How to Care for Lilies


Lilies are herbaceous flowering plants that grow from bulbs. The plants are commonly grown for their bright, ornamental blossoms, which often are used in bouquets and flower arrangements. Thousands of lily cultivars exist, resulting in a wide variety of sizes, shapes and colors. Some lilies can reach up to 6 feet tall, though most only reach about 24 inches. They are easy to care for and require only occasional maintenance to thrive once established.

Step 1

Plant lily bulbs during late October in a location that receives at least eight hours of direct sunlight throughout the day. Spread a 1-inch layer of manure over the planting site and use a garden hoe to incorporate it into the soil to increase moisture retention and fertility. Space the lilies 14 inches apart.

Step 2

Water the lilies once per week during the first month of growth, soaking the soil to a depth of 3 inches and allowing the soil to partially dry between applications. Reduce the frequency of watering after the first month only to weeks that receive less than 1 inch of rainfall. Apply at least 1 inch of water at each application.

Step 3

Apply a balanced 10-10-10 NPK fertilizer to lilies in early spring, just as new shoots emerge from the soil. Water after applying to disperse the nutrients into the soil. Follow the fertilizer manufacturer's directions for dosage.

Step 4

Remove dead or faded lily flowers as often as necessary to increase aesthetic appeal, conserve nutrients and encourage the formation of additional blossoms. Pinch off the flowers as close to their point of origin as possible to reduce damage.

Step 5

Apply a 2-inch layer of mulch to the soil surrounding lilies in late fall after the plants have died back to insulate the soil. Remove the mulch in early spring, just as new growth begins to penetrate the surface of the soil.

Tips and Warnings

  • Be careful not to damage or sever any foliage while removing flowers, as this will cause unnecessary trauma to the plant.

Things You'll Need

  • Manure
  • Garden hoe
  • Fertilizer
  • Mulch


  • Iowa State University Cooperative Extension Reiman Gardens: Growing Garden Lilies
  • University of Minnesota Cooperative Extension: Selecting Lilies for Your Garden
  • "Michigan Gardener's Guide;" Timothy Boland, Marty Hair, Laura Coit; 2002
Keywords: care for lilies, growing lilies, caring for 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