Lilies: Planting Depth and Distance

Species Lilies, Asiatic Lilies, Oriental Lilies, Trumpet Lilies, Easter Lilies, Orienpet Lilies, Martagon Lilies,

  • Planting Lilies, Species Lilies, Asiatic Lilies, Oriental Lilies, Trumpet Lilies, Easter Lilies, Companion Planting

Lilies make perfect partners with other plants and help create strikingly beautiful combinations in the garden. There are many Lily species and even more hybrid Lilies to choose from which offer a rich array of heights, colors and bloom times. These hearty bulbs are easy to grow and require minimal care, provided that you plant them in the right place at the proper depth and distance.

The depth and distance apart at which you will plant your Lily bulbs vary according to the type of Lilies.

Asiatic Lilies

Asiatic lilies are among the earliest to bloom and they are also the easiest of lilies to grow. Medium size plants with upward or outward facing flowers, mostly unscented. Their flowers are 4-6 in wide (10-15 cm) and can bloom for up to one month in the garden. 

  • Plant them 8 in. deep (20 cm) and 8 in. apart (20 cm). 
  • If you do not intend to lift the bulbs at the end of the season and decide to leave them undisturbed for 2-3 years, allow 12 in. (30 cm) to make room for the increasing number of bulbs.

LA Lilies and Orienpet Lilies

LA hybrid Lilies result from crosses between Lilium longiflorum ('Easter lilies') and Asiatic Lilies. They are robust growers with strong, sturdy stems and exceptionally large fragrant flowers.

Adored by gardeners, Orienpet Lilies are outstanding garden plants. They are a real breakthrough in the history of Lily breeding. They combine the incredible beauty of the Oriental Lilies with the robustness, heat tolerance and colors of the Trumpet & Aurelian Hybrids. The best of both worlds. Blooming towards the end of the lily season, Orienpet Lilies are perfect additions to the late summer garden. Their fresh and impressive blooms are welcomed by gardeners since many other plants have started to fade.

  • Plant them 8 in. deep (20 cm) and 8 in. apart (20 cm). 

Lilium candidum (Madonna Lily)

Cultivated for centuries, award-winner Lilium Candidum is a majestic Lily with large (2-3 in or 6-8 cm long), glistening pure white trumpets facing outward and bright yellow pollen. Celebrated for its intense and delicious fragrance, this prolific Lily produces clusters of up to 20 blossoms per stem for a spectacular long-lasting display. Plant it near a patio and enjoy its intoxicating fragrance on a summer evening!

  • As opposed to the planting directions for other lilies, these Lily bulbs must be planted so that 1 in. (3 cm) of soil covers the nose of the bulb.
  • Plant them 8-10 in. apart (20-25 cm). 

Lilium Martagon

Amazingly decorative and easy to grow, Martagon Lilies feature bountiful 2-4 inch blossoms (5-10 cm), mostly downward facing with strongly recurved tepals and resembling a Turk's cap (hence their common name). Yellow, pink, lavender, light orange, deep dark red and white are the colors most frequently seen and are often accompanied by whimsical speckles and freckles.

  • Plant them 7 in. deep (17 cm) and 7 in. apart (17 cm).  

Oriental Lilies

Known as the most flamboyant personalities within the world of lilies, Oriental Hybrid Lilies are characterized by their immense flowers, intense fragrance and rich colors. Blooming over a long period of time, from mid to late summer and even into fall for some varieties, their flowers are usually large and open, outward facing or pendant with striking patterns of spots.

  • Plant them 8 in. deep (20 cm) and 10 in. apart (25 cm)

Species Lilies

Species Lilies are wild lilies, native to North America, Europe, and especially Asia. Delicate and full of charm, there are about 80 to 100 accredited Species. Some of them make excellent garden plants that can be grown without fuss. Others may require special attention to some specific needs and be challenging to grow.

