How To Plant Lilies [ Full Guide ]

Lilies are a popular choice for gardeners due to their stunning, vibrant blooms and enticing fragrance. Planting lilies can be a rewarding experience, but it’s essential to know the proper techniques and considerations to ensure they thrive. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore everything from selecting the right bulbs to preparing the soil and planting lilies both in open ground and containers. By following these steps, you can cultivate a breathtaking display of these elegant flowers in your garden.

Quick Answer: How To Plant Lilies

  • Step 1: Select the Right Lily Bulbs: Choose healthy, firm bulbs and consider the variety and flowering time.
  • Step 2: Choosing the Perfect Planting Location: Find a spot with well-draining soil, ample sunlight, and protection from strong winds.
  • Step 3: Preparing the Soil for Lily Planting: Ensure the soil is fertile, well-drained, and has a neutral to slightly acidic pH.
  • Step 4: Planting Lily Bulbs: Dig holes at the appropriate depth, place the bulbs carefully, and cover with soil.
  • Step 5: Caring for Newly Planted Lilies: Water them well, mulch the area, and monitor their growth for optimal results.

Now, let’s delve into each of these steps in detail.

Selecting The Right Lily Bulbs

The first and crucial step in planting lilies is selecting the right bulbs. Here’s how to choose the best ones for your garden:

Healthy Bulbs

When purchasing lily bulbs, it’s important to select healthy, firm bulbs. Inspect for any signs of mold, damage, or soft spots, as these may indicate poor quality or disease. The best bulbs will feel heavy for their size, indicating they are fresh and full of nutrients for growth.

Lily Variety

Consider the variety of lilies you want to grow. From Asiatic and Oriental lilies to trumpet and hybrid lilies, each type has different growth habits, flowering times, and heights. Be mindful of the bloom color and plant size to ensure they complement your garden’s aesthetics.

Flowering Time

Pay attention to the expected flowering time of the lily variety. Some lilies bloom early in the season, while others flower later. By planting a mix of early, mid, and late-blooming varieties, you can create a continuous display of lily blooms throughout the season.

Bulb Size

Larger bulbs often produce stronger and more prolific plants. While smaller bulbs will eventually grow, they may take longer to establish and produce abundant blooms. If available, opt for bulbs that are at least 2-3 inches in diameter for better results.

Choosing The Perfect Planting Location

Selecting the right planting location is crucial to the success of lilies. Here’s what to consider:


Lilies thrive in full sun to partial shade. Choose a location that receives at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day. However, in warmer regions, providing some shade during the hottest part of the day can be beneficial, especially for certain delicate lily varieties.

Soil Drainage

Good drainage is essential for lilies to prevent waterlogged conditions, which can lead to rot. Avoid areas prone to standing water and choose well-draining soil or create raised beds or mounds if necessary. If you have heavy clay soil, amending it with organic matter like compost or peat moss can improve drainage.

Wind Protection

Consider the wind patterns in your garden. While lilies enjoy a gentle breeze, strong winds can damage their tall stems and delicate blooms. Planting lilies near a windbreak, such as a fence or shrubbery, can provide protection from harsh winds and prevent stem breakage.

Space And Air Circulation

Provide ample space between lily plants to allow for good air circulation. This reduces the risk of fungal diseases and encourages healthy growth. Aim for spacing of 8-12 inches between bulbs, depending on the specific variety’s mature size.

Preparing The Soil For Lily Planting

Lilies thrive in fertile, well-drained soil with a neutral to slightly acidic pH. Follow these steps to prepare the soil for planting:

Soil Testing

Before planting lilies, it’s beneficial to test your soil’s pH and nutrient levels. Soil test kits are readily available at garden centers or through local agricultural extension services. The results will help you determine if any amendments are needed to create an optimal growing environment for lilies.

Soil Amendments

Based on the soil test results, enrich the soil with organic matter such as compost, well-rotted manure, or peat moss to improve its fertility and texture. Incorporating a balanced fertilizer formulated for flowering bulbs can also provide the necessary nutrients for healthy lily growth.

Soil Texture

Lilies prefer well-drained soil that is loose and friable. If your soil is heavy or compacted, incorporate coarse sand or perlite to improve its texture and drainage. This ensures that water can penetrate the soil easily and excess moisture can drain away from the roots.


