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How to Grow and Maintain Lilies

Lilies are stunning perennial flowers grown from bulbs. Because they are so gorgeous, people think they are hard to grow, but I’ve found them to be one of the easiest perennials to grow and care for. Really, you don’t even have to be a gardener to grow lilies! Get ready for visual overload, because I have lots of pictures of lilies to share, and some great tips and tricks on How to Grow and Maintain Lilies.

Samur LA Hybrid Lily

Samur LA Hybrid Lily

How to Grow & Maintain Lilies – Different Types of Lilies

In this post we’re talking about true lilies, which are lilies from the lilium genus. This does not include daylilies, canna lilies, calla lilies or peace lilies. Those are all in different plant families.

  • Asiatic Lilies are the first to bloom and they are very easy to grow. Asiatic Lilies do not have a fragrance.
  • Oriental Lilies are a little pickier about their soil and in my zone 4b gardens, the bulbs don’t produce as much after the first year. I’m working on remedying this by being more diligent about fertilizing in the spring and throughout their growing season. Oriental lilies smell downright heavenly.
  • Trumpet Lilies grow very tall, sometimes up to 8 feet tall. They have tons of flowers that smell amazing.
  • LA Hybrid Lilies are a cross between Easter Lilies (Longiflorum Lilium) and Asiatic Lilies.
  • Orienpet Lilies are a cross between Oriental Lilies and Trumpet Lilies.
  • Martagon Lilies (a/k/a Turk’s Cap) are very tall, stately lilies with smaller flowers that face downward. Martagon lilies do okay in shade with just a bit of sun. I have never grown Martagon Lilies before. Everytime I get ready to purchase some bulbs, I change my mind because of the price. Do you grow Martagons?
  • And many other hybrids.

Feel free to “pin” the pictures in this post. If you hover in the upper right-hand corner of the picture, you’ll see the little Pinterest icon. Just click it and pin away. There are also pins to share at the bottom of the page. Thanks a bunch!

I love this cheery, bright yellow LA Hybrid Lily, and so does Mr. Granddaddy Long-Leg.

Yellow LA Hybrid Lilies

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These are Casa Blanca Oriental Lilies. The fragrance is heady!

Casa Blanca Oriental Lilies

How to Grow Lilies 

When to Plant Lily Bulbs

Lily bulbs can be either planted in the fall before the first heavy frost, or in spring once the ground has warmed up and the soil is workable. 

Sun Requirements for Lilies

Lilies do best in full sun. They will also grow okay in part sun, but my experience has been that they don’t always grow straight in part sun settings.

Soil Requirement for Lilies

A loamy soil that drains well is best for lily bulbs. If the soil is too soggy, the bulbs will rot. Fortify your soil by using a good mix of compost in with your soil.

How to Plant Lilies

When planting bulbs, the general rule of thumb is to plant bulbs three times the size of the bulb. So if the bulb is around three inches high, plant the bulb 9 inches deep.

Be sure to dig down a little further than 9 inches just to loosen up the soil so the roots can take off and grow. This is where you want to add in compost. Also at this time, I mix in some slow release fertilizer. I use either Osmocote or Epsoma Bulb Fertilizer. Be sure to mix the fertilizer into the soil, so the bulb isn’t sitting in a scoop of fertilizer.

Also dig the hole large enough to hold 3 – 5 lily bulbs. Lilies always look better in clumps and they tend to be sturdier when planted in groups. Place the bulbs about one to two inches apart to give them room to multiply. Don’t forget to position the bulb so the tip side is facing upwards.

Beautiful Lilies

How to Have Lilies Blooming for Several Weeks

I do wish lilies would bloom longer, but one can stretch out the lily bloom season. Here’s what I do to get the most out of lily season:

  • Stagger bulb planting. For example, plant one batch and then wait two weeks and plant another batch.
  • I get a Jump Start on Summer Blooming Bulbs, (read the article to learn how) including lilies, by starting lily bulbs in pots either indoors if I have room, or in my popup greenhouse.
  • Plant a variety of different types of lilies – the Asiatic lilies bloom first and Oriental lilies bloom later in the summer.

Lily bulbs can be planted in containers too. You just have to be sure to plant the bulbs in the ground in the fall before the first hard freeze.

These pink Brindisi LA Hybrid lilies are one of my favorites.