  • Plant them 7 in. deep (17 cm) and 7 in. apart (17 cm).  
  • Species Lilies with small bulbs such as Lilium concolor or Lilium pumilum need to be planted 3 in. deep (7 cm) and 4-6 in. apart (10-15 cm).  

Tiger Lilies

Tiger Lilies (Lilium Lancifolium or Lilium Tigrinum) command our attention with their bright and showy, orange-colored flowers covered with black or deep crimson spots, giving the appearance of the skin of the tiger, hence their common name. Native of China and Japan, they are robust and easy to grow. Amazingly decorative, Tiger Lilies feature unscented 5 inch blossoms (12 cm), mostly downward facing with gracefully recurved tepals. Prolific, mature bulbs can produce up to 12 blossoms per stem and will multiply to form clumps over the years.

  • Plant them 8 in. deep (20 cm) and 8 in. apart (20 cm). 

Trumpet Lilies

Blooming in mid summer, Trumpet Lilies enjoy a heavy, sweet fragrance, and their huge waxy trumpet flowers, up to 6-10 in. long (15-25 cm), may be pendant, widely flaring in a shallow bowl shape or be upward facing. Adding distinction and elegance to the garden, their colors vary from pure glistening white to bright gold, yellow, pink, plum, apricot, with some having dramatic maroon petals on the outside of the trumpet.

  • Plant them 8 in. deep (20 cm) and 10 in. apart (25 cm).  
  • Trumpet Lilies with large bulbs such as Lilium regale or Lilium 'Pink Perfection' need to be planted more deeply, 6-8 in. (15-20 cm). To accommodate their huge flowers, you need to provide plenty of space and plant them at least 15 in. apart (37 cm).

Lily Planting recommendations

  • Plant your Lily bulbs in spring or fall.
  • Plant your Lily bulbs in groups for bolder impact (minimum 3 bulbs), rather than scattering single bulbs. A group of 5 or more will be even more spectacular.
  • Mixing Lilies cultivars is not always a successful idea from a design standpoint. Each cultivar has its own height, blooming period and character. Planting together Lily varieties of varying heights or flowering season would reduce the overall effect.
  • Usually, tall Lilies are planted at the back of the border or at the center of island beds while dwarf Lily varieties are placed at the front. Tall Lilies may be planted among or behind shrub roses and small to medium-sized shrubs such as Spireas, which help in providing support and reduce the need for staking.
  • There is a wide range of companion plants that will bring out the best qualities of your Lilies and share their space with a serene balance. Make sure you select any ornamental grasses, perennials, annuals or shrubs that have the same growing requirements as your Lilies. Most Lilies do best in full sun and well-drained soil, but some varieties prefer partial shade. Most Lilies do well in slightly acidic soil while others, such as Martagon Lilies, love alkaline soils. Be aware that a few rules need to be respected to ensure your Lilies will thrive among these plants.
  • Loosen the soil to a depth of 12-15 inches (30-37 cm). Deep planting is important as it will help stabilize your Lily and potentially eliminate the need for staking. Mix in a 2-4 in. layer of compost (5-10 cm). Dig a hole based on the above depth recommendations and set the Lilies with their roots facing downwards. Cover them with a layer of soil, press down firmly and water thoroughly. 

While every effort has been made to describe these plants accurately, please keep in mind that height, bloom time, and color may differ in various climates. The description of these plants has been written based on numerous outside resources.

Guide Information

Hardiness 3 – 9  
Heat Zones 1 – 7
Climate Zones 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23
Plant TypeBulbs, Perennials
Plant FamilyLilium - Lilies
ExposureFull Sun, Partial Sun
Season of Interest Summer (Early, Mid, Late)
Water NeedsAverage
Soil TypeChalk, Clay, Loam, Sand
Soil PhAlkaline, Neutral
Soil DrainageMoist but Well-Drained, Well-Drained
CharacteristicsCut Flowers, Showy
Landscaping Ideas Beds and Borders, Patio and Containers
Garden Styles City and Courtyard, Cutting Garden, Informal and Cottage, Traditional Garden

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