Tips for Planting Lilies in Containers

Many of us plant lovers have limited space in our gardens. You may live in an apartment with no yard, or you may have already filled your flower beds to the brim. Yet, you find yourself drawn to the exotic look of lilies and, as a result, wonder, "can you grow lily plants in pots?". The answer is yes. As long as you have enough space on your porch, patio, or balcony for a medium to a large pot, you can grow potted lily plants.

To grow potted lily plants, you will need these few things:

  • Healthy lily bulbs. You can purchase lily bulbs from many places. Mail-order catalogs, home improvement stores, garden centers, and plant nurseries often have lily bulbs for sale in packages. When you get these bulbs home, it's important to sort through them. Throw away any bulbs that are mushy or moldy. Plant only the bulbs that look healthy.
  • A medium to a large, well-draining pot. Proper drainage is very important for lilies. While they like moist soil, sopping wet soil will cause the bulbs to rot. Make sure you select a container with drainage holes on the bottom. For extra drainage, add a layer of rocks at the bottom of the pot. This layer of rocks will also help stabilize the pot if you are growing tall lilies, but it makes the pot a little heavy to move around. Select the proper size pot for the amount of lilies you are planting. The bulbs should be planted about 2 inches (5 cm) apart. Deeper pots are better for taller lilies.
  • Sandy potting mix. Lilies do best in partially sandy soils. Potting mixes that are mostly peat will stay too wet and again cause bulb rot. However, you can buy any potting mix and just add sand to it. Mix about two parts potting mix with 1 part sand. The more sand, the heavier the pot will be, though.
  • Slow-release fertilizer. Lilies are heavy feeders. When you plant them, add a slow-release fertilizer to the top layer of the soil. Your lilies will also benefit from a monthly dose of potassium-rich tomato fertilizer during the growing season.
Planting Lilies in Containers
Photo via


When you have everything you need, you can begin planting lilies in containers. Fill your pot 1/3 of the way full with the sandy potting mix and pat it down a little. Don't press it down too hard and compact the soil, just light even patting will do.

Arrange the lilies how you want them on this layer potting mix, with the root side down and bulb tip-up. Remember to space the bulbs about 2 inches (5 cm) apart.

After you have arranged the bulbs to your liking, cover with enough potting mix so that the bulbs' tips are slightly sticking out. Add slow-release fertilizer and water well.

Most lilies need a cold period to grow beautiful blooms. It is best to pot them up in early spring and then put them in a frost-free, cool greenhouse or cold frame for a few weeks until outside temperatures become warm and stable. If you do not have a greenhouse or cold frame, a cool garden shed, garage or basement will work.

Once the weather permits it, place your potted lily plants outside in a sunny to a partially sunny location. If there is any danger of frost, move your potted lily plants indoors until it has passed.

General Care

Once your container grown lilies begin to grow from the bulb tips, add more potting mix to the container. Keep the soil line about an inch (2.5 cm) below the pot's brim for watering. You should water only when the top layer of soil looks dry.

Asiatic and Oriental lilies will bloom between June and August. After the blooms have faded, deadhead them to encourage new flowers and bulb growth rather than seed development. A dose of tomato fertilizer once a month also helps the blooms and bulbs. August should be the last month you use fertilizer.


Your potted lily plants can live in these containers for a few years with proper overwintering. In autumn, cut the stalks back to just above the soil line. Discontinue watering at this time, so the bulbs don't rot.

Stick a few mothballs in the pot to deter mice and other pests. Then simply overwinter them in a frost-free greenhouse, cold frame, shed, or basement. You can also wrap the entire pot in bubble wrap and leave it outside for the winter if you don't have a cool shelter to put it in.

Do not bring container-grown lilies into a warm house for the winter, as that will prevent them from flowering next summer.



Subscribe now and be up to date with our latest news and updates.

We participate in the Amazon Services, LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliate sites.