How to Care for Outdoor Lily Plants

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Lilies are popular perennial plants that bloom during summer in large, trumpet-shaped flowers atop tall stems. Lilies come in many different varieties, some more cold-tender than others, and ranging in flower colors of white, gold, orange, pink and red. Some lilies are fragrant, some bloom throughout the summer and into autumn, while others bloom in spring until early summer. Lilies are grown from bulbs, and in some climates the bulbs can be kept in the ground through the winter. Calla lilies are especially cold-tender and considered tropical, so the bulbs must be dug up from the ground during winter in most regions.

Things You'll Need

  • Wooden stakes or poles
  • Soft string
  • Organic compost
  • Bark mulch
  • Pruning shears
  • Garden trowel or shovel
  • Water your outdoor lilies deeply to soak the soil around the plants once every week that rainfall is less than 1 inch. Water the lily plants during the spring, summer and early autumn.

  • Stake your lily plants to help them to grow upright without falling over. Insert a wooden stake or pole beside the lily plant and tie the stem to the stake loosely using soft string.

  • Spread a 1/2- to 1-inch thick layer of organic compost on the ground around your lily plants once each year in early spring. Spread a 2-inch thick layer of bark mulch on top of the compost to prevent weed growth and preserve soil moisture.

  • Cut back the flower stalks of your outdoor lilies after the flowers fade. Cut the stalks back to the base of the lily plant.

  • Spread a 4- to 5-inch thick layer of bark or straw mulch on the ground over the lily bulbs in fall before the first hard frost to protect the bulbs during winter. Remove the mulch in early spring, before new growth begins.

Tips & Warnings

  • Plant your lilies in well-draining, slightly acidic soil. Choose a planting location that receives full to partial sunlight. Plant the lily bulbs in the spring or fall, mixing into the soil about 3 inches of organic compost.
  • Don't leave the lily bulbs in the ground if the lilies are a tender variety and you live in a region that experiences frequent hard freezes during winter. Instead, dig up the lily bulbs in the fall, clean away the soil from the bulbs and store them in a dry, dark place with temperatures of 50 to 60 degrees F. Replant the bulbs into the ground in early spring, after the last frost.

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