Tiger Lily: How To Grow & Care For Lilium Lancifolium

Ed Wike
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Tiger Lily Overview

Tiger lilies are the "true lilies" of the northern United States. Their bulbs are small and can be difficult to grow, but they are very pretty flowers.

Besides that, they are called the 'Tiger Lily' because the stamens are shades of orange and red, similar to the orange and black tiger patterns. It would be interesting to see how a modern artist would paint them.

Aside from being a pretty flower, the Tiger Lily was interestingly used in World War II by the Japanese for the phosphorescent paint on the wings of their planes to allow them to sneak up on the enemy.

Tiger lilies can be found at almost any nursery in the US. They have a very distinct heart shaped leaf. You will want to plant the Tiger Lily in a moist and fertile soil. Add mulch, plant it in a sunny area, and it will grow very quickly. When the Tiger Lily is blooming, they can reach up to 8 inches tall. Many of the hybrid Tiger Lilies are now sold as Zonals. A Zonal is a plant that blooms for over a long period of time.

Types of Tiger Lily

There are many different types of tiger lilies, or “lilies of the valley”.

This stem structure is used to distinguish the various “species” of flowers, many of which are considered to be different cultivars of the same plants.

In addition to the original Asian species, there are also several cultivated species. These cultivars come in a variety of sizes, colors, and uses.

Lilium Tigrinum is by far the most common of the cultivated species. The other common species are L. L. speciosum and L. L. candidum, but these other species are far less popular for use in gardens, due to their more restricted flowering periods, and because they rely on a greater amount of heat than the more common species.

While most species are relatively tolerant of temperature variation, the L. Tigrinum cultivars are quite particular as to how much heat and sunlight they receive.

The original species is considered to be a native of China, while its cultivated varieties “discovered” by multiple breeders throughout Europe.

Tiger Lily Care

Tiger lilies (Lilium lancifolium) are a popular choice of gardeners for their tall stem and delicate, bell-shaped flowers. These distinctive plants come in a variety of shades, including white, red, yellow and orange, and their flowers can bloom in May or June depending on the variety and the environment. They are easy to grow, provided you follow a few basic steps in their cultivation.

To grow indoors, place your potted tiger lilies in a bright, sunny window, and do not place them next to a heat source. Plant them in fertile, moist soil containing a good amount of sand. Never use fertilizer on them, and do not over water.

If you choose to grow tiger lilies outdoors, they will need particular care. You should select a spot for them that is between 10 and 12 inches below the soil's surface, which will give them the heat and sunlight they require. Remove any weeds from your planting site, and prune any existing plants in the area to give your tiger lilies room to grow. If you have trouble keeping animals such as deer away, you may need to fence in your lilies.

To make sure your plants remain healthy, keep your plants well trimmed, and avoid fertilizing or watering them too much. According to the Ohio State University Extension Service, watering them when the sun is not out seems to produce the best results.

Light

Tiger lily bulbs need 55-65 degrees F. (15-18 degrees C.) to sprout and grow, and are planted 6 inches (15 cm) deep. Tiger lilies should be planted in the ground in the fall, and mulched after the last frost. Once the bulb is established, it produces a flower stalk in three months. To grow Tiger lilies outdoors, they should be planted in fertile, well-drained soil, preferably in zones 2-7.

Tiger lilies (also known as the “fawn lily”), like other Lilies, need full sun or partial shade. They have lily-like leaves but the flowers are very different, with long, arching tepals and a long spur at the center. There are three varieties of tiger lily “ French or Japanese, and German , all with slightly different coloring and vein patterns. German has violet-blue flowers, Japanese has white flowers, and French has orange-yellow flowers. Older varieties can be used for breeding.

Water

Take care to always keep the soil moist but never soggy. Keep the soil lightly moist. If the leaves at the bottom of your plant go yellow and fall off with minimal contact you are overwatering, if the leaves and plant begin to wilt or are dark and when you touch them they leave a white/hazy residue this means you are underwatering. To solve underwatering, you can add more water soluble plant fertilizer or repot to add more soil. To solve over watering you can add more perlite or repot to remove some soil and allow some air in that will dry out the soil. Do not add both at once as some soil will require more perlite than soil to allow for proper dryness.

Soil

Tiger lily is a long-lived bulb that can be planted to bloom after just two years. The specific requirements of this bulb will depend on where you live, but in general, tiger lily should be planted in early spring or in the fall. They do not adapt well to transplanting, so to plant this bulb, you will need to make a hole with a shovel and carefully place it in the hole. The hole should be deep enough that the top of the bulb is 4 to 8 inches below the surface.