Once the soil is prepared, consider applying a layer of organic mulch around the lily planting area. Mulch helps conserve soil moisture, suppresses weed growth, and provides a protective layer over the bulbs during winter. Use materials like shredded bark, straw, or compost, and spread a 2-3 inch layer over the soil surface.

Planting Lily Bulbs

Once the bulbs and planting site are ready, it’s time to plant the lilies. Follow these steps for successful planting:

Planting Depth

The general rule of thumb for planting lily bulbs is to bury them at a depth that is three times their height. Larger bulbs should be planted slightly deeper, while smaller bulbs can be placed a bit shallower. Typically, this translates to a planting depth of 6-8 inches for most lily bulbs.

Digging Holes

Use a trowel or bulb planter to dig holes for the lily bulbs. Space the holes according to the recommended plant spacing for the specific lily variety. Make sure the holes are deep enough to accommodate the bulbs comfortably without crowding or bending them.

Placing The Bulbs

Handle the bulbs carefully, being mindful of their fragile scales. Position each bulb in the hole with the pointed tip facing up and the basal plate (where the roots emerge) resting on the soil surface. Ensure that the bulbs are oriented correctly to encourage upward growth.

Covering With Soil

Gently backfill the holes with the amended soil, covering the bulbs completely. Tamp down the soil lightly to remove air pockets and ensure good soil-to-bulb contact. Water the newly planted bulbs thoroughly to settle the soil and initiate root growth.

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Planting Lily Bulbs In Containers

Planting lilies in containers is a great option for those with limited garden space or for adding a splash of color to patios and balconies. Follow these steps for successful container planting:

Container Selection

Choose a large, sturdy container with drainage holes at the bottom to ensure proper water drainage. The container should be at least 12-16 inches in diameter and equally deep to accommodate the lily bulbs comfortably and allow for root development.

Potting Mix

Select a well-draining potting mix designed for flowering plants or bulbs. Avoid using heavy garden soil, as it can lead to poor drainage and compaction within the container. Adding some perlite or coarse sand to the potting mix can further improve its drainage and aeration.

Planting Depth In Containers

In containers, lily bulbs need to be planted slightly shallower than when planting them in the ground. Aim for a planting depth that is roughly twice the bulb’s height, typically around 4-6 inches. This shallower depth provides adequate support for the stems while still allowing for healthy root development.

Watering And Care

After planting the bulbs in the container, water them thoroughly until the excess water drains from the bottom. Place the container in a sunny location, and water the lilies consistently to keep the soil evenly moist but not waterlogged. Apply a layer of mulch over the soil surface to conserve moisture and regulate temperature fluctuations.


In regions with cold winters, consider protecting container-grown lilies from freezing temperatures by moving the containers to a sheltered location or insulating them with mulch or straw. This ensures the bulbs remain insulated and protected from frost damage during the dormant period.

Planting lilies can bring a burst of color and fragrance to your garden or outdoor space. By selecting healthy bulbs, choosing an appropriate planting location, preparing the soil, and following proper planting techniques, you can set the stage for a stunning lily display. Whether planted in open ground or containers, lilies reward gardeners with their elegant beauty and captivating presence. With the guidance provided in this article, you can confidently cultivate a thriving lily garden that will enchant and delight for years to come.

Planting Lily Bulbs In The Ground

Lilies are perennial plants that belong to the genus Lilium and are known for their large, showy flowers and pleasant fragrance. They are native to many parts of the world, including Asia, Europe, and North America. Lilies are typically grown from bulbs, which are underground storage organs that store nutrients and energy for the plant.

Lilies can be planted in various settings, including flower beds, borders, and containers. They prefer well-drained soil and full sun, although some varieties can tolerate partial shade. Lilies are also available in different types, including Asiatic, Oriental, Trumpet, and Orienpet lilies, each with its unique characteristics and growing requirements.

Before planting lily bulbs in the ground, it is important to prepare the soil properly. Lilies prefer well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter. Here are the steps to follow when planting lily bulbs in the ground:

  1. Choose the planting location: Select a location in your garden that receives full sun or partial shade. Lilies generally require at least six hours of direct sunlight each day. Ensure the site has well-drained soil, as lilies do not thrive in waterlogged areas.

