How to Grow Gloriosa Lily

A Warm-Climate Perennial Vine with Eye-Catching Lily-Like Flowers

Gloriosa Lily with red and yellow petals off stem

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

The gloriosa lily is not a true lily, but it has lily-like flowers and this is how it got its common name. This plant belongs to the same family as autumn crocuses, Colchicaceae, but it does not look like a crocus either—it is a slender, tall vine that grows up to eight feet tall. 

In the spring, the gloriosa lily sends out tall stems from its thick, tuberous roots. The stems grow quickly and from mid-summer to fall develop flowers that can be nodding or opening upwards. After the bloom, the stems die back.

Two words of caution about this plant. Firstly, the tubers spread vigorously and in Australia and several Pacific islands, gloriosa lily is classified as invasive. While it has not been classified as invasive by any US state, it has escaped cultivation in several areas. Due to its highly invasive potential, it is recommended to grow gloriosa lily in pots only. 

Botanical Name Gloriosa superba
Common Name Gloriosa lily, glory lily, fire lily, flame lily, climbing lily, creeping lily, cat’s claw, tiger’s claw
Plant Type Perennial
Mature Size Six to eight feet height, one to three feet width
Sun Exposure Full sun, partial shade
Soil Type Sandy, loamy
Soil pH 5.8 to 6.5
Bloom Time Mid-summer to fall
Flower Color Red, orange, yellow, pink
Hardiness Zones 8-12, USA
Native Area Tropical and sub-Saharan Africa, Indian subcontinent, southern China and southeast tropical Asia
Toxicity Toxic to humans and animals

Gloriosa Lily Care

As a native of subtropical and tropical areas in Africa and Asia, Gloriosa lily is not frost-resistant and can only be grown as a perennial in a warm climate. In a cool climate zone, you can still grow it as a summer annual. Just dig the tubers out in the fall before the first frost and overwinter them indoors, then replant them in the spring.

When the stalks start growing in the spring, have the support in place, such as a light wire trellis, so the leaf tendrils have something to latch onto.

Gloriosa lily with red flower closeup

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Gloriosa lily with red and yellow curled petals and vines overlapping

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Gloriosa lily with red and yellow petals curled inward closeup

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Light

Gloriosa lily grows in full sun to partial shade. Especially in hot, dry climates, it does better with some protection from the hot afternoon sun, such as dappled shade from nearby taller plants.

Soil

The soil should be rich and provide excellent drainage. Sandy or loamy types will work best. To enrich the soil, amend it with organic matter.

Gloriosa lily grows well in neutral to slightly acidic soil.

Water

Gloriosa lily needs even moisture during the growing season from spring to fall. In the absence of rain, water it regularly while making sure there is good drainage, so the plant never sits in soggy, wet soil.

Temperature and Humidity

Gloriosa lily grows in elevations up to 2,000 feet, where the daytime temperature is moderate, around 70 degrees, and nights are cool, around 60 degrees F. It does not do well in hot, arid climates. 

In high humidity, on the other hand, gloriosa lily is in its element—think monsoon season in its native habitat. 

Fertilizer

Fertilize gloriosa lily about once a month with a diluted complete fertilizer during the growing season, less frequently when the soil is very rich. Too much fertilizer will not necessarily lead to a better bloom and can instead encourage the growth of foliage. 

Propagating Gloriosa Lily

Gloriosa lily is grown from tubers, which remain dormant during the winter. Store the tubers in a dry, cool, frost-free location until you are ready to plant in the spring when the danger of frost is past. The growth will be slow at first and pick up as the weather gets warmer.

Gloriosa lily can be divided every three years at the maximum.

Varieties of Gloriosa Lily

There are several cultivars of gloriosa lily with different colored flowers ranging from yellow to golden, orange, red or pink. One of the most popular cultivars is ‘Rothschildiana’ with bright red flowers and yellow margins.

Gloriosa superba 'Rothschildiana'
Gloriosa superba 'Rothschildiana' Whitepointer / Getty Images

Growing Gloriosa Lily in Containers

Growing gloriosa lily in containers is a good idea for several reasons. First, it’s the only way you can grow it in a cool climate with subzero winters. Second, you avoid the risk that it will spread uncontrolled and become invasive. And lastly, the tubers are very brittle and break easily so the less you are handling them the better (and because of their toxicity, handling them requires special precautions).

Therefore, the best option is to plant the tubers in containers where you leave them year-round. In containers, they will need more frequent watering and a sunny patio is usually too hot for the plant. Alternatively, you can bury the containers in garden soil and dig them out again in the fall before the first frost.

Common Pests/Diseases

Gloriosa lily can be affected by aphids, anthracnose, the cucumber mosaic virus and other viruses, as well as root rot.

Leaves that turn dry and pale are not a disease but a sign of too much sun exposure.