Tiger Lily (Lilium lancifolium)

Tiger Lily (Lilium lancifolium)


Tiger lilies can be described as prolific and impressive with their bright orange-colored flowers covered with black or deep crimson spots on backward curving petals, giving the appearance of a tiger, hence its common name. They are native to China and Japan.

It is a robust and easy to grow perennial. The flowers grow in mass atop a single stem 2-5 feet tall, clad with strongly lance-shaped leaves.  Mature bulbs can produce up to 40 blossoms.  Amazingly decorative, it features unscented 5 inch blossoms, mostly downward facing with gracefully recurved petals and has six long stamens sticking out from each flower. Black bulbils will appear in the axils above the leaves and can multiply to form clumps over the years.  The bulbils are small, dark and round and each one can grow into a new plant.  Tiger Lilies are highly disease-resistant and perform best in full sun or part shade. They are nontoxic to people, dogs, and other animals but are poisonous to cats. Even a small ingestion such as a petal, leaf, pollen, or water from the vase can result in sever acute kidney failure.

They can be grown in zones 3 to 9 in the United States and depending upon growing conditions and when they were planted you should expect blooms by mid to late summer, sometimes the next summer. They usually bloom in mid to late summer (when most other lilies are finished). Plant in groups of 3 bulbs at minimum for a striking display.  This lily will come back year after year and constitutes an excellent border plant.  It is well suited to containers as well as to the cutting garden too (the blossoms can last up to 2 weeks in a vase).

They are not fussy about soils but need a spot with good drainage, as a waterlogged area can rot the bulbs.  Good moisture is required and dry soils should be avoided! Water your lilies regularly over the first few years until their root system has matured.  After that, they can better tolerate some drought and are fairly hands-off plants.  They are a resilient species.  Mine have survived several violent rainstorms without damage.

It is better to plant them in an area of the garden away from other lilies varieties, like Asiatic and Oriental lilies.  While the tiger lily is disease resistant, they can harbor viruses, such as lily mosaic virus, that can harm other types of lilies nearby.  Those affected by the mosaic virus will have distorted or mottled blooms and will flower less.  Red lily beetles and aphids can be problematic pests for the tiger lily.  Affected plants should be promptly removed and discarded or treat your plants as soon as possible if you notice the leaves are being eaten.

They begin to grow in the spring after last frost and go dormant in the fall and winter. Bulbs can survive freezing temperatures in the ground but will benefit from a couple of inches of mulch over their planting site to insulate them. Plants are tolerant of humidity but do not require high humidity to grow.   To ensure proper soil drainage for the bulbs you might need to amend your soil with compost or humus. Peat moss, sand, or straw mixed into the beds are also options to improve drainage and retain appropriate moisture.  They do not need much fertilizer. A layer of compost around the base of the plants once or twice a year should provide all of the nutrition they require. Mulch in late spring to keep roots cool during the summer. To encourage more flowering, you can use a 5-10-5 fertilizer

Foliage on the lower part of the stalks will die first in late summer. Once all of the leaves have yellowed by late fall cut the stalks down to ground level, and dispose of them.   You may need to repot your potted lily if it has stopped producing flowers or seems to be dying  because the plant is pot bound (no longer has enough room for its roots to grow). It should be planted at the same level of soil that they were planted before.

They are an aggressively invasive species and will take over your garden if you let them.  If you wish to minimize spreading, remove the bulbils and dispose of them. Bulbils form along the stem of the plant at leaf axils.

If you want to propagate your Tiger Lilies, you can carefully remove the bulbils and pot them as if they were bulbs to grow a new plant, or by bulb division. Bulbs should be divided during the spring before the season’s growth picks up, but you can also divide them in the fall or winter.  Bulb division requires carefully digging up the entire plant when it is dormant and gently separating the individual bulbs. Replant your bulbs as separate plants with the pointed side aimed upward.  They will take an extra year before they begin to bloom.  Growing tiger lilies from bulbils and not bulbs may be five years before these produce flowers.

There are many varieties of lilies. They do not all bloom at once. They disperse their vibrant colors and bold floral shapes across June, July, and August in a red, orange, yellow, white, pink, and more. There are Easter lilies, which bloom in June and July (and can be forced to bloom even earlier). Oriental hybrids, such as stargazer lily, bloom in mid to late summer and feature large flowers in rich colors.


Tiger Lily Profile

Growing Tiger Lilies: Information on Growing and Caring for Tiger Lily Plant


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