How to Grow Oriental Lilies – Backyard Food Growing


There are so many beautiful Oriental lilies available that they easily make a stunningly beautiful and colourful garden, they’re most beautiful standing among other shorter growing flowers and shrubs.

Giant Oriental lilies are really easy to grow and they produce beautiful fragrant flowers right from their first year. They are great for novice gardeners and kids gardens.

The bulbs are available in the early spring and early fall. They come in a wide range of solid colours and many colour combinations.

Their height ranges from 18″ to 72″ depending on the variety. They can reach a stately 7 ft tall or more in good conditions.


  • Bulb will produce a flower the first year
  • They’ll do well in less than ideal conditions
  • Very fragrant
  • The need bright direct sun or they will lean over trying to reach it
  • They don’t require a large amount of soil space

They thrive in climate zones 3 – 8. This is a wide temperature range, so they will very likely grow well in your area too.

Oriental Lilies will grow in containers for many years and will withstand quite a bit of abuse and even dry to poor soil conditions. If you have extended months of cold winter weather then they may not survive in a container.

If you have the option of planting it in the ground or a raised bed then do that. Well thought out placement gives the bulb maximum opportunity to acclimatize to its environment and grow to it’s largest possible size with an amazing show of blooms.

Selecting Your Bulbs

If you would like your lilies to look like the ones featured in the images here just make sure the label says “Oriental”, 48″ tall or more and “Fragrant”.

If you’re buying from a store, choose a reputable nursery in town and then choose the physically largest bulb you can find out of the entire display. The bigger the bulb the bigger the plant and flowers will eventually be.

Planting Instructions

When you look at the bulb, if there are roots visible they go pointed towards the bottom. Sometimes the bulb has already started to grow in the package and it clearly shows you which way is up.

Choose the sunniest location you have available as this will help them to grow strong and healthy. 

  • Plant the bulb down about 4″ to 6″
  • Cover the bulb with a few inches more soil
  • Pat down firmly for stability

The stalk can tip over if the roots don’t get a good grip from the beginning. 

Don’t place them along a hedge or tree line. The trees will cast shade and then the lily stalks will lean and reach toward the brightness. The benefit to having them grow in a container is that if the stalk leans at all just give it a half turn once a day to keep it growing straight up.

After planting, in a very short amount of time you’ll see a sprout emerge, usually in less than 2 weeks. Keep the watering consistently but not excessive throughout the growing and blooming period. If you live in a rainy area then adjust your watering accordingly so the bulb doesn’t stay soggy.

The blooms should last a few weeks each before they start to fade and fall off. If you want to cut it and bring the stalk in the house, make sure to cut the yellow part off of the stamens from the center of the flower.

This yellow powder stains and shakes off on to other surfaces in your house including clothing. Sadly, sometimes the weather or wind will break the stalk right when the flowers are the most beautiful, if that happens it’s a good opportunity to bring it in the house so it’s not lost altogether.

 After all the blooms are done and there’s no evidence of more flowers coming, leave the stalk standing. Leave it there for the duration of the summer until the stalk itself and the leaves on it have turned yellow.

Just like a Hosta, this allows the plant time to take back the nutrients that it put out in order to bloom in the spring. These returned nutrients make the bulb much stronger for the next year.  

When it’s all yellow or brown then you are free to cut off the stalk about 8″ from the ground. These remaining tubes become a protected over-wintering nesting spots for ladybugs.


There are at least 12 different colours of Oriental lily, each with various mature heights ranging from 24″ to 72″.

Quite often you’ll find that when the package says the bulb has a mature height of 48″ the plant will actually grow taller than that.

One of the most fragrant and beautiful is the stunning Casablanca. It’s pure white, elegant and is often grown to be used in weddings and bouquets. In the garden it will grow up to 48″ or more with good care.

When you plant several of the fragrant lilies you’ll be greeted every day with the air in your yard being filled with the pleasant scent of these lovely flowers when you go out in the morning.

Plant the taller ones in the back (or place containers in the back) so that the tallest ones are behind the shorter ones and you’ll get a very beautiful display.

