How to Grow Lilies: Heavenly Fragrance, Amazing Eye Pleasers

How to Grow Lilies: Heavenly Fragrance, Amazing Eye Pleasers

How To Grow Lilies

Photo Compliments of Eadaoin Flynn

Lilies belong to the genus Lilium and grow from scaly bulbs. They produce magnificent flowers that command attention wherever they are planted. If you are selective you can use them for cut flowers in your home where they add a wonderful fragrance. The 6 plain or strikingly marked tepals or petals are often trumpet-shaped, sitting atop tall, erect stems. Lilies can be grown in your garden or can be successfully grown in containers. By carefully blending early, mid-season, and late varieties into your garden, you will enjoy their blooms and absolutely wonderful scents from spring through frost.


Bulbs should be planted in autumn. Begin by loosening the soil to a depth of 12 to 15 inches. The deep planting encourages the developing stem to send out roots to help stabilize the plant. Liles thrive in Zones 4 to 8, but struggle in Zones 9 and above; they need a cold, dormant period to thrive. Plant your lilies where they will get six to eight hours of sunshine a day. A tip for success is to plant in the presence of other low plants that protect their roots from drying out. If you are planting in a container you will need to accommodate this need. Soil should be moist but well drained. Most of the popular varieties prefer acidic to neutral soil; some are lime-tolerant or prefer alkaline soils.  Ideally you want a soil enriched with leaf mold or well-rotted organic matter. When you are planting bulbs you should dig a hole 2 to 3 times as deep as the bulbs are high and set the bulb in the hole so that the pointy side is up. When you have filled the hole with soil tamp it gently. Space the bulbs at a distance equal to 3 times the bulb’s diameter.  If you are planting in a container you may want to plant closer for a fuller display.

How To Grow Lilies And Make Them Thrive

During active growth, water freely and apply a high-potash liquid fertilizer every 2 weeks. Bulbs should be moist in winter. Apply a thin layer of compost each spring, followed by a 2-inch layer of mulch. Water plants in the summer if rainfall is less than 1 inch per week. You will need to stake tall lilies. As the flowers fade, cut back the stalks to the base of the plant. After the bloom period ends you can then divide lilies; replant using compost and bone meal.

Pests And Diseases

Gray mold is sometimes a problem, especially in a wet, cool spring, or summer. Viruses can be troublesome, although some cultivars are virus-tolerant. You should be on watch for aphids.  Red lily beetles, slugs, and snails can also be problems. Deer, rabbits, voles, and groundhogs may eat plants. You should consider a wire cage if this seems to be an issue.

Cut Flowers That Last

Lilies make wonderful cut flowers. Choose lilies with buds that are about to open, not tight and green, but with a bit of the flower color showing. As soon as you get lilies inside trim the stem ends an inch or so, making a diagonal cut. Be careful to remove the lower leaves on the stems so that no foliage will be underwater. A lily arrangement will last 2 or more weeks. You can prolong this by adding cut-flower food to the water. Lilies require only half the amount of food recommended for other flowers.

Best Varieties

There are nine divisions of classification; Asiatic and Oriental are the most popular.

Asiatic lilies are the earliest to bloom and the easiest to grow. Hybrids come in pure white, pinks, vivid yellows, oranges, and reds; heights are from one to six feet. Intense breeding has erased much of the Asiatics’ fragrance, but in spite of their lack of perfume, they are a favorite with floral arrangers.

Oriental hybrids bloom in mid- to late summer, just when Asiatic lilies are beginning to fade. From tiny two-footers to towering eight-foot-tall giants, Orientals are always a striking choice. You should consider the shorter ones for patio beds or container gardens. The reason for the popularity is the intoxicating fragrance that intensifies after dark, Oriental lilies produce masses of huge white, pink, red, or bi-color blooms. They make wonderful cut flowers that will fill even the largest of rooms with their spicy scents.

Quick Facts

  • Hardiness Zones: Zones 4 to 8
  • Light: Full sun to part sun
  • Soil Requirement: Loamy
  • Flower Colors: Red, pink, orange, yellow, white
  • Bloom Time: Spring, summer, fall
  • Height: One to six feet
  • Special Features: Attracts butterflies

Information Sources

Lilies: growing in containers – Royal Horticulture Society

Growing Lilies From Bulbs: How To Care For Lily Flowers

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  1. We have a lot of trouble with lily beetles here, so much so that I had to give up on them, even though they’re a favorite.

    • I agree; they are truly beautiful and the fragrance is wonderful. When I was researching pests I couldn’t find a natural predators for lily beetle. If you know of one, or anyone knows of one I would love to be able to pass that information.

  2. Wonderful information!
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