  2. Prepare the soil: Loosen the soil in the planting area to a depth of at least 12 inches. Remove any rocks, roots, or weeds from the soil. Incorporate organic matter such as compost or well-rotted manure to improve soil fertility and drainage.

  3. Dig the holes: Dig holes for the lily bulbs, using a garden trowel or shovel. The depth of the holes should be approximately three times the height of the bulb. Space the holes apart according to the planting instructions provided with the lily bulbs, usually around 10 to 12 inches apart.

  4. Plant the bulbs: Place the lily bulbs in the holes with the pointed side facing up. The pointed side is where the stem will emerge. Gently press the soil around the bulbs, ensuring they are firmly planted but not excessively compacted.

  5. Backfill the holes: Fill the holes with soil, covering the bulbs completely. Ensure there are no air pockets around the bulbs by gently firming the soil around them.

  6. Water thoroughly: After planting, water the lilies thoroughly to settle the soil and provide moisture to the bulbs. The soil should be kept moist, but not waterlogged, during the growing period.

Watering And Fertilizing Lilies

Proper watering and fertilizing are crucial for the healthy growth and flowering of lilies. Here are some guidelines to follow:

  1. Watering: Lilies require regular watering, especially during their active growth period. Water the soil thoroughly when it feels dry to the touch. Deep watering is preferable, as it encourages the growth of deep roots. However, avoid overwatering, as it can lead to root rot and other diseases. A layer of mulch around the plants can help retain soil moisture.

  2. Fertilizing: Lilies benefit from regular fertilization to ensure they receive the necessary nutrients for optimal growth and flowering. Apply a balanced granular fertilizer, such as a 10-10-10 NPK (nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium) mixture, in early spring before new growth emerges. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the appropriate application rate. Avoid over-fertilizing, as it can burn the roots and harm the plants.

  3. Additional feedings: As lilies continue to grow, they may benefit from additional feedings throughout the growing season. Apply a liquid fertilizer every four to six weeks during the active growth period. Alternatively, you can use a slow-release fertilizer that gradually releases nutrients over an extended period.

  4. Watering and fertilizing after flowering: After the lilies have finished flowering and the foliage begins to turn yellow, reduce watering and stop fertilizing. This allows the bulbs to enter a dormant state and prepare for the next growing season. However, continue watering if the weather is exceptionally dry to prevent the bulbs from drying out.

Mulching And Weed Control

Mulching around lily plants and implementing effective weed control measures can help maintain a healthy growing environment. Here’s what you need to know:

  1. Mulching: Apply a layer of organic mulch, such as shredded bark or compost, around the lilies. Mulch helps conserve soil moisture, suppress weed growth, and provide insulation for the bulbs during winter. Ensure the mulch layer is around 2-3 inches thick, but avoid piling it up against the stems to prevent rotting.

  2. Weed control: Keep the area around lilies free from weeds, as they compete with the plants for nutrients, water, and sunlight. Regularly inspect the planting area and remove any weeds manually or through the use of garden tools. Be careful not to damage the lily bulbs or roots while weeding.

  3. Herbicides: If weeds become a persistent problem in your lily garden, you may consider using herbicides. However, exercise caution when using herbicides as some products can harm lily plants. Consult the product label and follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully to ensure safe and effective weed control.

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Staking And Supporting Lily Plants

Tall lily varieties, especially Oriental and Trumpet lilies, may require staking or support to prevent them from toppling over under the weight of their flowers. Here are some tips for staking and supporting lily plants:

  1. Stake early: Install stakes or support structures for lily plants early in the growing season, preferably when you first notice the emergence of the stems. This allows you to position the stakes without damaging the plant or its roots.

  2. Select the right stakes: Choose stakes that are sturdy and tall enough to support the height of the lily plants. Bamboo stakes or metal rods are commonly used for staking. Place the stakes around the perimeter of the lily plant, leaving enough space for the stems and foliage to grow.

  3. Tie the stems: As the lily plants grow taller, gently tie the stems to the stakes using soft garden twine or plant ties. Avoid tying the stems too tightly, as this can restrict growth and damage the plant. Leave some slack to accommodate for growth and movement.

  4. Support from neighboring plants: Alternatively, you can position lily plants near other sturdy plants or shrubs that can provide natural support. This helps reduce the need for additional staking and gives the lilies a more natural appearance in the garden.

