Transplanting Potted Lilies to the Garden

My Garden Life
May 31, 2018
Table of Contents

Transplanting lilies to your garden is a great way to enjoy these popular potted gifts. Potted lilies have become increasingly popular for celebrating spring holidays. But these days the traditional white Easter lilies have had to make room for a beautiful array of pink, orange, yellow, rose and red-toned varieties of lilies that have come onto the scene.

Whether bought for decoration or to give as a gift, lilies’ long-lasting beauty and fragrance are especially appreciated in the early months of spring when everyone is ready to close the door on winter. Whatever type of potted lily you bring home, or receive as a gift, you’re sure to fall in love with its showy blossoms and lush foliage.

Transplant Lilies - Easter lilies

It’s for that reason many home gardeners want to find a way to transplant their potted lilies outside once the blooms have faded. And there’s no reason you shouldn’t. Most lilies – if the transition to life in the garden is handled with care – will thrive and produce many more seasons of beautiful lily flowers outdoors.

Transplant Lilies - border garden filled with Asian lilies in shades of red, yellow, pink, orange and white

What to Expect When Transplanting Lilies

The first thing to remember when transplanting your potted lily, is that the greenhouses that produced it forced the blooms to come early. Most outdoor lilies will blossom in the summer, the Asiatic varieties in early summer and the Oriental varieties after the Asiatic types have faded.

Planting both types of lilies in the same area is a great strategy for enjoying a continuous display over a longer period.

You should not expect your potted lily to flower again the summer you replant it in the garden. In fact, it may take a couple of years before it grows strong enough to flower outside. But be patient and you will be rewarded in time.

Transplant Lilies - Oriental and Asiatic lilies

When and How to Transplant Lilies

Enjoy your potted lily indoors until all danger of frost has passed. Keep it in a cool place with partial sun, snipping off the flowers once they fade. A week or so before you are ready to transplant the lily in the garden, start letting it sit outside for longer periods each day. This is called “hardening off,” a necessary step for plants that have lived their entire lives in the warmth of greenhouses and living rooms.

When you’re ready to plant, find a sunny location and follow these steps to transplant your lilies:

  1. The soil in the flower bed should be rich with organic compost. Add compost if needed.
  2. Plant the lily to the depth it was in its pot, and add a layer of mulch to keep the soil cool. Soon the original stem and leaves will start to brown–don’t panic. Prune the plant to where it is still a healthy green.
  3. New growth (but no flowers) will emerge through the summer. When that yellows and wilts in the fall, trim the plant back to the ground and cover with a few inches of mulch for the winter.
  4. When the weather warms the next spring, push back the mulch to let the lily grow, applying a balanced fertilizer once a month until the summer blooms begin.

Planting your potted lily plants into the garden is sure to bring you joy for years to come. Butterflies and other beneficial pollinators that are attracted to lilies will thank you for it too!

Transplant Lilies - Potted orange pixie lily

18 Comments

  1. Marjorie Stainton

    This was extremely helpful thank you

    Reply
  2. Karen Quinton

    Thank you! This is so helpful! I hope this also applies to Canada – Ontario.

    Reply
    • My Garden Life

      Hi Karen,
      The only thing that might vary is the timing for planting outdoors. This will be different depending on where you live and when the danger of late frosts is passed. Otherwise the steps for transplanting all remain the same!

      Reply
  3. Kirsty

    Extremely helpful thank you

    Reply
    • My Garden Life

      You’re welcome Kirsty, thanks for letting us know!

      Reply
  4. Courtney

    Hello, I live in southern Florida where it does not get cold. Will my Lillie’s still need to be cut to the ground and covered with mulch? How will I know when to do that? They are currently potted, outside and blooms have died.

    Reply
    • My Garden Life

      Hi Courtney,
      Asiatic, Oriental, Trumpet, and Easter lilies all require a period of dormancy and winter chill to set flower buds. This can be anywhere from 8-12 weeks at a temperature below 50 degrees F (10 degrees C).

      You could experiment with digging up your plants, cutting off the foliage just above the bulb, and storing the bulbs in a paper bag in a refrigerator to give the bulbs their cooling period. This can be a little tricky as lily bulbs can be delicate and dry out quickly. After they have received proper chilling, you would plant the bulbs back outdoors.

      Your plants are likely to keep growing happily in southern Florida but, while the glossy green foliage does provide interesting texture, you aren’t going to get more flowers without the proper cooling period for the bulbs to “set” the buds.

      Reply
  5. Mary

    The lilies that I purchased have 3 stems in each pot. Do I separate them and plant them separately or should I plant all 3 in the same hole? Also, they are about a foot tall and unfortunately one of the stems snapped off in the middle. Do I have to cut it all the way down or just leave as is?

    Reply
    • My Garden Life

      Hi Mary,
      Each stem is likely emerging from its own bulb. You could divide them, but lilies are often planted in a clump to create a more full, lush display. Single stems can look a little sparse getting started if they’re spaced far apart and they could take several years to develop multiple stems/bulbs. You do not have to cut the damaged stem down to the base. If the top end of the stem is dying due to the damage (and loss of circulation above the break) you can cut that off, no problem. The remaining foliage will still help with photosynthesis and the development of the bulb.

      Reply
      • Mary

        So then how far apart should I plant each pot?

        Reply
        • My Garden Life

          Welcome back Mary,
          You can go as close as 12″ if you want your lilies to appear as a single dense clump or if your garden space is limited. Space them 15″-18″ if you want to give each pot a little extra space and allow them to grow and fill in over time.

          Reply
  6. Meche

    I’m in northeast FL and was given Landini and White Pixel asiatic bulbs. Can I plant in ground now or is it better to plant in containers and transplant in ground when the weather is milder?

    Reply
    • My Garden Life

      Hi Meche,
      You’re okay to plant Asiatic lilies, or most any flowering perennial plant, in the ground at any time spring through fall. It’s just that the heat of summer can put additional stress on transplants. You’ll want to be sure the plants receive enough water to get off to a good start. If you aren’t getting much rain, you might need to water at least a couple times a week until the roots are well-established. Applying a couple inches of mulch can also help keep the bulbs cool and help retain moisture.

      One advantage to starting the bulbs in a pot is the ability to move the plants to a partially shaded location to get them started. That will reduce some transplanting stress as they won’t be subjected to the full, hot sun. Then you can move them to their permanent, sunny location later in the summer (or whenever temperatures turn milder for your region).

      Reply
  7. Paulene Dry

    I’ve got 2 potted oriental Lillie plants in my home and the flowers have all fallen off now but I don’t know what to do with them now

    Reply
    • My Garden Life

      Hi Paulene,
      The best thing to do is snip off the flower heads and plant them in the ground if you have the space and the proper location. Just follow the transplanting steps for lilies found in the article. You want to remove the old flower heads so that the plant energy is going into growth of the foliage and bulbs and not into producing seeds. If you try to continue to grow them indoors, unless you have a very sunny location by a window, they’re unlikely to do well. Also, lily bulbs require a period of dormancy and winter chill – usually 8-12 weeks at a temperature below 50 degrees F (10 degrees C) – to bloom again.

      Reply
  8. Inda Evans

    This article is so very helpful. I live in Australia and my gorgeous deep red and pure white Asiatic lilies are blooming now. I am looking forward to planting out and enjoying for many years to come

    Reply
    • My Garden Life

      Hi Inda,
      We’re happy to hear you found the information helpful. Potted lilies are so versatile, making them a terrific gift plant, especially for friends or family with garden space!

      Reply

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