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How to Plant and Grow Oriental Lilies

I have enjoyed gardening for at least 30 years and enjoy sharing my experience with others. Gardening is my time to meditate and unwind.

Stargazer Oriental Lily

Stargazer Oriental Lily

Why You Should Grow Oriental Lilies

Oriental lilies are beautiful additions to any garden. Their blooms are so large and fragrant that it will be love at first sight. They are available in a wide variety of sizes and colors. They will grow anywhere from 18 inches to 6 feet tall, depending on the variety you choose. Once planted, they are easy to grow and care for. Many orientals are hardy even in zones 3 and 4. Check the zone you live in before you purchase them. They make great cut flowers, too.

Planting Lily Bulbs

When to Plant Lilies

  • Lilies don't go into dormancy like other bulbs or perennials. Lilies that are grown from bulbs are usually planted in the spring or fall months. Early spring is best. The bulbs have scales on them that need to be handled carefully while planting.
  • The bulbs are best planted when purchased rather than stored. If you can't plant them immediately, they will store in the refrigerator or other cool place for a short time. If a longer time is needed, plant them in a pot of soil until they can be planted outdoors.
  • Don't let the bulb dry out and don't purchase dried out ones in discount stores, because they probably won't grow. Feel them when you purchase and be sure the bulb is good and solid.
  • The plant that has been grown from a bulb can also be purchased during the summer months and then planted. Planting bulbs is more economical, though.

How to Plant Them

  • The plants look best when planted in groups. Plant at least three bulbs or plants together. A good idea is to include different varieties of lilies in the same bed. You can mix trumpets, Asiatics, Madonna lilies, and others for different bloom times.
  • Orientals need to have dry soil since the bulbs can rot if too wet. A sandy soil blend is best.
  • Lilies like to have their leaves and flowers in the sun, but have their roots shaded. To accomplish this, just plant them in a sunny spot and have shorter perennials surrounding them. They can tolerate partial shade. If they get too much shade, the plants will be spindly and not have as many blooms and lean towards the sun. You will need to stake them if this happens. It is better to just plant them in a place where they will get at least six hours of full sun a day.
  • Plant the bulbs 6" to 8" apart and 4" to 6" deep. If the bulbs are planted too closely, they will not have good enough air circulation and this could cause them to get a fungus.

Caring for Lilies

  • The lilies like to be kept moist, but keep the water away from the petals. Watering in the morning is the best time.
  • Because this type grows so tall, you may need to stake it or it may fall in the wind. If they aren't planted in full sun, they will tilt towards the sun and staking will be required.
  • Fertilize with a phosphorus-rich fertilizer in the spring. Some gardeners fertilize every month during the summer, but I have had good results without doing this. Using a time-released fertilizer will accomplish the same purpose. Fertilizing right after the bloom time is also a good idea.
  • If you'd like to use your lilies for cut flowers, cut no farther down than one-third of the stalk. If you cut more than this, it can damage your plant or even possibly cause you to lose it. Early morning is the best time to cut the flowers.
  • After bloom, don't cut down the stalks until they are brown. The green leaves will feed the bulb. When removing stalks in the fall, cut them down. Pulling can pull up the bulb and they won't be as protected during the winter months.
  • Orientals can go years without dividing the bulbs. In the north, I have never needed to divide my Orientals, like I do my Asiatics. If you notice that they are growing too thickly together and the bloom isn't as prolific, it is time to divide them.
  • Mulching the lilies in the fall is a good idea. This will help protect them from winter thaws that can make them heave in the ground. Six inches of mulch is about the right amount. Fallen leaves are fine or you could use straw.
  • Casa blanca, which means white house in Spanish, has a large white bloom. If you want a white lily, this is a nice one. The blooms are showy and extra large. A group of bulbs can put on a real show.
  • Muscadet has large white blooms. It grows 20–40 inches.
  • Pimento only gets 24" tall and is a nice choice for pots and patios.
  • Stargazer is another variety that is a good choice. The flowers are a deep pink and rose blend. They have beautiful blooms.

There are many varieties to choose from. I haven't purchased an Oriental that I didn't love. Be sure to check if the variety you choose is hardy in your zone and you shouldn't go wrong.

Questions & Answers

Question: I have planted many oriental lily bulbs that have failed to grow. I don't understand what I am doing wrong. Do you have any suggestions about planting?

Answer: There are a couple of reasons I can think of that may be causing this. When purchasing bulbs, squeeze them a little. If they aren't dried out, they will feel like a fresh onion. If not they may even fall apart.

