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Lily Lovers – The Ultimate Guide to Growing Lilies

Now that we are well into the cooler days – and nights – of winter, we can revel in the fact that this is the perfect season for planting out one of Mother Nature’s best creations – Lilium Bulbs. The sheer delight of these flowers speak for themselves, and they can be incorporated into any size garden, are brilliant cut flowers, can be planted in pots to provide brilliant colour and in many cases fragrance for years to come.

Most areas of Australia are suitable to grow these delicious flowers, and there are just a few basic, or golden rules to follow. So if you have never grown Lilium Bulbs before, read on to discover the simple steps for growing them successfully in your own garden …

Lillium bulbs


Even if you only have a small garden, providing you have a sunny spot you can grow Liliums as they only require a space 20-30cm wide. Their tall, strong stems hold the blooms well above many low growing plant varieties, so Lilies can easily be popped in pockets (you need at least three together to look the part) here and there as a great colour accent. Of course, if you have plenty of space, you could try a bold planting of Lilies, with clumps of solid colour for maximum impact.

Liliums are best grown in morning sun, or light shade. Lilies don’t like to dry out, so unless you are prepared to water regularly it is a good idea to keep them a little protected from the hot afternoon rays.

Liliums like humus rich, moist soil, and if you want to get technical, an acid PH. Lilies will tolerate poorer soils if you fertilise them well, it is also a good idea to add in a bit of well rotted compost or manure fertiliser to give the Lilies a bit of get up and go while they are establishing. Good soil drainage is essential to ensure the Lily bulbs do not rot away during their dormant stage in winter. If the ground puddles after rain, you will need to improve the drainage.

When planting your Lilies, dig your hole twice as deep as the Lily bulb is tall, around 10-20cm, depending on the variety of Lilium you are planting. Place your bulb with the tip pointing up and refill the hole. You can easily dig a larger hole and place a few Lilies in at time, as they look good when planted fairly densely, around three to four bulbs for a 30cm diameter hole. Water your Lilium bulbs in well. You will see the stem growth coming through in one to two weeks, once they start growing keep your Lilies fairly moist. Once they begin to flower water weekly if rainfall is low. Mulching through summer is great as it helps to keep in moisture and keep the Lilies roots cool.

Lillium bulbs

Dig the soil over so it is nice and loose

Lillium bulbs

Gather your bulbs

Lillium bulbs

Lay your bulbs out on the ground to determine your planting plan

Lillium bulbs

Lift the soil with your trowel and place the bulb in the hole, covering with soil

Lillium bulbs

Water in, then wait for the show!


New Lily bulb shoots are quite attractive to slugs and snails, the old trick of a few dishes of beer around the planting area should help to contain them. We have a lot of pesky rabbits on our farm at the moment who also enjoy Lily bulb shoots, so do what you can to keep these critters away too. Applying blood and bone can help deter them, and add nutrients for your Lily bulbs at the same time.

Once planted, Lilium bulbs are best left undisturbed. You need only lift and divide them every three or four years. In ideal conditions Lily bulbs settle in fast and begin to multiply. As each bulb needs a bit of space and nutrients to grow, digging and dividing them helps them to be their big, robust best. Plus you get more Lilies for your garden, or to share with family and friends. If you don’t dig and divide them they tend to lose their vigour and won’t flower as well as they could.

Fertilise your Liliums with a complete fertiliser in late winter and again in summer for best blooms.

Liliums make great cut flowers as you probably know, so it is always a good idea to plant a few extra for this purpose. When you pick your blooms, try to leave 2/3 of the flower stalk in the garden. The bulb needs a good amount of leaf area to help put energy back into the bulb for next seasons flowers.

Lillium bulbs


Liliums can be grown very successfully in containers too, with varieties such as Christmas Lilies being popular for this purpose.

When planting Lilies in pots simply choose a container with a size and shape that will complement the height of the flowers; without looking out of proportion. Make sure that the container has excellent drainage, and can easily accommodate the Lilium bulbs without them touching the sides of the pot.

Use the best quality potting mix you can buy, preferably one with a slow release fertiliser. Plant your Lilium bulbs twice as deep as they are high, then water them in. Water your Lily bulbs regularly once they are actively growing, so they don’t completely dry out. If you give them a little extra pampering, such as adding a liquid fertiliser fortnightly over summer, this will ensure the best and longest lasting flowers possible.


If you want to time your Lily display for a special occasion, plant them in weekly lots. As nature isn’t entirely predictable this will help to ensure that at least some of them are on show. From planting, Liliums will take a nice quick turn around of 8-14 weeks to flower. They are so ready to get up and grow, we have to keep ours in fridges just to stop them shooting too fast in transport.

As Liliums are available for most of the year this means you can have quite a show through summer. You can set them to go off like colourful fireworks amongst your beds.


Once your Lilies have finished flowering in the garden, cut the stems as soon as the flowers have finished, so the bulbs don’t waste their energy on seed production. Cut them leaving 2/3 of the stem standing, then let the foliage remain until it has yellowed. You can then cut your Lily stem to around 5cm, and the Lilium bulb will become dormant.

Lillium bulbs


Flowering from late spring onwards and through the summer months, Liliums can literally light up your garden and there is such a wonderful range, the hardest thing about them is choosing! Keep an eye out for our next blog post for some of the different types of Lilies available.