You will also need to ensure the ground drains well. Water should never pool around the base of the bulb, and the bulb should never sit in stagnant water. Mid summer is the best time to plant tiger lily, as the ground is just beginning to dry out. At this time, the bulbs will have a head start towards drying out, and will be able to dry out quicker in the summer heat.

For best results, plan your planting location before you take the bulbs out of storage. Plant tiger lily in fertile, well-drained soil. You can add compost to the soil before planting, or you can add it to the soil every few months to boost the plants production. Tiger lily bulbs will need extra drainage, so avoid planting them in the same location year after year.

Fertilizer

And Tiger lily; is it necessary?

Potted tigers lilies need fertilizing at the beginning of the growth season. Use a fertilizer that is balanced specifically for bulbs. For the specifics of the fertilizer, refer to the label, or you can always ask your nurseryman for help.

For container planted tigrillas, ripened compost works well as fertilizer. Spread a layer of composted soil over just the top one inch or so of the soil. You don't want to bury the bulbs with the compost.

Scotty's Secret

Scotty's Secret is a product that is sold to control mosquito larvae. It works by releasing a naturally occurring bacteria that is not harmful to humans or animals. When the larvae eat the bacteria, it stops their digestive system and dissolves their digestive track. This kills the larvae. Scotty's Secret can be purchased online or from your nursery.

Your disposal system has to work well to help alleviate odor from your garden. According to Michigan State University Extension, well draining soil and keeping the solution turned over will work best to control odor.

Propagation

There are three methods for propagating tiger lily: through division, through bulbs, and through bulbs plus division.

The Division Method

The most common way to propagate tiger lilies is via division of the bulbs. The soil should have plenty of organic matter that gives good drainage. The bulbs should be planted at least 2 inches deep. For propagation, divide the bulbs into unequal sections. The larger one has the best chance for survival. Plant them in the soil with the eyes facing upward. They should be spaced about 6 to 8 inches apart. Plant them in the early spring.

The Bulb plus Division Method

Place one bulb in a container filled with soil and compost. Separate the lily into individual plants and plant them well above the soil line. They will need to grow quite a bit before the flower stalks are strong enough to hold up the flowers and buds.

The Bulb Method

Use a pot about 6 inches wide and 8 inches tall. Fill it with soil that has plenty of organic matter. Place 1 to 2 bulbs on the top of the soil. The result should be that they are about 1 inch below the soil surface. Plant them about 8 inches apart. Give them plenty of sun and water them a few days after planting. The seeds will usually grow into vines that produce more lily bulbs. In a few seasons, you'll have a thriving population.

Repotting

A Tiger lily (Lilium lancifolium) is a very durable plant suitable for almost any soil type, from moist to fairly dry. However, the soil should never be allowed to dry out completely. In fact, many believe that a moist, cool, fertile soil with some regular feeding is the best location for a Tiger Lily. The Tiger Lily is a herbaceous perennial plant which means it will keep growing year after year.

The Tiger Lily is sometimes called the Easter Lily and its scientific name is Lilium lancifolium. It is one of the more popular Lily species and it is easy to see why. From late spring to early summer the Tiger Lily creates huge clumps of large, thick green leaves supported by tall spikes of brightly colored flowers.

Pruning

The Tiger Lily is a beautiful bulb that has yellow flowers and red and green stems. They are quite different from a traditional Lilly. Their coloration is a long time favorite in the flower industry. They prefer to be placed in full sun and they should be cut back after flowering. They are beloved of landscapers in large beds.

The Tiger Lily should be grown in its natural elements, where the soil is fertile and damp. In this case, a garden with good drainage will do. If you place them in a rich soil, they will multiply rapidly. They do not, however, like to be moved, so it is best that you plant them where you mean them to grow.

The Tiger Lily will produce its flower buds in the late summer and into the autumn. It is best to cut them back at this time. They are very short lived and do not stay in flower very long. They will also re-bloom, but only if they are kept in the ground and are cut back when they have flowered.

This lily may be classed in the Tiger Lily family, but this is not always true. There is a Lilium Claytonianum which is a 100% certain Tiger Lily. The Lilium Lancifolium tends to be a hybrid of other lilies.

Problems

Do they grow in containers? If you wish to grow your Lily in a container, the most important thing is to choose a spot in your home that receives full sun. Full sun is essential for this lily but it can tolerate shady spots for a period of time. However, after a while the shady places will not keep their color nor bloom anymore and will eventually die.

Do they require a lot of water? Although they can take a little dry time, the Tiger Lily does require a lot of water. Without the correct amount of water they will stop growing and possibly die.

To know if you are giving the right amount of water, look at the stem of the plant. It should be plump and filled with lots of water.