Another cause could be squirrels or gophers digging up the bulbs and eating them. Dig in the spot and make sure there is a bulb still there.

Are you keeping them watered? Another cause could be the bulbs getting too wet. They will rot if the ground is too wet. I hope you discover your problem and start getting some bloom. These have beautiful flowers.

Question: I have a beautiful deep red Oriental lilly. Can I transplant it to other areas?

Answer: Yes, you can. Wait until the bloom is finished, though, unless you don't care if it blooms this year. It would be best to let the plant die down before digging up the bulb. The green leaves feed the bulb. Waiting until it sprouts in the spring would be even better.

Be sure to dig deep enough not to cut the bulb. You can ruin it if you cut it with the spade and I have had this happen to me. Even if you do cut into it, try planting it anyway. It may be fine.

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Read More From Dengarden


Barbara Badder (author) from USA on May 29, 2013:

Joanne, Thank you for reading the hub and voting it up and sharing.

Joanne M Olivieri on May 29, 2013:

Oriental lilies are my favorite flower and particularly the Oriental trumpet lily with the stargazer coming in at a close second. They all do grow very tall so your tip about using a stake is very important. Helpful tips and information in this hub. Voted Up and shared on Twitter.

Barbara Badder (author) from USA on February 06, 2012:

sgbrown, Thanks for reading the hub and thanks for sharing. The Orientals are beautiful. If you enjoy gardening, you'll love them.

Sheila Brown from Southern Oklahoma on February 06, 2012:

Hi Barbara Kay! Great hub! I love Oriental Lilies. I have several varieties, but don't know their names. I will have to look them up this spring. I am glad to see some information on taking care of them, as I wasn't sure what they needed. I plan on planting more and will definitely use your advice. Voted up, useful and socially sharing! Thanks for the information! :)

Barbara Badder (author) from USA on February 03, 2012:

GmaGoldie, I'm like you. I love roses, but lilies are my favorites. Enjoy watching your lilies bloom this year.

Kelly Kline Burnett from Madison, Wisconsin on February 02, 2012:

The world of flowers is so wonderful and while so many look to roses, the lilies I love. I planted several including the Casa Blanca at our new home - cannot wait for this spring to see my new babies.

Excellent article. Thank you!

Barbara Badder (author) from USA on January 29, 2012:

rebeccamealey, Thanks for commenting and voting up. I'm happy to help.

Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on January 29, 2012:

Great tips or Oriental Lilies. Bookmarked for future reference! Also voted up and useul!

Barbara Badder (author) from USA on January 28, 2012:

homesteadbound, Yes they are really easy and so beautiful. Thanks for commenting.

Barbara Badder (author) from USA on January 28, 2012:

Cardisa, Your best bet is to purchase bulbs. They aren't too expensive. Thanks for commenting.

Barbara Badder (author) from USA on January 28, 2012:

tillsontitian, Thanks for reading and voting it up. I hope it does give some motivation to others to try them.

Barbara Badder (author) from USA on January 28, 2012:

agreenworld, Thanks for reading the hub. Actually I didn't know about the cutting myself until I did some research. I can't stand to use mine as cut flowers since they are so beautiful in the garden.

Cindy Murdoch from Texas on January 28, 2012:

I may have to give these a try. I would not have thought they would be that easy to grow. Stargazers are my absolute favorite!

Carolee Samuda from Jamaica on January 28, 2012:

I see the same plant as you thanks for this information Barbara. I usually purchase seeds so I'll have to remember that this particular plant mat not grow from seeds so I may purchase a seedling instead.

Barbara Badder (author) from USA on January 28, 2012:

scentualhealing, We were first introduced to these at a garden show growing against a white fence. Once we saw them, we had to have them. Thanks for commenting.

Mary Craig from New York on January 28, 2012:

Great job! Doesn't seem like you've left anything out. Anyone who has never smelled an oriental lily doesn't know what they're missing, hopefully your hub will introduce them. Voted up and useful. Thanks for Sharing.

Dawn A. Harden from CT-USA on January 27, 2012:

Hi Barbara Kay,

I love lilies! Enjoyed the cutting and mulching tips! Picture you chose was the icing on the cake.

Thanks again!

scentualhealing from Georgia on January 27, 2012:

I love these flowers, they are some of my favorites! they smell so good the scent is almost a heady one. They are a sturdy thick petaled-flower, I like that too. I enjoyed your article thank you

DIYmyOmy from Philadelphia, PA on January 27, 2012:

Thanks for this, it's a great topic and you really covered all the bases!

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