How and when to plant lily bulbs – tips from gardening experts

Alan Titchmarsh gives gardening advice during lockdown

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Once you’ve planted lilies, the bulbs will continually grow and flower for many years. However, like any plant, lilies can only be planted at specific times and the different types require different planting techniques. Here’s when to plant lily bulbs and how to plant them, according to the Miracle-Gro and Love the Garden experts.

When to plant lily bulbs

Lily bulbs should ideally be planted in autumn but the bulbs can be planted until spring.

If you want lilies to flower in summer, you need to plant the bulbs now.

The absolute latest you can plant lilies is in early April, so you better get planting!

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How to plant lily bulbs

The planting depth differs depending on which type of lily bulbs you have – stem rooting or basal rooting.

If the type you have has stem roots, it will produce roots above and below the bulb and will need to be planted deeper.

Stem-rooting lilies should be planted six to eight inches deep, but basal-rooting types need to be planted two to three inches deep.

Miracle Gro’s experts recommended two types of lily in particular. They said: “Lilies really bring that wow factor into the garden and some lilies can even grow up to 2.5m! Choose the Regale and Oriental types for a heavenly scent.”

Love the Garden has listed a few of the most popular lily varieties and explained how to plant them:

  • Asiatic Hybrids: have trumpet, bowl-shaped or Turk’s cap flowers; bulbs should be spaced 45cm (18in) apart.
  • Martagon Hybrids: have Turk’s cap-shaped flowers; spacing 30cm (12 inches).
  • Candidum Hybrids: have trumpet-shaped flowers whose petals are strongly reflexed; spacing 30cm (12 inches).
  • American Hybrids: have flowers that are mainly Turk’s-cap-shaped; spacing 45cm (18 inches).
  • Oriental Hybrids: can have trumpet-shaped, bowl-shaped, flat or recurved flowers; spacing 30 to 45cm (12 to 18 inches) depending on height.

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Where you plant your lily bulbs matters because they like cool conditions.

The gardening experts at Love the Garden said: “It’s a good idea to shade the base of the stems, such as by growing low-growing plants in front of them.”

Miracle Gro’s experts said: “You can plant them in a container or in the ground in a sunny, sheltered position but remember to place them where you will get the best of the scent.”

Flower borders and beds, patios, containers, city and courtyard gardens, informal and cottage gardens, and rock gardens are all suitable locations for lily bulbs.

If you’re planting the Asiatic, Oriental and Trumpet hybrid lilies, you should plant them in a pot with one to two inches between them.

How to care for lilies

Love the Garden recommends applying a two to three-inch mulch over the soil after planting your lily bulbs, and then topping it up annually.

Lilies planted in the ground may not need watering at all, but you should always check on them during prolonged dry periods in summer.

If your lilies are planted in a container, you will need to water them regularly in spring and summer.

The experts advised: “Feed the lilies with a slow or controlled-release feed in spring and apply liquid feeds through the growing season – especially when they’re in flower.”

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