Care Tips for Growing Lilies

Lilies (Lilium spp.) are hardy bulb plants that produce large blossoms in a wide range of colors like white, pink and red. Their relatively low maintenance nature makes them popular with gardeners of all skill levels, and the plants can be a fast growing source of vibrant color for any landscape. Though exact care requirements vary according to the specific variety, general growing tips and management strategies can help keep your lily collection healthy and lush.

Regional Varieties

There are dozens of lily varieties and cultivars. The University of Minnesota reports there are more than 350,000 types of daylilies. Some types of lilies have been bred to thrive in specific regions and accommodate an area's pests, soil conditions or diseases. Contact your regional cooperative extension office to find what types of lilies are ideal for your area. This can make care and management much easier in the long run.

Choosing Bulbs

When purchasing bulbs from a local nursery or garden store, choose the biggest lily bulbs you can find. The bulbs should still have their roots attached, according to the University of Minnesota. Gently squeeze each bulb. A good bulb will be plump and firm, while an old bulb may cave in easily.

Planting Times

For the best results, plant the lily bulbs in the fall before the ground has frozen. If you've gotten your bulbs too late, save them for a spring planting. Michigan State University recommends wrapping the bulbs in moist peat moss and storing them in your refrigerator.

Planting Site

Plant lily bulbs in an area that receives approximately seven to eight hours of sunlight, as lilies in full sun will bloom much earlier than those that are shaded, according to Ohio State University. The soil must be well-draining. If it's not, amend with aged compost or similar organic material until the soil is fine and loose in texture. The university recommends mixing in 3 lbs. of 5-10-10 fertilizer for every 100 square feet of gardening space to help the bulbs grow vigorously.

Pests and Diseases

Lilies have relatively few pests and diseases, according to the University of Minnesota. Fungal diseases of the lily plant's foliage may occasionally appear and are typically the result of excessively moist conditions. The university recommends only watering lilies in the early morning to give the plant all day to dry out. Serious cases of fungal disease that are causing widespread wilting or plant death can be treated with a foliar fungicide, like a fixed copper spray.


Lilies prefer cool soil temperatures in the summer, according to Michigan State University. Pile 3 inches of mulch around the plant's base to conserve soil moisture and keep excessive heat at bay. Potential mulching materials include straw, shredded leaves and wood chips.

Keywords: growing lilies, lily care tips, planting lilies

About this Author

Josh Duvauchelle is an editor and journalist with more than 10 years' experience. His work has appeared in various magazines, including "Honolulu Magazine," which has more paid subscribers than any other magazine in Hawaii. He graduated with honors from Trinity Western University, holding a Bachelor of Arts in professional communications, and earned a certificate in applied leadership and public affairs from the Laurentian Leadership Centre.