5 Frequently Asked Questions About Lilies

Whether you're talking about Asian lilies or common daylilies, these flowers can make a colorful addition to any garden.

Q: What is the different between a daylily and a garden lily?

A: Garden lilies grow from bulbs, whereas daylilies grow from crowns. Daylilies have many leaves that grow out from the crown, but garden lilies generally have one shoot with leaves on it that grows from the bulb.

Q: When do I plant lilies?

A: You can plant them in either the fall or the spring, but plant them as soon as you get the bulbs. You don’t want to buy the bulbs in the fall and wait until spring to plant them.

Q: How deep should lily bulbs be planted?

A: In general, you should plan to plant the bulbs about three times as deep as the diameter of the bulb, but there are some varieties that are a little different, so check the packaging when you purchase the bulbs. You should also plant lilies in groups to get the most bang for your buck, so dig a hole to the proper depth and plant a few bulbs together.

Q: Once a lily has bloomed, should the stem be cut off or the entire plant be cut back?

A: It's best just to remove the stem itself. Lilies, especially those from bulbs, will feed off the foliage and will grow better the next season if it's left until it dies off. Daylilies are a little different, though: many of them will bloom longer. You should deadhead blooms and cut back stems as the lilies bloom during the growing season, and again let the foliage die back, but once it has died back in the fall, it can be cut off at this point.

Q: How do I propagate lilies?

A: If you have a true bulb, break off a couple of the scales in the fall or spring and plant them about 1" deep. With daylilies, you can simply divide the crowns and plant them. And finally, some varieties of lily produce bulbils, which look like dark-green or black seeds and are found at the point where the leaf meets the stem. They aren't seeds, but they can be planted and will come up in two or three years.

Q: Can I plant my Easter lily outside?

A: This is a question that I get year round, not just in the spring. And my answer is, you can try. The problem is that Easter lilies do not really bloom at Easter, so they have been forced by the florist, which makes it hard for them to make the transformation into a thriving plant in your garden. If you decide to give it a go, here are a few tips:

  • Plant in a sunny location with well-drained soil.
  • Use a planting mix to promote their establishment.
  • Plant bulbs 3" below the surface and mound up an additional 3" of soil over the bulbs.
  • Allow enough room for the roots to spread.
  • Water thoroughly.
  • And remember: they like their tops in sun but their roots in shade.
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