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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. I believe this is a trumpet lily, but I don’t know the variety. 

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.

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,

Joanna

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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33 Comments

  1. Hi Joanna, Your lilies are simply gorgeous. Would you please tell me the name of the beautiful orange lily, the one you tried to dig up for three years in a row!
    Also, I planted some oriental lily bulbs using Miracle grow garden soil (contains fertilizer). Should I still fertilize when they poke out of the ground? And if not, when?
    Thanks so much!

    Cathy

    1. Hi Cathy, I’m sorry I do not know the specific variety of the orange lilies. You can fertilize your lilies in the spring when they first poke out of the ground. Some will say to fertilize in the fall too, but I never have. Thanks for stopping by Gingham Gardens and come back soon! Joanna

  2. Help me please !!
    I bought an Asiatic Lily, I really liked this plant, due to being pink { my favorite color}
    It was healthy and bloomed at the store I had it out on the table in my enclosed porch ,
    I placed it on table to get some sunlight, not directly in the sun. The leaves dried up and fell off.
    I removed all the leaves that it had on it, due to all the leaves were dead.
    I kept the little tiny stems that they grew on.
    Right now it is in my bathroom where there is daylight
    Question is : : Is there any hope to help my plant .
    I haven’t watered it in about a month {soil is still moist, etc. Thank you for your help and have a pleasant day.

    1. Hi Crystal – thanks for stopping by Gingham Gardens. First of all, lilies are really not intended to be house plants. Secondly, lilies have a very short bloom time… depending on the variety and the number of buds your lily had, you might get 2 weeks of bloom from it. So if your lily was flowering when you bought it, the bloom time would be even less. Lilies are grow by bulbs and if you plant the bulbs outdoors in the ground this fall, you will have lilies again next year. Good luck, Joanna.

  3. I bought a few Oriental Lily Plants Last yr…Very beautiful…They came back this yr. But only one big flower stalk on each plant and a bunch of like little stalks that dont have anything but leaves on them no flowers at all….Shld I cut those off and leave just the flowering stalk???

    1. Hi Courtney – thanks for stopping by Gingham Gardens. No don’t cut the side shoots off. All that foliage will help to re-energize the bulb for next year. When the lilies are done blooming you can cut off the top 6 inches or so. Happy gardening, Joanna

  4. After one bloom of my Asiatic lilies the y have never bloomed again. Is this normal? They only stayed full bloom for about two or three weeks. Please advise.

    1. Hi Debi – yes, it’s normal for Asiatic lilies to only have one bloom cycle a year. If the bulbs aren’t eaten by critters or damaged in any other way, they will return the following year. If you stagger out planting with other lilies like LA Hybrid or Oriental Lilies, you can have lilies blooming for several weeks. Good luck and happy gardening, Joanna

  5. I planted lilies in pots on the front porch. And I was told I could put the pot in the garage for the winter with the lilies still in the pot. Could you advise us on this? Also, do deers like lilies we have a terrible problem with deer!

    Thank you,
    Bebe, St Louis

    1. Yes, unfortunately deer love lilies! You need to protect them by using a spray deer deterrent. I use Liquid Fence (affiliate link). I’ve never seen lilies planted as a container plant because they bloom for such a short time and then you’re left with a not very attractive planter for the remainder of the season. I’ve overwintered pots of tulips in an unheated garage and that worked, so I don’t see why lilies wouldn’t work too. Or, you could just remove them from the planters when they are done blooming and plant the bulbs in the ground. Good luck and happy gardening, Joanna

      1. Thank you , but I just found out that my daughter in law who planted call lilies in her pots not lilies. I have used the liquid fence and that does not help with these suburban deer as we call them. My daughter in law is not a Gardner but gets really excited when she plants her pots.

    2. I had problems with deer eating my tulips and sedum. I took bar soap cut it up and put it in the crotch of the plant between the stem and the leaf. No more deer. Hope this helps you.

      1. Thank you so much I will differently try this new idea and hoped it works. I dig up all my hostas hopefully to keep them away ! On ward and up ward!!

  6. My stargazer lillies are growing well so far this aspiring. They haven’t bloomed yet but I have one plant that the bottom leaves are turning yellow. What can I do to prevent this?

    1. Hi Angie – thanks for stopping by Gingham Gardens. Leaves turning yellow is usually an indication of overwatering. Too much water can rot lily bulbs, but if your lilies are outdoors, I would not worry too much about them. If you are watering them, just stop watering so much. If it’s rain, there’s not much you can do. Good luck and happy gardening, Joanna

  7. Thank You for so much information. Living in Pa. I have time to head out and Buy Me Some Lilies!!!!. This blog has tought me alot! I have lilies, but you helped me to understand them more! I can almost smell them now! Wondering if you think the white lilie has the strongest scent? Great blog!

    1. Hi Barb- thanks so much for stopping by! Pretty much any oriental lilies are going to smell amazing. I’m happy you were inspired by the post. Any good shredded wood mulch will work. Happy gardening!

  8. Lilies are definitely a favorite, prized for beauty, fragrance and ease of growing. I learned so much from this post that I will put to good use in this year’s gardens. Thank you for helping make my neck of the woods a beautiful place to be! I plan to add Casa Blancas to my “moonlight glow” garden!

    1. Hi Sherry, thanks for stopping by and taking the time to leave a comment! You will love Casablanca lilies. They smell amazing! Happy gardening!

  9. We live in zone 6 and have good success with lilies – that is unless we plant something that gets over 2 feet high and put them where our wind will blow them over. The song from the musical that states ‘Oklahoma, where the wind comes sweeping down the plain’ , well that is so correct. Love, love, love your hints.

    1. Hello Carol, yes you’re correct that the taller lilies definitely need staking. That’s the only bad thing I can think about them though. Happy gardening!

  10. I’m like you I love Lillie’s and have started to grow new ones at my new home. This year I planted StarGazer lillies. I planted some last year but the didn’t come up last year. Low and behold they are coming up this year so I’m so excited to see what color they are. Thank you for showing your beautiful Lillie’s!

    1. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment, Shelly. What an awesome surprise having new lilies this year. Thanks again and happy gardening!

  11. Beautiful lillies. Mine are now looking pretty sad. I love bringing in fresh lillies. I bet the white one glows at night.

  12. Oh my, your lilies are stunning! The Casa Blanca have always been my favorite! I can almost imagine the fragrance right now! Thank you for sharing at Celebrate Your Story!

  13. You have a lot of beautiful lilies! I have a lot of them, too, because they do so well in my yard. I’ve been adding more and more each year. Bringing in a few Oriental Lilies is such a treat, since they perfume the whole house!

  14. What a wonderful and beautiful variety you have! ( I have like….two, lol! 🙂 A smaller one on the side of the house that re-blooms periodically after June if we get cooler weather and one large on the other side that just blooms once.

    I enjoyed the tour !

    1. Joanna , Great article on Lilies. I love them all and find myself ordering some new ones every year. My Asiatics are in large containers and are multiplying so much they need dividing. When is the best time to do this? Love to cut Orientals for indoor arrangements and really since I plant alot of new ones every year have not noticed a decline in blooms. One branch of Casa Blanca will scent an entire room. I think they are my favorite.

      1. Hi Kathy – A gardener can never have too many lilies. Orientals don’t last as long as Asiatic bulbs in zone 4, but I do have some Orientals that are on year 3 for me. They just don’t seem to expand and spread like Asiatics. I guess they like your warmer temps. I agree that Casa Blanca has an amazing fragrance. Happy gardening, Joanna

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