Largest Lily Bulbs

  • The Casablanca – Pure white (48″)
  • Conca d’Or – Electric Yellow (48″-60″)
  • Dizzy – White with magenta stripes down the center of each petal with speckles (48″-60″)
  • Golden Star Gazer – Sunshine yellow (48″-60″)
  • Muscadet – White with pale pink stripes down each petal with pink speckles (36″-48″)
  • Scheherazade – Mainly burgundy with lighter yellow or pale green edges on each petal with dark red speckles (36″-48″)
  • Stargazer – Hot pink with white edges

The names of the bulbs may vary from region to region, so look for the tallest mature height of Oriental bulb in you’re favourite colour and you’ll be fine.

Lilies vs Slugs

The biggest problem you’ll likely ever have with growing lilies is slugs and snails, depending on your area. One or both of these slimy pests will be an issue if you live in a rainy or temperate climate.

In the early spring it will be necessary to apply slug poison or traps to your garden. This article details several remedies for slugs and snails.

The slugs will eat an emerging lily sprout faster than it can grow, the flower stalk will eventually die from stress before it even gets going.

It’s easy to tell if you are dealing with slugs, the emerging lily sprout will not have it’s characteristic pointed leaves and the stump will be misshapen. Each day that you go out to check on its progress, you’ll notice no growth or very little change from the days before.

Look closely and you’ll probably see that it’s slugs. Select and use the remedies or poisons of your choice and enjoy the beautiful summer lilies.

Lily Leaf Beetles

The other main pest of the lily is the Lily Leaf Beetle. It’s known as the scarlet lily leaf beetle (Lilioceris lilii). It’s a little red, hard shelled bug that completely devours lily leaves and foliage right down to the stem and eats until only the bare stalk of the plant is left. Their preferred food is the lily, but the adults will also eat the foliage of some other species. These include:

Flowering Tobacco (Nicotiana)
Potato (Solanum tuberosum)
Hollyhock (Alcea)
Lily-of-the-Valley (Convallaria majalis)
Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum)

They are a big problem on the east coast of North America. They were accidentally introduced to to North America through Quebec, Canada in 1943, They are particularly bad in the north East areas near New England, the Maritime provinces in Canada and have recently been found as far west as Manitoba in Canada and Bellevue, Washington in the USA.

The Scarlet Lily Beetle prefers the Asiatic lily the most, but also likes Trumpet lilies Oriental lilies, Tiger lilies and Turk’s Cap lilies. The Day lily is not affected.


Look under the leaves, you’ll be able to see chewing damage on the edges of the leaves as well as egg masses in narrow rows on the underside of the leaves. The egg masses are usually red or brown in colour. It’s the larva that do the most damage, even more than the adults.

The adult beetles over winter in the leaves and debris on the ground and begin laying eggs early in spring. The larva hatch in 67 – 100 days and begin to feed on the new lily sprouts. The early blooming Daffodils and Fritillaria are on the menu too.

If the problem is bad then you’ll see clusters of small globs of brown stuff on the leaves and leaf nodes of the lily. This is the excrement of the larva, that they’ve piled on top of themselves for protection. The larva eat for 16 to 24 days and then go down to the soil to pupate, then 16 to 22 days after that then the adults emerge to carry on the cycle.

Plan of Attack

If you’re dealing with this pest there are a few solutions that you can start with to help save your lilies.

The first is kind of nasty…hand picking and hand squishing. This means go out to the garden several times a week and hand pick off the adults and squish all the egg clusters you can find. I recommend wearing latex or vinyl gloves. Also, take with you a small bucket of water mixed with dish soap to put the leaves and squished remains in to after you get them.  


There are two sprays that are showing to be effective against this pest. The first is Neem oil, this repels the adults and kills the larva. Apply it every 5 to 7 days and early in the season.

The other is Spinosad, this is a widely used organic pesticide that is derived from soil dwelling bacterium. If used regularly it’s shown to be effective. Once you learn how to grow giant Oriental lilies you’ll be astounded at how beautiful and easy they are. 

Please leave a comment about your lily garden.