Lilies in winter: expert tips & tricks


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Lilies can spark joy with their blooms for several years. It is important to know how to take care of lilies in winter.

Lily plant in the snow
Easter lilies are especially hardy [Photo: Muskoka Stock Photos/]

Lilies (Lilium) turn any garden and balcony into a summer night’s dream with their impressive flowers. But what happens to the exotic bulbous plants when summer ends and the first frost arrives? Most species are not hardy in our country. But since the various lily species are distributed throughout the Northern Hemisphere, there are still a few species that are hardy in our country. Nevertheless, simple winter protection is necessary. Here you will learn how to successfully bring your lilies through the winter, whether hardy or not, as a pot culture or in the bed.

Selecting hardy lily species and varieties

With 150 different species and a good 2,000 species hybrids and varieties, there are fortunately one or two lilies that have no problem with winter in these climes. There may be failures during prolonged snowfall, rain, as well as severe frost, but in general, the following species are considered hardy:

  • Asian hybrid: The mostly star-shaped flowers open in June or July; growth height up to 1 m; location: partial shade with fresh, humus and nutrient-rich and well-drained soil; varieties considered particularly hardy here are: ‘Monte Negro’, ‘Netty’s Pride’, ‘Grand Cru’, ‘Mapira’, ‘Yellow County’, ‘Kushi Maya’.
  • Tree Lily: Fragrant flowers between June and August; can grow up to 2.5 m high; habitat: sunny and protected from the wind with well-drained, nutrient-rich and humus-rich soil.
  • Fire lily (Lilium bulbiferum): Mostly orange flower with brown spots; umbel flowers up to 20 flowers and 1 m high; habitat: Sunny and slightly calcareous soil.
  • Golden-band lily (Lilium auratum): Multiple fragrant, large flowers on a single stem; hardy with light winter protection; habitat: cool and moist with lime-free soil; hardy varieties: ‘Cupido’, ‘Sphinx’, ‘Nobility’.
  • Canada lily (Lilium canadense): Umbel-shaped flowerheads bloom in June and July, containing up to 20 flowers; growth height over 1 m; site with lime-free soil.
Orange lilies
Fire lilies can stay in the garden bed during winter [Photo: Giancarlo Peruzzi/]
  • Madonna lily (Lilium candidum): Up to eight beautiful white flowers; growth height up to 1 m; hardy with winter protection; location: sunny with fresh and loose, calcareous soil.
  • Oriental lily (Lilium oriental): Several strongly fragrant flowers; bloom: July – August; flower colours: white and yellow or pink; petals usually curled or wavy; especially beautiful cut flowers; location: partial shade with calcareous soil; hardy varieties: ‘Muscadet’, ‘Josephine’.
  • Leopard lily (Lilium pardalinum): Rolled-back flowers appear in August; flowers are bright yellow-orange with red tips and brown dots; growth height of up to over 2 m; site with lime-free soil.
  • Tiger lily (Lilium lancifolium): Multiple hanging flowers with speckled petals curving backward.
  • Lilium aurelianum: Multiple trumpet-shaped, drooping flowers; strong sweet fragrance; heights up to 1.5 m; flowering time: July – August; location: light shade; hardy varieties: ‘Pink Perfection’, ‘Royal Gold’, ‘White Elegance’.
  • Turk’s cap lily (Lilium martagon, Lilium cernuum): Up to seven delicately fragrant flowers shaped like a turban; location: partial shade with calcareous soil; hardy varieties: ‘Manitoba Morning’, ‘Orange Marmalade’, ‘Guinea Gold’.

Winter protection for the bulbs remaining in the ground is a layer of straw, brushwood or twigs. This is spread over the plants after the withered parts of the plant are cut off about a hand’s width above the ground after the first frost. Heap some additional soil at the base of the stem.

Grass covered in frost
Snow and frost should do no harm to lilies if they are covered in straw [Photo: Vera Borovskai/]

Lilies in winter: non-hardy species

If you decorate your garden in summer with the flowers of exotic lily species from warmer climates, these should be dug up after the first frost and overwintered indoors. The procedure is as follows:

  • Cut off the withered parts of the plant to a hand width above the ground
  • Carefully dig up the bulb without damaging the roots
  • Rinse off adhering soil with running water
  • Check bulb for diseases such as rot; remove diseased bulbs
  • Dry bulbs for a few days in a dark, cool (15 – 20 °C) and airy place (garage, shed)

Store the bulbs in a box with air holes until planting in the spring. Make sure that the bulbs do not touch each other so that fungal infections do not spread. If the bulbs begin to shrivel over time, you can lightly spray them with a water sprayer. In the spring, when there is no longer a danger of frost, the bulbs are replanted.

Several lily bulbs
Dig up the bulbs of not-hardy lily vaieties in autumn [Photo: V J Matthew/]

Overwintering lilies in a pot

With a pot culture, there is always an increased risk in winter that the soil with the bulb will freeze through completely. This would be fatal for the lily and must be prevented. Therefore, it is best to overwinter your lilies in pots in a frost-free, dark cellar or garage. Alternatively, a gazebo or a greenhouse can be used. The pots move to their winter quarters after the first frost. Before that, as with the lilies in the bed, cut off the withered parts of the plant about a hand’s width above the ground. Potted lilies need to be watered even in winter, because the bulb should never dry out completely. In February, if overwintered in a dark place, you can move the plants to a nice window spot. This is where the new shoots are initiated. Lilies that do not spend their time inside the house can be placed in the garden as soon as there is no danger of frost.

Lily bulb with a pot
Lily bulbs will sprout anew after being overwintered in a pot [Photo: Richard Griffin/]

Note: After overwintering, you can seize the opportunity and repot your lily right away. This way you can divide the bulb for propagation and ensure an even more impressive flowering period due to the fresh substrate. With the Plantura Organic Flower Compost your lily will be ideally provided for. It provides all the nutrients needed for a great bloom and is also peat-free and sustainably produced.

Organic Flower Compost, 40L
Organic Flower Compost, 40L
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  • Perfect for all flowering plants in garden beds & pots
  • For beautiful blossoms & healthy plant growth
  • Peat-free & organic soil: CO2-saving composition

In addition to overwintering, there are other important care steps for lilies. In our special article you will learn everything about correct lily care.