Lily Care

Growing Lilies

Lilies are lovely, eye-catching plants that offer vivid color and texture to a landscape. Hundreds of different cultivars are available in various colors, with many flowers showcasing multiple colors. The petals often curl back, revealing pronounced stamens. Plants can grow several feet tall, with large flowers on sturdy stems.

Taking care of lilies is relatively easy as these plants are low maintenance. Most lily varieties are cold hardy in zones 4 through 9. Lilies can be grown in colder zones, but the bulbs may need to be dug up and moved to a warm area during the winter.


Planting Lilies

Plant lily bulbs in the spring or fall. The bulbs should be planted about 6 inches deep and positioned with the roots facing down. It is vital to plant lilies deep to stabilize the plant and avoid needing to stake the tall stems. Space lily bulbs a distance of about three times the diameter of the bulbs. Depending on the cultivar, lilies grow well in full sun to partial shade. The flowering plants prefer rich, acidic-to-neutral, moist but well-drained soil. Lilies can be divided as needed after the flowers are done blooming.


Watering Lilies

Lily plants need regular water during the growing season. These plants do not like wet feet but don’t like to dry out either. Lilies grown in full sun will need water more often than plants in partial shade, so be aware of the light the plant receives. When in doubt, feel the soil and water when the top couple of inches are dry. A layer of organic compost will help hold in moisture. Do not water lily plants when they are not actively growing.

Fertilizing Lilies

Fertilizing plants is important because it provides nutrients that support growth and helps the plants bloom. Most lily plants prefer a 10-20-20 fertilizer. Apply a slow-release fertilizer in the spring to continue to support the lily plant during the growing season. Large lily plants and heavy-bloomer varieties will benefit from a second dose of fertilizer before the flowers open.

Pruning Lilies

Dead or damaged growth can be removed anytime, but lilies generally do not require much pruning. Cut the stalks back as the flowers fade to tidy up the look of the lily plant and encourage more blooms. Removing spent flowers will direct energy into new flowers and extend the blooming cycle. When pruning, just remove the flowers, and leave the foliage in place so the plant can store energy in the bulbs for the following year. All of the growth will die when the weather turns cold. Remove the greenery when the leaves wilt and turn brown.

Caring For Lilies in Pots

Lilies in pots require slightly more care than plants in the ground. Potted plants dry out more quickly, so they need more frequent watering. Select a container with drainage and empty excess water from a saucer if necessary. Lilies are not particular about the material of the pot, but keep in mind that porous materials, like terra cotta, allow water to evaporate more quickly and require more frequent watering. Plant three lily bulbs in a 10-inch container and divide as the plants outgrow their space.


Winter Care for Lilies

Cut the greenery back to the soil level in the fall after the first frost. In cold climates, apply a layer of mulch to help insulate the bulbs from chilly temperatures. Potted lilies should be moved to a protected area, especially in cold regions. An indoor space, like a shed, garage, or basement, can provide enough protection from the elements. 

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Author Alison Cotsonas - Published 01-27-2023