Growing Wood Lilies: How To Care For Wood Lily Plants

Wood Lily
Image by BrianLasenby

By Anne Baley

In most of the northern parts of the country, wood lily plants grow in grasslands and mountainous regions, filling the fields and slopes with their cheerful blooms. These plants were once so common that Native Americans used wood lily bulbs as a source of food. Today, though, this plant is considered rare and on the way to becoming endangered in the wild because so many people have picked the flowers. The bulbs don’t have a chance to recover from blooming and often don’t sprout the next year. While growing wood lilies is possible, you must make sure to get your bulbs from a reputable grower who specializes in rare plants.

Wood Lily Information

Wood lily plants (Lilium philadelphicum) grow in a single stem and can reach 1 to 3 feet tall. The leaves are in a whorled pattern around the stem, and the top of the stem can carry up to five flowers. These blooms are what make the wood lily such a popular plant. The bright orange cup-shaped blooms are made of six separate flaring petals, and each petal is spotted with deep purple spots right at the base.

The best wood lily growing conditions are in rich, well-drained soil. They will live in sunny spots as well as shady areas, but they must be kept from standing in puddles to prevent the bulbs from rotting.

How to Grow Wood Lily Bulbs


If you’d like to try to grow and propagate wood lilies, look for bulbs from a local grower. There are many different regional variations of the wood lily, and one that grows near your home has the best chance of thriving in your yard.

The best wood lily information from botanists and gardeners says to prepare the soil with lots of compost and to bury the bulbs three times their thickness. Set the bulbs in the garden in the fall and they will come up first thing in the spring.

There are two ways to propagate wood lily in your home. First, grow the plant normally and dig up the bulbs after the foliage has died down in the summer. Store the bulbs until the fall and split the bulblets from each bulb to plant in a separate location. These bulblets are baby bulbs, designed to spread the plant underground.

The other way to propagate wood lily is through seeds. Let the flowers dry out on the stem until they’re brittle. Snap off the seed pods, which will form at the base of each flower and store them in an envelope. Place the envelope in a zip-top bag in the refrigerator until late fall. Germinate the seeds into tiny bulbs and keep them in a warm spot through the winter. Plant these bulbs outside in a protected spot in the spring.

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