilies, known by the botanical name of lilium, are grown from bulbs. Lily flowers are perennials known for their trumpet shape and narrow leaves. They are easy to grow, making them ideal for beginner gardeners. Learn more about how to grow lilies below!

Lily Bulbs

How to Plant Lily Bulbs

Plant your lily bulbs about 6 inches deep to keep the bulbs cool in the summer and moist in the winter. They should be spaced about 6 inches apart. We like to plant lily bulbs in clumps of three or more bulbs. The pointy side of the lily bulb should be facing up toward the sky. If you can't tell which is the rooting side and which is the sprouting side, plant the bulb on its side. It will figure out which way is up. To encourage root development, work Van Bourgondien 100% Natural Bulb Food into the soil before planting. After planting, water well.

When to Plant Lily Bulbs

Lily bulbs are hardy and can be planted in the spring or the fall. When your bulbs are delivered, you should plant them soon after their arrival. Treat them carefully and do not break off any stalks or growth that may be on the bulb.

Where To Plant Lilies

Most lily flowers can be grown in zones 3-8. If you need help determining your grow zone, use our zone finder.

Plant lily bulbs in a sunny spot in your garden or border. The ideal site is one where the plants get full sun at the tops and are shaded at the soil level to keep the ground moist. Lilies prefer soil that is light, porous, sandy and enriched with compost.

Plant lilies with other lower-growing perennials and annuals. These companions can provide shade for the bulb and root system. Lilies are most effective when planted in groups of three or more. Space them about a foot apart. They will spread and fill this space in no time!

How to Grow Lilies

Lilies are low maintenance plants. We've included some best practices to keep in mind when growing lilies below:

  • Don't cut back leaves after blooming; allow leaves on the stalk to turn yellow and fall off as part of the lily's natural growth process. This process provides nutrients to the bulb for the next year.
  • When the foliage has died back completely, the stalk can be cut back.
  • You may remove the flowers only after they are done blooming.
  • Add fertilizer and water, but do not water after plants begin to flower, unless you live in a particularly dry region.
  • Because lilies are produced in such a variety, check the packaging of your bulbs for more information.
  • Lily Flowers FAQs

    What Are Common Lily Pests and Diseases?

    While lilies are fairly easy-care and trouble free, they can be bothered by aphids, beetles and spider mites. Check your plants regularly for signs of insect damage. Also, lilies like well-drained soil and can be susceptible to root rot if the soil is too moist.

    What Kind of Winter Care do Lilies Need?

    Most lilies are winter hardy and many lily bulb varieties can be left in the ground over winter. In areas with harsh winters, adding six inches of mulch in late fall can protect the bulbs over winter. Remove the extra layer of mulch in the spring. Cut down the dead stalks in late fall or early spring.

    Can Lilies Be Grown in Containers?

    Lilies can be grown in containers. In general, dwarf or compact varieties are easier to grow in pots. Make sure the containers have drainage holes.

    Types of Lilies

    Asiatic Lily

    Asiatic Lily

    Asiatic lilies boast large blooms, amazing colors and strong stems for easy, upright garden displays or indoor arrangements. While most grow 3-4' tall, dwarf varieties grow just 2' tall. Most Asiatic lilies are not fragrant. In fact, some are free of messy pollen--ideal for seasonal allergy sufferers. They grow in zones 3-8 and bloom in late spring to early summer.

    Giant Orienpet Lily

    Giant Orienpet Lily

    A cross between Oriental and trumpet lilies, Giant Orienpets are renowned for massive blooms and intense fragrance. They bloom in early to midsummer and can grow up to 6-8' tall by their third year. They're suitable for zones 3-8.

    Oriental Lily

    Oriental Lily

    Oriental lilies are known for their delightful fragrance and large, elegant flowers. These are the lilies that florists favor for summer bouquets and bridal centerpieces. Growing 2-4' tall, they bloom in mid to late summer. They're suitable for zones 3-8.

    To learn more about the different types of lilies to grow, please read our Types of Lilies blog.

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