Yard and Garden: Planting and Dividing Lilies in Fall

September 12, 2016, 9:37 am | Richard Jauron, Greg Wallace

AMES, Iowa – Lilies make an excellent addition to a spring and summer garden landscape. However, fall is the right time to plant, dig and divide lilies for optimal performance in spring.

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach horticulturists explain what to do now to help lilies reach their full potential. 

What is a good planting site for lilies? 

Most lilies perform best in well-drained, slightly acidic soils in full sun. However, Martagon lilies prefer partial shade and neutral to slightly alkaline soils. Good soil drainage is imperative as bulbs may rot in poorly drained, wet soils. Raised beds are a good planting option in poorly drained locations.


When is the best time to plant lilies?

Early fall is an excellent time to plant Asiatic, Oriental and other garden lilies. Plant lily bulbs at a depth equal to three times their diameter. Container-grown lilies also can be planted in spring and summer. Plant container grown lilies at the same depth as in the pot.

When would be a good time to dig and divide lilies?

Early fall is an excellent time to dig and divide Asiatic, Oriental and other garden lilies. Carefully dig up the clump and separate the bulbs. Replant the bulbs immediately. If planting must be delayed, place the bulbs in a plastic bag containing lightly moistened sphagnum peat moss and place the bag in the refrigerator. Plant the bulbs as soon as possible.

Can I plant tiger lilies near Asiatic, Oriental or other garden lilies?

Many lily enthusiasts don’t grow tiger lilies (Lilium tigrinum) because they are often infected with lily mosaic virus. Lily mosaic virus causes little harm to tiger lilies. Often, you can’t tell that they have the disease. However, aphids and other sap-feeding insects may carry the virus from tiger lilies to other types. Many hybrid lilies infected with lily mosaic virus produce distorted foliage that is streaked or mottled. Also, infected plants produce fewer flowers and those flowers that do form are often deformed.  Lilies exhibiting lily mosaic virus symptoms should be promptly dug up and discarded.  

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