Winter Care of Lily Bulbs


Lilies are tender plants that store their energy in fleshy, frost-prone bulbs. These bulbs can only survive winter in the ground in hardiness zones that do not suffer freezing winters. In all other areas, lily bulbs must be dug and stored indoors to survive the winter. Lilies do well in storage, but don't forget to check on them periodically.

Step 1

Wait until the first frost of the season kills your lilies. Dig calla lilies right after their foliage is dead. Leave canna lilies in the ground for 3 to 4 days to allow the foliage to dry before digging them up. Dig spider lilies a week or two before you expect the first frost.

Step 2

Loosen the soil around your lily bulbs with a garden spade or fork. Minimize the risk of damage to your bulbs by digging a few inches away from the base of the plant. Lift the bulbs out of the soil by grabbing them by their base.

Step 3

Inspect the bulbs. Discard any that are unusually small, damaged or diseased. They will not survive winter storage.

Step 4

Rinse the lily bulbs that passed inspection off with your hose and cut off their foliage.

Step 5

Cure your lily bulbs. Lay them out to dry for three days in an area that is room temperature, dry, well-ventilated and out of direct sunlight.

Step 6

Pack glory, canna and calla lily bulbs in a box lined an inch or two of sphagnum peat or vermiculite (do not allow them to touch). Insert another layer of sphagnum peat or vermiculite between stacked bulbs but do not stack them more than 3 bulbs high. Cover the tops of your bulbs with another layer of sphagnum or vermiculite. Pack spider lily bulbs upside down in vermiculite.

Step 7

Store your lilies in a cool, dry dark place until you are ready to plant them in spring. Store calla lilies between 50 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Store canna and glory lilies at cooler temperatures--between 40 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Step 8

Check on your lilies periodically. If some parts are rotting, prune them away with a sharp, clean knife. If they have developed fungus, dust them with a fungicide prescribed for use on lilies. Throw shriveled bulbs away and replace the packing material if it develops mold or begins to rot. If your bulbs are wrinkled or slightly smaller, lightly mist the packing material with water.

Things You'll Need

  • Thermometer
  • Box
  • Sphagnum peat or vermiculite


  • University of Minnesota: Storing Tender Bulbs and Bulblike Structures
  • Danny Lipford: How to Store Tender Bulbs Over the Winter
Keywords: storing lily bulbs, store lily bulb, winter lily bulb

About this Author

Emma Gin is a freelance writer who specializes in green, healthy and smart living. She is currently working on developing a weight-loss website that focuses on community and re-education. Gin is also working on a collection of short stories, because she knows what they say about idle hands.