What kind of environment do they need? The ideal environment for the Tiger Lily is between 18-24 C (64-75 F). Surprisingly this can be the climate of your home in winter as well if you live in the right place. Don’t worry if you are not in that ideal range, Lilium will still grow but you will need to water more often. Keep in mind that they don’t grow in environments under 10C (50F).

Growing Problems

Here are some of the most common problems people have growing Tiger lily.

I found Tiger lily easy to grow. The only problem I had was knowing when to plant. I live in Zone 7. We had an early spring, and I planted my bulbs in early April.

It ended up being a bad idea. The tulips and daffodils that were planted at the same time did great. I understood the reasoning for waiting until fall, but I mistakenly thought tulips and daffodils were similar to tiger lilies.

I ended up having to remove the bulbs. It wasn't a complete loss, though, because I planted bulbs elsewhere under the same conditions nearby.

The good news is, my replacement bulbs that I planted in the fall are still growing.

I've seen some seeds online about how easy it is to grow as well. As a matter of fact, I did hear some chatter about one of them being used as a food source by the Hopi Native Americans.

I think you should try to grow tiger lilies and see how it goes.

I love tiger lilies and want to plant more of them. What about you?

Pests

One of the major problems that can affect Tiger Lilies are a type of aphid known as the milky aphid. These pests release a sap that is toxic to most plants. If your plants are growing in containers, then you should take them out and hose them off to remove the aphids. If this is not feasible, you can spray the infected plant with an insecticidal soap.

Another problem you might encounter is the growth of algae on the leaves of your plant. You can prevent this by washing regularly, you can also use a milk-water mixture to kill the algae and then rinse your plant. The best way to keep this from happening is to ensure that your pot drains well and that it doesn’t stay water logged. This will help to prevent the growth of algae.

If the weather becomes very hot, you may find that some of the leaves start to wilt. The Tiger Lily has some problems surviving really hot conditions. If this happens, you can try to water them more often. You can also try using a spray bottle to lightly mist the leaves. This will allow them to keep cool and will help the plant to recover.

Diseases

Lilly lilies, known to also go by the names Tiger lily and Easter lily, are most disease-resistant of all the lilies. However, they are still vulnerable to an array of diseases. Proper care and regular inspections of the lily are necessary for disease prevention and destruction. When inspecting your Tiger lily, check the following:

  • For signs of an insect infestation, such as aphids.
  • For signs of leaf drop, such as a fungus infection.
  • For damage, such as nutrient burn from freeze damage.
  • For roots that are overcrowding the container.

Oftentimes all you will need to do is treat the damaged or diseased parts of the plant. The following are a few common diseases and treatments for each:

Freeze damage or damage from cold temperatures. Damage is most likely to occur if the temperature changes suddenly. If you will not be able to keep the lily inside during cold weather, make sure it has a place to go. Place the plant inside a cold frame or a cold greenhouse to keep the temperature consistent and the lily safe from extreme temperatures. Another option is to move the lily inside before the temperature drops below 45 degrees. Protect it from drafts, but turn the soil to help the plant from freezing. The best cure for freeze damage is prevention.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some of the most common questions asked about growing Tiger lilies:

Q: How deep do I plant Tiger Lilies?

A: Tiger Lilies should be planted at a depth that is three times the size of the bulb. For example, an 8" bulb should be planted at 24" deep.

Q: When do I plant my Tiger Lilies?

A: Tiger Lilies should be planted in early summer so that they have time to establish themselves before the cold winter temperatures arrive.

Q: My Tiger Lily leaves are spindly, should I cut stems?

A: No, this is normal. It’s not necessary to cut any leaves. Once the flowers are finished blooming and the leaves have died back, cut the stems down to the ground level.

Q: What factors will affect my Tiger Lily growing?

A: There are many variables that affect how well Tiger Lilies grow, including: water, temperature, fertilizer and light.

Q: Are tiger lilies safe around my pets?

A: At this time, it is recommended not to plant tiger lilies near your pets, particularly cats. With certain types of lilies, the pollen that is released is potent enough that when a cat breathes it in it can cause kidney failure. Because tiger lilies are pollinated by insects as opposed to other lilies, it is perhaps a safer option to place them where your pets have little access. Please remember that this recommendation is for tiger lilies and not all lilies.

Q: Are tiger lilies poisonous to humans?

A: No. Unfortunately, in the past, there have been reports of humans coming into contact with tiger lilies and developing severe burns, itching and swelling. But reports indicate that this reaction occurred only in people with severe peanut allergies. So chances are, you probably don’t have anything to worry about.

If you do have a severe peanut allergy, it’s best not to handle tiger lilies because you don’t know what you might become allergic to in the future.

Tiger lilies continue to be a popular choice for home gardeners because of the unique foliage and sweet-smelling flowers. The bulbs are also edible.