Guide To Growing Tiger Lilies

Updated: Sep. 01, 2023

For a pop of orange in the middle of summer, plant a tiger lily, which is easy to grow and returns year after year.

I have several types of lilies in my garden. They’re a natural choice because they grow well in my climate. But the one that stands out is a double tiger lily. It’s so easy to grow, I almost forget about it until the orange flowers with dark spots open up in mid-summer.

What Is a Tiger Lily?

Tiger lilies are known by two botanical names. The older name was Lilium tigrinum and the newer name is Lilium lancifolium. 

Native to China and Japan, tiger lilies are hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture Plant Hardiness Zones 3 through 8. They grow from three to four feet tall and bloom, like mine, in mid-summer.

Types of Tiger Lilies

Most tiger lilies sold today are selections of the original variety, chosen for specific characteristics. They include:

  • Improved Orange Tiger Lily (Lilium tigrinum splendens ‘Improved’): Known for larger flowers with darker spots.
  • Yellow Star Tiger Lily (Lilium tigrinum splendens ‘Yellow Star’): If you want to grow tiger lilies but orange isn’t a good color for your garden, these are more yellow.
  • Double Tiger Lily (Lilium lancifolium ‘Flore Pleno’): Extra petals make this type stand out in the garden.

How To Plant Tiger Lilies

In the ground

Tiger lilies are usually sold as bulbs in fall or spring. When purchasing bulbs online, most nurseries will ship in the fall, which is the best time to plant them. In the spring, plant as early as you can work in the soil. You don’t have to wait until your garden is frost-free.

Choose a spot with mostly full sun, although tiger lilies will also grow in partial shade, especially if it’s during the hottest part of the afternoon. All lilies need well-drained soil because the bulb could rot in wet ground.

Plant tiger lily bulbs so the tip of the bulb is two inches deep. Tiger lilies only grow six to eight inches wide so you can space them as close as eight inches apart. Remember, they’ll be tall, so put them in the back of the bed with other tall flowers.

In a container

Choose a large container with good drainage and fill with a potting soil that also drains well. If it doesn’t, add a mixture of about two parts potting soil to one part sand.

Plant the bulbs at least two inches deep. Tiger lilies need to be chilled before flowering, so plant in early spring and put the pot in a cold frame or unheated space. Bring it out once there is no danger of heavy frost.

How To Care for Tiger Lilies


Along with well-drained soil, tiger lilies prefer even moisture. Often, regular rainfall is enough. But during dry periods, especially in the first year of growth, water your lilies about one inch a week. To keep them from drying out, apply a light layer of mulch around them.


If the soil is rich enough, you may not need to fertilize at all. If you’re unsure or the lilies don’t grow well, fertilize early in the year with any product formulated for flowering plants. You won’t need to fertilize tiger lilies in the ground as often as those in containers, which require weekly treatment as they continue to grow.


You don’t need to prune tiger lilies except to cut off spent blooms. Allow the foliage to grow until it yellows.

You can also cut lilies for flower arrangements. Choose flowers that have just begun to open. They should last about two weeks in a vase with fresh water.


Tiger lilies will overwinter just fine in the ground. Once the stems and leaves have yellowed in the fall, cut them back at ground level.

For tiger lilies in containers, stop watering as fall approaches and cut them back when they turn yellow. Then move the container where it will stay cool and dry, like an unheated shed or garage, or even a cold frame. Tiger lilies may only last a few years in containers.

Are Tiger Lilies Poisonous?

Tiger lilies are poisonous to cats.

Can I Plant Other Lilies Around My Tiger Lilies?

You can, but some tiger lilies carry a disease called lily mosaic virus. It doesn’t hurt the tiger lilies, but if it infects other lilies it may distort their leaves.