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How to Remove and Store Lily Bulbs

By Julie Richards ; Updated September 21, 2017

The magnificent lily flower grows from carefully tended bulbs each year. The exotic flowers provide fragrance and color to any flower bed. Lifting the bulbs in the fall adds protection from harsh winter weather and allows the bulbs to go dormant or gives them a state of rest. Proper storage keeps the lily bulbs plump and fresh for spring planting and summer blooms.

Lift the lily bulbs in the fall after all the foliage has turned brown and died back. The bulbs are still gathering nutrients while the slender green leaves are growing.

Use a garden fork or pitch fork to gently loosen the soil where the lilies are planted. Comb the soil gently with the fork to locate and lift out the lily bulbs.

Run your hands through the soil to locate any smaller bulbs not picked up by the garden fork. Gently lift these bulbs from the soil. Discard any bulbs that appear broken or damaged. Dried bulbs or those showing signs of disease also need to be discarded.

Separate any of the larger lily bulbs showing signs of division. Simply twist the two parts away from each other. Lay out the lily bulbs in a shaded area, allowing them to cure for two or three days before putting the bulbs in storage.

Add a thin layer of moist peat moss to a storage container and place the bulbs on the peat moss. Layer in more peat moss and bulbs, with the final layer being peat moss. Close the container. Label the container with the flower information to remember what colors or type of lily was stored. It is easy to forget after a few months.

Place the lily bulbs into the bottom drawer, designed for vegetables, of the refrigerator. Store the lily bulbs in the refrigerator until any danger of frost has passed and the bulbs can safely be planted back in the garden.

Check the lily bulbs throughout the storage period to ensure a moist storage medium. Mist the peat moss if it appears dry or the bulbs show signs of drying out.


Things You Will Need

  • Garden fork
  • Spade
  • Peat moss
  • Ventilated storage container (old onion bags work well)


  • A cool space in the basement works well to store lily bulbs if there is no room in the refrigerator. The key to successful storage is no light and a little moisture. If the bulbs dry out, they will most likely die.


  • Airtight containers cause the stored lily bulbs to rot. A perforated bag works if no onion bag or ventilated storage container is available. Simply cut a few tiny slits in the bag before placing in the lily bulbs.

About the Author


Julie Richards is a freelance writer from Ohio. She has been writing poetry and short stories for over 30 years, and published a variety of e-books and articles on gardening, small business and farming. She is currently enrolled at Kent State University completing her bachelor's degree in English.