How to Plant & Care for Lilies


Lilies are bulbous, perennial, flowering plants prized for their showy, fragrant, colorful flowers and ease of care in the home garden. The size and color of blooms vary widely, depending on the cultivar, but most lilies produce flowers in shades of white, yellow, orange, pink, red and bi-colors in early to late summer. Hundreds of cultivars exist, but all types of lilies have similar care requirements. Choosing a proper planting site and providing enough moisture and nutrients will ensure your lilies grow to their full potential, eventually producing large clusters of flowers that return year after year.

Step 1

Plant lilies in fall from September through October in a location that receives full sunlight throughout the day. Apply a 2-inch layer of organic compost to the planting site and use a garden spade to work it into the soil to increase fertility and drainage prior to planting.

Step 2

Dig a hole in the soil 2 to 6 inches deep for small bulbs and 6 to 10 inches deep for large bulbs. Place the bulb inside with the pointy side facing up, cover loosely with soil and water thoroughly to compact the soil. Space lilies 8 to 12 inches apart.

Step 3

Apply a 4- to 6-inch layer of chopped leaves over the planting site when the ground begins to freeze in late fall or early winter to adequately insulate the soil. Remove the mulch during early spring, after all danger of frost has passed.

Step 4

Water lilies once per week during spring, summer and fall. Apply water early in the morning and directly to the soil to reduce the risk of disease. Do not water during winter when the plant is dormant and always avoid splashing the foliage while applying.

Step 5

Use a phosphorus-rich 5-10-10 NPK fertilizer to feed lilies once per year during spring, just as active growth resumes. Water thoroughly after application to prevent root injury. Apply according to the manufacturer's directions for the best results.

Step 6

Remove faded lily flowers whenever possible to encourage additional blooming. Pinch off the flowers where they attach to the stem to reduce damage caused to the plant. Remove damaged or diseased foliage as often as necessary throughout the year.

Things You'll Need

  • Lily bulbs
  • Organic compost
  • Garden spade
  • Chopped leaves
  • Fertilizer


  • University of Minnesota Extension: Selecting Lilies for Your Garden
  • Washington State University Extension: Lovely Lilies for Summer Gardens
  • "Illinois Gardener's Guide"; James A. Fizzell; 2002
Keywords: lilies, lily flowers, plant lilies

About this Author

Willow Sidhe is a freelance writer living in the beautiful Hot Springs, AR. She is a certified aromatherapist with a background in herbalism. She has extensive experience gardening, with a specialty in indoor plants and herbs. Sidhe's work has been published on numerous Web sites, including