How To Plant Lily Bulbs

How To Plant Lily Bulbs

What could be nicer than a pot of heavenly scented lilies in summer

What could be nicer than a pot of gorgeous fragrant lilies beside your favourite seat in the garden? They make a spectacular show and come in a wide range of colours and heights from the small carpet lilies to the huge tree lilies reaching up to 240cm (8’). They are ideal for cut flowers and if grown in pots can be sunk into the herbaceous border wherever there is a gap in the planting.


They need rich, fertile, well-drained soil in full sun. Good drainage is absolutely essential so if you have heavy soil they would be better grown in pots.

Planting in the ground

Plant in early spring, but if they shoot before the frosts have finished put horticultural fleece over them if there is a frost forecast. Dig a hole to the depth you want to plant the bulbs and put a layer of coarse grit in the bottom. Place the bulbs in the bottom about 15cm (6”) apart and incorporate a handful of general purpose fertiliser, such as blood, fish and bone into the soil as you replace it over the bulbs. Plant small bulbs to a depth of 7.5 – 10cm (3 – 4”), large bulbs 10 – 15cm (4 – 6”) deep and Madonna lilies (Lilium candidum) only about 2.5cm (1”) below the surface. Water in to settle the compost and fill any air pockets.

green/yellow lily flower

Planting in a container

Bulbs planted in a container can be left in the greenhouse to give them a head start; gradually acclimatise them to outdoors before being left out once all danger of frost has passed. Choose a container at least 30cm (12”) in diameter and depth; place crocks over the drainage holes to ensure they don’t become blocked with silt. Fill with a mixture of 2/3 good quality compost and 1/3 coarse grit with a handful of blood, fish and bone added. The bulbs need only be spaced 5cm (2”) apart. Plant to the same depth as if in the garden. Water in.

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Profile Image Angela Slater

Angela Slater

Daughter of a farmer and market gardener so have always had a connection with the outdoors, whether it was keeping animals or producing fruit, vegetables and cut flowers. Along with my work at Hayes Garden World I also have a smallholding, mainly breeding rare breed pigs. I gained an HND and BSc in Conservation and Environmental Land Management, as a result I am an ardent environmentalist and have a keen interest in environmentally friendly gardening. In my time at Hayes I worked for several years in the Outdoor Plant and Houseplant areas.