How to Grow and Care for Orange Lily (Lilium bulbiferum)

Orange lily flowers with bright orange petals and buds

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Orange lily (Lilium bulbiferum) is a herbaceous perennial that flowers from as early as May to July. Seeds ripen from August to September. Of the genus Lilum, this geophyte is also known as Fire Lily. This species is hermaphrodite, with both male and female organs. Leaves are simple and broad on this plant, which has a self-supporting growth form. The most typical form of this species forms bulbils on the stems. Showy trumpet-shaped blooms, good cut flowers, are pollinated by bees. Native to Europe, the orange lily is common to freshwater habitats and thrives in southern United States. Grow this deciduous plant as a fragrant ornamental in temperate climates such as USDA Zones 8 through 10. It is also occasionally grown in Zones 6 and 7 in temperate areas.

Botanical Name Lilium bulbiferum
Common Name  Orange lily, Fire lily
Family Liliaceae
Plant Type  Herbaceous perennial bulb
Mature Size  2 to 4 ft. tall
Sun Exposure  Dappled sun
Soil Type  Well-drained rich loam
Soil pH  Neutral (6.6 – 7.3), Slightly alkaline (7.4 – 7.8)
Bloom Time May to July
Bloom Color  Orange
Hardiness Zones  8-10, USDA
Native Area  Europe
Toxicity  All parts of the plant are toxic to cats

Orange Lily Care

White or pale yellow bulbs are 2 to 4 inches in diameter, sometimes tinged in red or purple. Plant bulbs 6 inches deep. Early to mid autumn is the best time to plant in cool, temperate locations, while in warmer areas they can be planted in late autumn. This is one of the easiest lilies to grow, both in the ground and in containers.

Orange lily flowers with buds and bright orange petals with brown stamen closeup

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Orange lily flowers and buds on stems with broad leaves

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Orange lily flowers on tall stems with leaves in clay pot

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Orange lily flowers with bright orange-red trumpet-shaped petals

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Light

Grow in dappled sun or light summer shade. Plant bulbs along a woodland garden sunny edge with its roots in the shade and its head in the sun.

Soil

Give orange lilies open, well-draining loamy soil that is rich in humus. Though they will also grow in normal garden soil and adapt to light sandy, heavy clay, or calcareous soils.

Water

This perennial has average watering needs. Water about one inch a week while plants are growing, but only if the soil feels dry as wet soil can rot lily bulbs, and too much water on the foliage and flowers can cause mildew or mold. Give potted lilies water until the excess drains from the pot.

Fertilizer

Feed orange lilies a low-nitrogen blooming fertilizer like 5-10-10 or 7-9-5. When a fertilizer is low in nitrogen, it will send more nutrition to the flowers and not too much to the leaves. Spread this fertilizer over the roots in spring, scratching in it into the soil. Water well.

Tip

Orange lily (Lilium bulbiferum) is its own cultivar. It is also identified by the following synonyms and varieties: Lilium bulbiferum var. giganteum. Lilium bulbiferum var. chaixii, Lilium bulbiferum var. croceum or simply L. croceum. The sub-species L. bulbiferum croceum usually does not produce bulbils.

Pruning

After the plant stops blooming in fall, prune old leaves.

Propagating

Gather bulbils in late summer as they begin to fall off stems and pot them in a greenhouse until they are big enough to be transplanted outdoors. Divide young bulbs once leaves have died when plants are dormant in autumn. Put 2 or 3 bulbs in one pot before transplanting them in the ground, or just plant them in the ground immediately. Also remove the bulb scales from the mother bulbs, and keep them in a warm dark place in a bag of moist peat until they produce bulbets.

Growing from Seed

Opinions on whether lily cultivars and hybrids can grow from seed vary. To try to grow orange lillies from seed, sow when they are ripe in a cold frame where they will likely germinate in spring. Seeds may also store in a warm/cold/warm stratification cycle, each period about 2 months long. Grow orange lily seeds in cool, shady conditions. Sow seeds thinly in a fertile medium.

Common Pests and Diseases

In early spring protect the plant from slugs, which might eat the shoot tip and prevent the lily from growing that year. Orange lily can also be susceptible to aphids.

FAQ
  • How long does it take for orange lily seeds to grow?

    As mentioned above, opinions vary on whether orange lily can be grown from seed. Though some sources say that seeds can germinate within 30 to 40 days.

  • How many blooms does an orange lily plant produce?

    One mature bulb can produce a plant with 6 to 7 blossoms.

  • What is the difference between orange lily (Lilium bulbiferum) and tiger lily (Lilium lancifolium, Lilium tigrinum)?

    The orange lily is a European wildflower similar to the tiger lily but a bit different. While the orange lily comes in a solid orange, the tiger lily blooms in orange with black or deep crimson spots. The tiger lily is native to China and Japan. Both the orange lily and the tiger lily are quite easy to grow.

Article Sources
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  1. “Orange Lily.” Encyclopedia of Life, eol.org/pages/1003302.

  2. “Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.” The University of Texas at Austin, www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=LIPH.

  3. “Orange Lily - How to Grow & Care.” Grow Plants, 4 Apr. 2021, www.growplants.org/growing/orange-lily.

  4. “Lilium Bulbiferum.” Gardenology.Org - Plant Encyclopedia and Gardening Wiki, www.gardenology.org/wiki/Lilium_bulbiferum.

  5. “Lilium Bulbiferum Fire Lily, Orange Lily.” PFAF Plant Database, pfaf.org/user/plant.aspx?latinname=Lilium+bulbiferum.

  6. “Plant Database Entry for Lily (Lilium Bulbiferum).” Garden.Org, garden.org/plants/view/117954/Lily-Lilium-bulbiferum.