8 Tips for Growing Better Lilies
Lilies have an elegance few other flowers can rival. With such big, exotic-looking blossoms, it seems like they’d be tricky to grow. But they’re not! Here are eight tips for growing lilies that will help you succeed with these gorgeous summer-blooming flower bulbs.
1. Choose Your Type
Lilies are available in a variety of heights, flower styles and bloom times. Planting several different types of lilies lets you get creative with placement and pairings. It also stretches the bloom time. Keep in mind that Asiatic and Oriental-Asiatic hybrids flower in early summer. Midseason bloomers include trumpets and species types. Last to flower are the Oriental-Trumpet hybrids and Orientals.
2. Plant in Spring
Though lilies may be planted in spring or fall, most commercial growers don’t harvest their lily bulbs until early fall. For this reason, the bulbs are usually held in coolers for the winter and made available for purchase in spring.
3. Handle Lily Bulbs with Care
Unlike tulips and daffodils, lily bulbs do not have a protective covering. When planting lilies, make sure to handle them gently to avoid breaking off the scales. The bulbs should also be planted as soon as possible so they don’t dry out. A little mold on the outer scales is normal and no cause for worry.
4. Give Them Sun and Good Soil
Like most bulbs, lilies will not tolerate soggy soil. Other than that, any good garden soil is fine. At planting time, mix in some shredded leaves or other organic matter to encourage strong root growth and help keep the soil lightly moist. In dry climates, mulching the soil surface will reduce moisture loss and keep the soil cooler.
Lilies should be planted where they can get full sun or at least half day sun. In hot climates they appreciate being shaded from afternoon heat.
5. Give Lilies Room to Shine
Though lilies don’t take up a lot of space in the garden, they also don’t like to be crowded. The plants produce only a small amount of foliage and all of it is right on the stem. For healthy growth and good flower production, make sure the plants have enough room around them so sunlight can reach the stems (and leaves).
6. Plant in Groups
Lilies look best when they are planted in clusters of 3 or more bulbs. Dig a generous planting hole 8” deep. Put some all-purpose fertilizer in the bottom of the hole and mix it around to disperse. Add a few handfuls of loose soil back into the hole and then position the bulbs so they’re 6 to 7 inches deep (follow instructions on the packaging). Lilies also grow well in pots. Plant 3 bulbs per 2-gallon pot. Learn more about planting and growing lilies in this VIDEO.
7. Plan Ahead for Cut Flowers
Lilies look beautiful in a vase. In fact, they are one of the world’s most popular cut flowers. If you want to grow your own lilies for cutting, remember that cutting the stem will remove the most of the plant’s foliage as well as its flowers. This will weaken the bulb and may prevent it from re-blooming.
The simple solution is to plant extra bulbs specifically for cutting. This way you don’t need to feel bad about cutting lots of flowers with nice, long stems. Simply plant a fresh batch of lily bulbs every spring. The best lilies for cutting gardens are Asiatics, double Asiatics, LA Hybrids, Orientals and OT Hybrids.
8. What to Do When the Flowers Fade
When your lilies have finished blooming, use scissors to snip off the flowers, leaving the main stems intact. As with other bulbs, the foliage produces the energy needed for next year’s flowers. Once the stems are completely yellow, they can be cut back to the ground.
To learn more about growing lilies, you may want to read All About Lilies, How to Garden with Lilies and Bloom Times for Lilies.
Great info thank you
Would love to hear about how to handle lily beatles, the plague of lily gardeners.
Hi Joyce-Marie — We have an article about lily leaf beetles. You can find it here: https://www.longfield-gardens.com/article/How-to-Control-Red-Lily-Leaf-Beetles
I have been fighting lily leaf beetles for more than 5 years. They are a terrible pest. In 2016 I had a lot of beetles and sprayed my lilies weekly from May through mid-July with spinosad (Captain Jack’s Deadbug Brew). This year I saw just a couple beetles in June and sprayed immediately — but only once because I haven’t seen any beetles since then. It could be weather, luck or maybe I knocked back the population enough last year. Good luck!