Pink Asiatic Lilies at Gingham Gardens

How to Maintain Lilies

Lilies will pretty much take care of themselves, but here are a few tips to keep them healthy and beautiful.

  • Protect your lilies from rabbits. I have lost so many lilies by rabbits chomping off the tops of them. It’s so maddening! I made up a bunch of cylinder type fences out of this type of fencing and they work really well. I’ve also have great luck using a product called Liquid Fence. Just a warning that the smell might make you puke.
  • Fertilize your lilies in the spring when they are starting to poke out of the ground. I wait until they are an inch or two high and then simply work a little granular fertilizer into the top couple inches of soil.

Tiger Lilies

Tiger Lilies

What to Do With Lilies When They Are Done Blooming

Simply clip off the little stems that the flowers were on, or clip the entire top of the lily off. Just be sure not to cut the stem down to far, because the bulb uses the nutrients to regenerate so it can grow flowers the following year. Fortunately the stems stay nice and green for most of the summer.

Yellow Asiatic Lilies

Growing Lilies As Cut Flowers

Lilies make amazing cut flowers to bring indoors. Just know that if you cut the stem off, that particular bulb will likely not produce the following year. So if you really want to grow lilies as cut flowers, the simple solution is to just plant bulbs every year.

These orange lilies were under a tree in the front yard of our former home. I think I tried for about 3 years in a row to dig them up and move them, and every year I broke the stems off the bulbs and couldn’t get to the bulbs. I finally decided to leave them be and work around them, and this is the result. Aren’t they gorgeous.

Orange Asiatic Lilies at Gingham Gardens

Patricia’s Pride – Asiatic Lilies

Patricia's Pride Asiatic Lilies at Gingham Gardens

Stargazers – another yummy, delicious smelling Oriental Lily.

Stargazer Oriental Lilies at Gingham Gardens

These are my all-time favorites, oh wait, I think I already said that about the pink ones. Below is Lavon, an orienpet lily. A cross between a trumpet lily and oriental lily. 

Lilies at Gingham Gardens
Here’s a new addition to my gardens this year – Tiny Glow Asiatic Lily. I love this color and I added these in a few different gardens.

Tiny Glow Asiatic Lilies at Gingham Gardens

A neighbor brought over a huge pot of lilies that she’d dug up and asked me if I wanted them. Of course, I said yes please. I was really hoping they wouldn’t be ugly when they bloomed, and they weren’t.

Asiatic lilies at Gingham Gardens

I’ve shared these before, but I can’t help myself, I just keep taking more and more pictures of them. I purchased a big bag of Oriental Lily bulbs from Costco in the spring and they’ve been awesome. Here’s to hoping they come back next year.

Oriental Lilies at Gingham Gardens

Other Articles You Might Enjoy:

Flower Gardening 101
Creating and Caring For A Low Maintenance Flower Garden
14 Plants You Don’t Want In Your Garden

Lily Leaf Beetles

I have grown lilies for over 20 years and have never had any disease or pest problems. However, I was recently asked how to remedy lily leaf beetles and I had to do some research. I found this article and it’s very thorough and I believe you’ll find it helpful if your lilies are plagued by this pest: Controlling Lily Leaf Beetles.

Lilies and Cats Don’t Mix

Right now I don’t have pets in my home, so I don’t have to worry about what plants are toxic to pets. However, I recently learned from a reader that every part of a Lily (even the pollen) is highly toxic to cats. See this article from the FDA for more information.

There are lots more bulbs you can grow in your gardens besides lilies, learn all about them here.

After reading How to Grow and Maintain Lilies, I hope you’ve learned a new tip or two and seen some new varieties to plant in your gardens. Do you grow lilies in your flower gardens? If so, what are your favorites? Please leave a comment and let me know.

I’m so happy you stopped by Gingham Gardens today!  As always, if you have a gardening question, just ask. Thanks a bunch for stopping by and come back soon!

Happy gardening,


p.s. Go ahead and feel free to “pin” these pictures. If you hover in the upper left-hand corner of the picture, you’ll see the little Pinterest icon. Just click it and pin away. There are also pins to share at the bottom of the page. Thanks a bunch!

p.p.s I’d love to have you follow me on Pinterest. Lots of great gardening ideas and tons of gardener’s eye candy.

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