Planting lilies can be a rewarding experience, as these beautiful flowers add charm and elegance to any garden. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can ensure that your lilies thrive and produce stunning blooms. Remember to choose a suitable planting location, prepare the soil properly, water and fertilize regularly, mulch and control weeds, and provide adequate support for tall varieties. With a little care and attention, your lilies will flourish and bring joy for years to come.

Deadheading And Pruning Lilies

Lilies are exquisite flowering plants that are known for their vibrant colors and captivating fragrance. They are perennial plants that can brighten up any garden or landscape with their stunning blooms. Planting lilies may seem like a daunting task for beginners, but with the right knowledge and techniques, it can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience.

Deadheading refers to the removal of spent blooms from the lily plant. This process not only helps maintain the aesthetic appeal of the plant but also diverts the plant’s energy towards new growth and flower production. Deadheading is a simple process that can be done using your fingers or garden shears. To deadhead a lily, follow these steps:

  1. Inspect the lily plant and identify the spent blooms. These flowers will typically wilt or lose their vibrant color.
  2. Gently grasp the stem of the spent bloom close to the base with your fingers or use clean garden shears to make a clean cut just above a node or leaf junction.
  3. Dispose of the removed blooms in compost or discard them responsibly.

Pruning lilies is essential for maintaining the health and vigor of the plant. It involves the removal of damaged, diseased, or overcrowded foliage and stems. Pruning should be done in early spring or fall, depending on the variety of lily. Here are the steps to prune lilies effectively:

  1. Inspect the lily plant for any signs of damage, disease, or overcrowding. Look for yellowing or browning foliage, spots, or irregular growth.
  2. Use clean garden shears or pruners to make clean cuts just above the ground level or at the base of the damaged stems or foliage.
  3. Dispose of the pruned material in compost or discard it responsibly.

By regularly deadheading and pruning your lilies, you will promote healthier growth and encourage the production of more abundant and vibrant blooms.

Protecting Lilies From Pests And Diseases

Lilies are susceptible to various pests and diseases that can impact their growth and overall health. To protect your lilies and keep them thriving, it’s crucial to understand and implement appropriate preventive measures. Here are a few common pests and diseases that affect lilies and ways to manage them effectively:


Aphids are small, pear-shaped insects that feed on the sap of lilies, causing distortion of leaves and buds. To manage aphids:

  1. Spray a strong jet of water on the affected parts of the plant to dislodge the aphids.
  2. Use insecticidal soap or neem oil spray as a natural and safe treatment. Follow the instructions on the product label for proper application.

Lily Leaf Beetles

Lily leaf beetles are bright red beetles that feed on the leaves, stems, and flowers of lilies. To control lily leaf beetles:

  1. Handpick the beetles and their larvae from the plants.
  2. Crush or drown the beetles in soapy water to eliminate them.
  3. Applying insecticides labeled for lily leaf beetles may also be necessary if the infestation is severe.

Gray Mold (Botrytis Blight)

Gray mold causes a grayish fuzz on buds, flowers, and stems. It thrives in humid conditions. To manage gray mold:

  1. Ensure good air circulation around the plants by spacing them adequately and removing any debris or fallen leaves.
  2. Avoid overhead watering and instead use drip irrigation or water at the base of the plants.
  3. Consider applying a fungicide labeled for botrytis blight if the infection persists.


Lily viruses can cause stunted growth, mottled leaves, and distorted flowers. Prevention is crucial as there are no effective treatments for viral infections. Here are some preventive measures:

  1. Purchase virus-free bulbs from reputable sources.
  2. Remove and destroy infected plants to prevent the spread of the virus.
  3. Practice good garden hygiene by cleaning tools and equipment after working with infected plants.
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Regularly inspect your lilies for any signs of pests or diseases. Early detection and prompt action can significantly minimize damage and keep your lilies healthy.

