Some Notes On Planting Lilies

Lilies have been known to fascinate man for more than 3,000 years, gracing ancient gardens from Sumer, Babylon, Mesopotamia, and in old China and India as well. Of course, those old varieties have already been lost to us but their genes are still around.

With their beauty, color and their fragrance, you would be surprised that lilies require only the most minimal of planting needs. On average, their only need would be a well-drained location and half a day of sunshine at least.


Lilies love the sun as long as their bulbs are cool enough deep down in the soil. If it is too shady, they would stretch out their stems to catch sunlight. Trumpet lilies do not like shades.

For soil texture, plant them in places that are the first to dry out after a bout of rain. Like most plants, lilies would enjoy a good mulch, too.


In long stretches of cool and wet weather, lilies can be attacked by botrytis, a fungus that destroys lily leaves. You can take care of this by having plants correctly spaced among themselves in the garden.

The reason is air circulation for the leaves to dry out fast after the rains. (If there is fungus, apply any fungicide recommended for roses. It works on lilies just as fine.)

Planting time

Lily bulbs (in mild climates) can be planted anytime the ground is not frozen solid and dry enough to dig a hole. Fall and early winter planting will flower at the “expected time” and planting in late spring will flower later than the “expected time”.

Lily bulbs planted soonest grow and perform better. If not, store them where it is cool, but not frozen – above 28 degrees Fahrenheit. (The garage or the refrigerator will make a fine storage. Keep the bulbs in the dark. Light will make them sprout.)

Planting techniques

As mentioned, well-drained areas work best for lilies. Place the bulbs 4 to 6 inches deep. (Deeper is better.) The bulbs like to stay cool in summer.

Another style would be to make a raised bed, with the same planting dimensions for the bulbs (4 to 6 inches deep). The raised bed is for superb drainage. The individual plant needs around half a foot of space (6 inches) around them (radius).


The best time to fertilize lilies is giving a little well-balance fertilizer at the time the shoots emerge and the next application is a month later. Slow-release fertilizer works fine, too.

Unless your soil is poor, there is no need to feed your plants. If there is too much nitrogen, the plants will have lush leaves but with weak stems. (In hot, wet areas, nitrogen can cause rotting of bulbs.)


After they flower, lilies don’t need much water like they used to. Some varieties (Asiatic, Trumpet, Orienpet) adapt themselves well to dry summer areas (if they had enough water during and until flowering time.)

Orientals, however, continue to require watering during the dry hot summer months. (This is because they do not flower until August.) Mulches on the lilies will keep the bulbs cool and watering is only minimum.

These are some of the simple methods on planting and caring of lilies. All the other side techniques you will soon discover as you go along.


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