The Q&A Archives: Oriental lily

Question: I have a bunch of Oriental lily's that were given to me for Easter, about 25 bulbs. I have tried planting them outside in the past but they never come back. How can I store the bulbs so I can plant in pots for next Easter? Any advice on planting them outside would be great too. I am in zone 5.

Thank You
Dawn Jurgens

Answer: Sometimes gardeners are successful in planting these Easter lilies in the garden, and sometimes they are not. It seems to depend partly on which type of lily was forced, and also on where the bulbs are planted. Some of the lily varieties forced for Easter are winter hardy, but some are not.

Assuming the bulb is a cold hardy variety, you would need to plant it in a location that is well drained. Lilies need soil that is well drained, especially in winter, or the bulbs rot underground. If you have a heavy clay based soil, you may need to plant them in a slightly raised bed or on a slight slope. The area should be mulched generously in late fall to help protect them over the winter as well.

They usually take a year or two to recover and regain strength to bloom again, even with excellent care in the garden. Unfortunately, the forcing process is very stressful for the bulbs.

As for trying to keep them in storage for replanting, I am afraid this would not work well. Lilies are unlike other bulbs in that they do not go dormant. They are very sensitive to being out of the ground for this reason. The other difficulty is in keeping them growing vigorously enough to be able to rebloom. Under home conditions and without a greenhouse, sadly, I don't think this can be done.

Based on the above, I think your best chance is to plant them in the garden in a well drained, sunny spot and see if they can survive your winters. Even if this works, they will bloom during summer rather than at Easter. I wish I could be more encouraging.

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