Container Gardens | Slideshow | Spring Planted Bulbs

Planting Lilies in Pots


Lily bulbs are the jewel of the summer bulb garden. Their colorful blooms are showy and can be found in nearly every color of the rainbow. In addition to showy blooms Oriental Lilies and Orienpet Lilies are fragrant. They stand tall and upright and fill the early to mid-summer garden with pleasing views and scents. Topping the list of most popular summer bulbs, lilies should have a place in every garden plan. However, some landscapes do not allow for lilies to be planted in the ground. Therefore, some gardeners who LOVE lilies choose to plant them in pots. Learn more about planting lilies in pots with our helpful advice below.

Why Grow Lily Bulbs in Pots?

First, let’s determine why you would grow lilies in pots. The most common reason is you don’t have the space or option to grow them directly in the ground.

Another reason is you have too much shade in the areas they could be planted in the ground.

Hungry squirrels, chipmunks, and other ground pests are another reason to plant lilies in pots. When they are planted in pots the ground critters don’t have the same opportunity to damage or destroy the bulbs. If you have a problem with critters in the garden be sure to check out this helpful article about Common Garden Pests to learn how to deal with them.

How to Grow Lilies in Pots

Start by choosing a container that is tall enough to plant the lily bulbs 6-8″ deep. This is important, as lily bulbs need to be planted deep enough to support the tall stems and produce healthy roots. If the container is shallow or small it won’t be a good long-term vessel for the bulbs to live in. Be sure the container that is selected has drainage holes at the bottom. If using a plastic pot that does not come with drainage holes they can be added by using a hand drill.

Purchase soil that drains well; a soil blend made for container gardens is ideal. Lily bulbs, like all flower bulbs require excellent drainage to grow. If the soil holds moisture for too long the bulbs will have an increased chance of rotting.

First, fill the container up so there is at least 1″ of soil on the bottom of the pot. The depth of soil added to the bottom will vary based on the height of the container. For example, a 12″ tall container can be filled with soil to approximately 4″ on the bottom. Once you have some soil added to the bottom of the container it’s time to plant the lily bulbs.

Planting Lilies in Pots

Lily bulbs have a noticeably pointed side. This makes determining which side to plant quite easy. Plant the pointed end of the bulb facing toward the sky. If there are any roots attached to the bulb spread these out on the soil so they have a chance to start spreading into the soil as the bulb grows. Add enough soil to cover the bulbs and fill the container to near the top. Leave at least 1″ of room at the top of the container free from soil, so that water may be added to the pot without overflowing.

After the bulbs have been planted and soil has been added, water the container well until water drains through the bottom of the pot. Allow the soil to dry out between waterings, when the soil is dry add enough water so that the water drains through the bottom of the pot. To check the soil moisture levels stick a finger in the pot to about 1-2″ deep and feel if the soil feels moist or dry.

How many lily bulbs to plant per container?

Determine how many lily bulbs to plant in the pot based on the size of the container. 2-4″ spacing for lilies planted in pots will give a full appearance to the container while allowing enough airflow and spacing. Therefore a 10″ diameter pot will fit 3-5 lily bulbs depending on the look desired and if there are other plants going in the container. A smaller 6″ diameter container will fit 1-3 lily bulbs.

Additional Considerations for Lilies Planted in Pots

Two additional things to consider when planting lilies in pots. First, if the lilies are planted in a cold climate that has freeze-and-thaw cycles the bulbs will need to be planted in the ground before winter. If that is not possible, the pots should be placed in a cool and temperature-controlled place for winter while the bulbs are dormant. The second consideration, after the lilies are done blooming the bulbs will prepare for dormancy and disappear after a few weeks of being planted. Therefore, planting other bulbs, annuals or perennials in the pots for when the lilies go dormant is a good idea.

What are the Best Lilies for Planting in Pots?

While most lily bulbs can be planted in pots, there are certain varieties and types that do better than others. Most Asiatic and Oriental Lilies will grow well in containers. Orienpet Lilies which are a cross between Oriental Lilies and Trumpet Lilies can grow well in pots, but they get rather tall. Therefore, if planting tall lily bulbs such as Orienpet Lilies make sure to use a large enough pot. Using a large pot in depth and width for tall lilies will ensure they stand upright. Staking tall lilies when planted in pots may also be necessary.

The sweet spot for lilies in pots are varieties that grow 15-36″ tall. As mentioned above taller lilies that grow 48-60″ can be planted in pots, but staking and larger containers will need to be considered.

10 Best Lily Varieties for Growing in Containers:

Grow Lilies in Containers This Summer

Plant lily bulbs this spring or early summer for blooms this season. Lilies typically grow fast when temperatures are above 55 degrees. Therefore, growth occurs within a couple of weeks after the bulbs are planted. Blooms will occur based on local temperatures when they are planted and the type of lily that is planted. Generally, lilies bloom in early to mid-summer in most hardiness zones.

Lilies are fragrant, and showy and grow easily in pots. I hope you have the opportunity to add these jewels of the summer garden to your plans this year!

Need Gardening Help?

If you need any help with gardening or if you have plant-related questions or concerns, feel free to reach out to Jenny San Filippo. She can provide you with the knowledge and tools needed to succeed with your next project!

Contact Jenny

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