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How to Preserve Lily Bulbs

By Melissa Lewis ; Updated September 21, 2017

Lilies are beautiful plants that bloom large flowers in the spring and summer months. Lilly bulbs, the plant's underground root structure, are hardy and can withstand winter conditions with very little care. However, lily bulbs that will not be planted right away or that are being stored over the winter must be preserved so they will not dry out.

Prune lilies after the foliage turns yellowish brown, usually after the first frost. By waiting to prune, you allow the bulbs to store valuable nutrients for next year’s plants. After the foliage fades, cut it off so that a only a couple inches remains above the ground.

Mulch over the planted lily bulbs in the fall. Use 3 or 4 inches of mulch such as bark or pine needles. No other care is needed to preserve planted bulbs for next season. True lily bulbs can stay underground during the winter months.

However, if you want to dig them up for storage, carefully dig straight down about 8 to 10 inches and pull up on the handle of the shovel to lift the bulbs out of the soil. Shake off the excess soil.

Place lily bulbs in a paper bag, mesh bag or open container. Throw in a couple handfuls of moist peat moss so they don’t dry out. Store them in a cool area of your home, such as a garage, crawl space or attic. Around 40 to 50 degrees F is ideal. Use this storage method for any new bulbs you have purchased but will not plant right away, or for bulbs that you dig up and want to store through the winter.

Check on your bulbs every few weeks and toss out any rotted bulbs. Mist the peat moss if it dries out. Plant the lily bulbs in early spring, when the ground is workable.


Things You Will Need

  • Mulch
  • Shovel
  • Container or bag
  • Peat moss


  • Several plants called lilies are not true lilies, such as glory lilies, spider lilies and calla lilies. Their underground root structures, called rhizomes, should be preserved indoors as described in steps 3 and 4.

About the Author


Melissa Lewis is a former elementary classroom teacher and media specialist. She has also written for various online publications. Lewis holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of Maryland Baltimore County.