Overwintering Lily Bulbs

Overwintering lily bulbs is essential to protect them from harsh winter conditions and ensure their survival for the following growing season. Here are the steps to overwinter lily bulbs successfully:

  1. After the first fall frost, cut back the foliage of the lilies to about 2-3 inches above the ground level.
  2. Carefully dig up the lily bulbs, taking care not to damage them.
  3. Gently remove excess soil from the bulbs, but do not wash them.
  4. Inspect the bulbs for any signs of damage or disease. Discard any bulbs that appear soft, rotting, or diseased.
  5. Place the bulbs in a cool, dry, and well-ventilated location. Ideally, store them in a paper bag or mesh container to allow for proper air circulation.
  6. Check the bulbs regularly during winter to ensure they are not drying out or rotting. If necessary, lightly mist the bulbs with water to prevent dehydration.
  7. In early spring, as the weather begins to warm up and the soil thaws, prepare the planting area for the lily bulbs.
  8. Plant the lily bulbs in well-draining soil, ensuring they are spaced adequately according to their specific variety and growth habits.
  9. Water the newly planted bulbs thoroughly and continue regular watering throughout the growing season.

By providing the necessary care and protection during winter, you can ensure healthy lily bulbs that will reward you with beautiful blooms in the following season.

Harvesting Lily Seeds And Propagation Techniques

Lilies can also be propagated from seeds, allowing you to expand your collection or share them with fellow gardening enthusiasts. Here’s how to harvest lily seeds:

  1. Allow the lily flowers to fully mature and fade on the plant. The petals will fall off, leaving behind seed pods or capsules.
  2. Wait for the seed pods to turn brown or split open. This indicates that they are ripe and ready for harvesting.
  3. Carefully cut the seed pods from the plant using clean garden shears. Place them in a paper bag or envelope to collect any loose seeds.
  4. Store the seed pods in a cool, dry place to allow them to further ripen and dry out. This process can take several weeks.
  5. Once the seed pods have thoroughly dried, gently crush them to release the seeds.
  6. Store the seeds in a labeled envelope or airtight container in a cool and dry place until you are ready to plant them.

Propagation of lilies from seeds can be challenging, as they require a cold stratification period to break their natural dormancy. Here’s how to sow the seeds and propagate lilies:

  1. Start the seed stratification process by placing the seeds in a plastic bag with a mix of slightly moist sterile potting soil and vermiculite.
  2. Seal the bag and refrigerate it for 6 to 8 weeks. This cold stratification mimics the natural winter conditions that lilies need to break dormancy and germinate.
  3. After the stratification period, sow the seeds in seed trays or small pots filled with well-draining soil. Lightly cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil.
  4. Moisten the soil gently and place the trays or pots in a warm and bright location, avoiding direct sunlight.
  5. Keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged.
  6. Germination can take several weeks to several months, depending on the lily variety.
  7. Once the seedlings have grown a few inches tall and develop their true leaves, they can be transplanted into larger pots or directly into the garden.

Remember that lilies grown from seeds may not resemble the parent plant, as they can exhibit variations in color, shape, and size. However, this can add excitement and surprise to your garden.


Planting lilies can add a touch of elegance and beauty to any garden. By following the steps outlined in this comprehensive guide, you can successfully plant, care for, and propagate lilies. Proper deadheading and pruning will encourage healthy growth and abundant blooms, while protecting lilies from pests and diseases will ensure their longevity. Overwintering lily bulbs is crucial to their survival, and harvesting lily seeds presents an opportunity for propagation. With patience and dedication, you can enjoy the splendor of lilies in your own garden.


What Is The Best Location To Plant Lilies In My Garden?

Lilies thrive in well-drained soil and full to partial sunlight. Choose a spot in your garden that receives at least 6 hours of sunlight daily and has soil that is not too moist or dry.

When Is The Best Time To Plant Lilies?

Lilies can be planted in the spring or fall, depending on your climate. In cooler regions, fall planting is recommended to allow the bulbs to establish over the winter. In warmer regions, spring planting is preferred to avoid frost damage.

How Deep Should I Plant Lily Bulbs?

Lily bulbs should be planted 3-5 inches deep. It is important to cover the bulbs with soil to prevent them from drying out or rotting. If planting in a container, make sure there is at least 2 inches of soil covering the bulbs.

How Often Should I Water Lilies After Planting?

Lilies should be watered regularly after planting to help them establish, but be careful not to overwater as this can cause the bulbs to rot. Once the plants have established, they will only need to be watered during prolonged dry periods.

Do I Need To Fertilize Lilies?

Lilies are heavy feeders and will benefit from a balanced fertilizer applied in early spring and again after the flowers have bloomed. Follow the instructions on the fertilizer packaging for the correct application rate, and avoid getting any fertilizer on the leaves or flowers.