When To Plant Lily Bulbs – Planting Guide 2024

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Like hydrangeas and hostas, lilies are among a home gardener’s favorite perennials.

They are loved for their elegant, radiant blooms, which look good when put in a vase indoors or allowed to bloom outdoors.

To grow breathtakingly beautiful lilies, start with learning when to plant lily bulbs.

When to plant lily bulbs? The best time to plant lily bulbs is in early spring or fall. For spring planting, wait until you’re able to work the soil but don’t plant when it’s still muddy. If you’re planting in the fall, do so a month before the last frost date so that the bulbs can establish strong roots and don’t fall victim to the winter chill.

Choosing a Lily Variety To Grow

No idea which type of lily to plant and grow? Like any other perennial, your decision will depend on your region’s growing conditions.

Those growing lilies up north might find that their choices are rather limited, though.

After all, while they require weeks of cool dormant conditions, lily bulbs don’t always survive freezing climates.

Among the numerous lily varieties, Asiatic lilies are the most cold-hardy, even surviving in areas tagged as USDA Zone 3.

Oriental lilies prefer full sun but can also thrive in less-than-ideal conditions.

They can grow up to six feet tall and produce larger blooms than their Asian counterpart.

Following appropriate growing techniques, you can also choose to grow LA hybrids, trumpet lilies, and tiger lilies.

To stretch the blooming season from summer all the way into early fall, plant different lilies together.

Lily varieties don’t bloom all at once, so you will always have blooming lilies if you plant different types.

We also recommend buying lily bulbs as close to planting time as possible, as they are prone to weaken and die over time.

You’re better off throwing away moldy or mushy bulbs instead of trying to plant and grow them.

How To Plant Lily Bulbs Outdoors

Once you have acquired lily bulbs from your local garden center, you can go ahead and ready the area where you plan on growing them.

Here are steps to planting lily bulbs:

Step 1: Pick a suitable location.

Plant lilies in a sunny part of your garden.

Make sure the area receives full sun but is sheltered from strong winds.

Lilies will also have the best chance of surviving when planted in well-draining soil.

To improve soil drainage, add around two to three inches of organic matter, such as compost or peat moss, to raise the soil level.

Step 2: Dig holes.

Using your trusted garden trowel, dig six- to eight-inch-deep holes into the ground.

Give each lily plant plenty of growing room by spacing the holes three inches apart.

Step 3: Put the lily bulbs in.

With their pointy side facing up, put the lily bulbs in the holes.

Get a ruler to make sure the pointy top is four inches below the ground’s surface.

Step 4: Cover with soil and water.

Once you’re sure the lily bulbs are planted deep enough, put soil on top of it and soak every hole with water.

Water deeply until the soil has settled around the lily bulbs.

Then, give them time to grow while making sure you don’t let the soil dry out.

How To Water Lily Bulbs

Like any plant, lilies need regular hydration during their growth period.

However, once it has established strong roots, it might not need as much watering as before.

Here are watering, mulching, and fertilizing tips for growing healthy lilies:

Tip 1: Water only as needed.

To prevent root rot, you should only water your lilies when the soil is dry.

It could be anywhere from a few days to a week in between.

When you do water them, provide at least an inch of moisture.

Tip 2: Apply mulch.

Lily plants like cool and moist soil, especially during their active growing period.

Promote ideal conditions by applying mulch around the plant. This will ensure a moist but not wet environment that lilies prefer.

Tip 3: Use fertilizer.

Until around a month after they flower, give your lily plants a dose of high-potassium fertilizer.

Do this every few weeks, starting from when you planted them in early spring.

How To Grow Lily Bulbs Indoors

If you don’t have the luxury of having a spacious outdoor space, you can also try growing lilies indoors.

The key is providing the plants with growing conditions similar to if they were planted outdoors.

Here are a few experts tricks you can follow to grow lilies in pots indoors:

Step 1: Plant in summer.

Instead of spring or fall planting, plant lilies indoors in the summer.

Since they will remain sheltered and safe from the cold, they don’t run the risk of frost damage.

What’s more, the full sun offered by the summer months will boost their growth.

That said, you also wouldn’t want to expose your indoor lilies to direct sunlight, which can be too unforgiving for indoor plants.

Step 2: Pick the right container.

Depending on the type of lily you choose to grow, look for a big enough container that can accommodate its mature size.

Obviously, taller lily varieties will fare better when planted in tall container pots.

Similar to when growing lilies outdoors, you have to make sure the container promotes good drainage, too.

As such, pick a container with enough drainage holes.

This way, the soil doesn’t become saggy every after watering, and the lily bulbs are protected from rotting.

Step 3: Use well-draining soil.

Having the right kind of container but not using well-draining soil for growing lilies won’t give you the results you want.

Luckily, lilies aren’t very particular about the kind of soil they grow in.

You just have to make sure you use soil that retains water but isn’t too moist that it will cause the bulbs to rot.

One trick to increasing soil drainage is adding rocks to the bottom of the container.

Step 4: Pick the right location.

Place the container near a window where it will receive full sun, which the lilies will need to promote healthy growth.

However, if you are from an area where it gets very hot in the afternoon, you might have to move your lilies so that they don’t overheat.

Step 5: Plant them as you would if planting outdoors.

The final step to growing lilies indoors is planting the bulbs following the same steps as when planting outdoors.

The bulbs should be four to six inches deep into the soil.

When growing in containers, lilies will look best when planted in clusters of three.

After planting, soak the soil deeply and then cover each bulb.

How Long Do Lily Bulbs Take To Grow?

About a week or two after planting lily bulbs, you can expect them to have grown roots already.

They then have to undergo a chilling dormant period before the warm climate wakes them up from dormancy.

Wait two to three more weeks after this, and you’ll soon see flowers forming.

Among the different varieties, Asiatic lilies will be the earliest to bloom, often taking only 30 to 45 days.

In comparison, oriental lilies start to bloom in around 40 to 90 days.

This means if you planted them together, you would have blooming oriental lilies just as when your Asiatic lilies have come and gone.

This could be anywhere between June and August.

Again, you can prolong the blooming season by planting different kinds of lilies.

Tiger lilies are the ones to bloom last. They often bloom 100 to 120 days into the spring growing season.

To Cut or Not To Cut?

Once your lilies have produced beautiful blooms, you might be tempted to cut the flowers to use as decoration.

After all, wasn’t that the reason you decided to grow them in the first place?

The thing is, if you want your lilies to grow and bloom again next summer, you wouldn’t want to cut the stems.


Simply because the stems are where the plants’ foliage is, which they need to make food, generate energy, and grow flowers next year.

While you can plant and grow lilies for cutting, treat them as annuals instead of perennials.

This means growing them only until the end of the season.

After they have bloomed, you will then have to compost the bulbs and plant new ones.

If you do decide to cut your lilies and still want them to bloom the following year, fertilize them later in the season.

Doing so will provide them with enough nutrients to be stronger for future seasons.


Lilies produce beautiful, scented flowers that any home gardener would want to grow in their gardens.

They are hardy plants, too, which means they can grow and thrive even in not-so-ideal conditions.

If you are new to gardening, you will have better chances of success growing lilies than other perennials.

The secret is knowing when to plant them and providing them with enough time to grow roots before winter arrives.

You can even plant them in pots indoors if you want a little piece of nature right next to your living room.

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