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Beginner's Guide to Planting Lilies

By Edited Mar 16, 2016 3 3

Tiger Lily - Lilium lancifolium


How To Grow Great Lily Flowers

Growing any type of flowering plant isn’t hard once you know what to do, and it's just the same with lilies.

All it takes is some patience and forward planning, and you can be well on your way to achieving success in your garden

If creating a flower-filled haven captures your imagination, then hopefully the following advice will bring your gardening ideas to life.


Photo of a Stargazer Lily flower

All About Lilies

Lilies are nothing short of amazing. They come in such a wide range of colors, shapes and sizes, and generally flower from spring to late summer. Exotic and diverse, you'll be surprised at how much lily flowers can rejuvenate plain, old and tired garden spaces. When planted en masse, they truly have the power to take your breath away!

The one and only thing you may find hard about growing lilies though, is deciding which hybrids and/or species you want for your garden. There are so many different types to choose from. The range of new hybrid varieties is ever-changing and there seems to be something newer and more improved on the market every year.

If you are inclined towards native gardens, lily species will add a unique touch to your plantings. Lilium species are usually offered by specialist lily growers online. Species such as Lilium lancifolium, Lilium regale, Lilium longiflorum, Lilium pardalium and Lilium columbianum are some of the easiest to grow for beginners. 


What Types of Lilies Do You Like?

A mix of factors come into play when planting lilies, not just with climate and soil tolerance, but also your own personal preferences.
What lilies do you like best . . . fragrant or non-fragrant? Dwarf or tall growing? Spotted or non-spotted? Pink, red, white, yellow or orange colored? It’s all up to you and the possibilities are endless. So, let's get started!


Choosing Your Planting Site

  • When deciding to grow lilies, you first need to work out a suitable planting area for them. This will depend on the variety or species you have decided to grow. Somewhere the bulbs can grow undisturbed in a sunny or lightly shaded position is preferable. 
  • Many lilies favour certain environmental conditions in which to grow, so try to find out as much as you can about the lily's growing requirements beforehand. 
  • Most hybrid varieties are easy to grow, while species lilies can prove more difficult. Types that enjoy a tropical climate all year round often require a greenhouse.
  • Keep in mind what height the lilies will grow to. Some tall-growing species can reach over two meters (six feet) high! If any will be situated in a windy part of your garden, stakes can be added while you are planting.

A young, healthy lily plant

Choosing Healthy Lily Bulbs

  • When it comes to buying lily bulbs, always go to a reputable supplier to ensure you are receiving healthy plant stock
  • As lilies are never completely dormant, bulbs can suffer from water loss once they have been been lifted and packed by growers. Avoid bulbs that look dried out and have been stored for a prolonged period. 
  • Look for firm, quality bulbs in ventilated plastic bags with a moist medium, such as peat moss or fine wood shavings. Avoid any bulbs that appear to be rotting and brown. Once purchased, the bulb should be planted immediately, usually in the Fall.

Preparing The Garden Soil

  • Prior to planting, good soil preparation in the garden is important and will provide a good home for your lilies right from the start. Ideal sites include slopes, raised beds and planting in mounds. 
  • The majority of lilies enjoy moist soil that is well drained, with lots of organic compost. A good ratio for lily growing is one part compost to two parts soil, with some sand added for grit. 
  • By including compost, the structure of the soil can be greatly improved. This will lighten heavy clay soils and make sandy areas more moisture retentive.
  • Acid soils that suit camellias and rhododendrons also work really well for many lily species. Although, there are a few such as Lilium candidum (Madonna Lily) which would much rather have alkaline soils any day.

Planting Your Lily Bulbs

  • The soil depth for the bulb depends on the type of lily you’re planting. For most bulbs, dig a generous sized hole for good root development, with soil coverage about 10cm (one to two inches).
  • For stem rooting plants, a minimum of 15cm (three inches) should be allowed. 
  • Spacing is normally kept at about 30cm (12 inches) between bulbs and this distance can be increased for large growing varieties. 
  • Once planted, water well and, if you like, use garden labels to record your planting.

Orange lilies in the garden


Ongoing Care For Your Lilies

  • Mulching with old leaf matter or compost is beneficial throughout the year. Not only will this help to conserve water but it will provide protection to lower stems and bulbs during hot weather, and insulate against any heavy frosts in winter months.
  • During their active growing periods, lilies like to be watered on a semi-regular basis. A thorough soaking to a depth of about 15cm (three inches) once a week is ideal.


End Result

With any luck, your garden will soon be filled with amazing, colorful lily flowers. So stop once in a while to reflect on their lovely, perfumed presence.

Gardening may involve some hard work from time to time, but the ongoing reward is the beauty and joy Nature gives back in return – these things are priceless. Planting lilies isn't that hard after all.


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Comments

Aug 16, 2012 6:32am
JudyE
What an excellent, comprehensive article! I hope you've nominated it for a 'feature'. Nice big photos too. Congrats.
Aug 16, 2012 9:13am
Marlando
Hi: I have loved lillies since I was a small boy mostly because my grandmothers yard supported a great number of Tiger Lillies that I would gave at in amazement and admiration.
Great information and well written--5 stars from me!
Aug 16, 2012 4:56pm
wordspeller
Thanks for your comments, they are much appreciated. Lilies are one of the best flowers anyone can grow! They're so beautiful and come back year after year after year in the garden.
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