Transplanting Potted Lilies to the Garden

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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


12 thoughts on “Transplanting Potted Lilies to the Garden”

    1. 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!

  1. 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.

    1. 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.

  2. 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?

    1. 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.

        1. 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.

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