How to Grow and Care for Tiger Lilies

Tiger lily flowers growing in front of bushes
David Beaulieu

Tiger lily (Lilium lancifolium or L. tigrinum) is an herbaceous perennial that grows from bulbs. Tiger lilies have strappy leaves and long stems that produce many blooms. You can plant the bulbs in the fall or spring and expect blooms by mid-to-late summer. The orange flower petals are curved and speckled with dark spots. The plants are especially eye-catching when you group a few bulbs rear of a flower border. It is a more profuse bloomer than most lilies, producing as many as ten flowers per stem.

The flowers are edible, but the pollen is toxic to humans. Tiger lilies are toxic to cats, but not dogs.

Common Name Tiger lily
Botanical Name Lilium lancifolium (also known as L. tigrinum)
Family Liliaceae
Plant Type Herbaceous perennial grown from bulbs
Mature Size 3–5 ft. tall, 7–8 inch spread
Sun Exposure Full sun to part shade
Soil Type Loamy, moist, well-draining
Soil pH 5.5 to 6.5 (slightly acidic)
Bloom Time Summer
Flower Color Orange with dark speckles; red, yellow, white, and pink hybrids also available
Hardiness Zones 3–9 (USDA)
Native Area Eastern Asia
Toxicity Toxic to cats; pollen is toxic to humans

Tiger Lily Care

In the official classification system of garden lilies, tiger lily falls into the Division 9 group, which includes other pure species. However, L. lancifolium has been long cultivated for its edible bulbs and is probably the result of centuries-old breeding rather than a naturally occurring species.

Indigenous to Asia, tiger lily plants can be grown in USDA planting zones 3 to 9. Due to their hardiness, they've become naturalized plants throughout much of the New England region in the United States and are frequently seen along roadways. The bulbs will come back year after year with little effort on your part, and they'll likely spread to form clumps. You also can grow these flowers in a cutting garden or containers.

The key is to plant your tiger lilies in a spot with good drainage, as a waterlogged area can rot the bulbs. Then, over the first few years, water your lilies regularly until their root system has matured. After that, they can better tolerate some drought and are fairly low-maintenance plants.

Foliage on the lower part of the stalks will fade first (in late summer). These yellow leaves won't be as noticeable if the plants are growing in the back row of a garden bed. Once all of the leaves have yellowed by late fall, cut the stalks down to ground level, and dispose of them.

Tiger Lily Growing On Plant At Park
Trista Sweeney / EyeEm / Getty Images
Stargazer lily flowers (Lilium 'Stargazer') in bloom, North Carolina, USA.
Panoramic Images / Getty Images


Tiger lilies prefer to grow in a sunny location. However, these tough specimens are not nearly as fussy about growing conditions as many other flowering plants are. They will tolerate partial shade and can actually benefit when shaded from the hot afternoon sun.


To ensure proper soil drainage for the bulbs, you might need to amend your soil with compost or humus. Peat moss, sand, or straw mixed into the beds are also options to improve drainage and retain appropriate moisture. Otherwise, tiger lilies can tolerate various soil types, though they prefer soil that's fairly fertile and slightly acidic.


Tiger lilies have average water needs. Mature plants can tolerate some drought, but they still prefer consistent watering. If your area receives regular rainfall, that should be sufficient to keep them happy. If the soil is very dry, you'll probably need to water on a regular basis.

Temperature and Humidity

Tiger lilies begin to grow in the spring after the last frost and go dormant in the fall and winter. If you live within their USDA hardiness zones 3 thru 8, the temperature shouldn't be an issue. The bulbs can survive freezing temperatures in the ground, but they'll benefit from a couple of inches of mulch over their planting site for insulation.

Tiger lilies grow well in both humid and dry environments, provided the soil moisture is appropriate. They tolerate hot summer days if the bulbs have been planted deep enough to remain cool. It's a good idea to plant lower-growing annual or perennial plants near or around tiger lilies to protect their roots from drying out in hot weather.


Tiger lilies don't need much fertilizer. A layer of compost around the base of the plants once or twice a year should provide all of the nutrition they require. Apply mulch in late spring to keep the roots cool during the summer. If you want to encourage more flowering, you can use a 5-10-5 fertilizer. When growing these plants in alkaline soils, feeding with an acidifying fertilizer might be beneficial.

Types of Tiger Lily

The familiar orange tiger lily is a pure species that has no named cultivars. However, L. lancifolium has been crossed with other species to create red, white, and yellow versions. These are often unnamed cultivars, but they all have the characteristic black or brown spots on petals that sharply curve backwards. These two characteristics are not found together on any of the other types of lily.

There are also many other related species and hybrids within the genus Lilium. Fortunately, they do not all bloom at once. Rather, they disperse their vibrant colors and bold floral shapes across June, July, and August. This makes them valued allies for gardeners who demand a colorful variety of flowers throughout the summer months. There are nine individual classes of lilies within the official classification system, but most gardeners will find their needs met by these three types:

  • Asiatic hybrids: These lilies generally flower in June into July, producing blooms in red, orange, yellow, white, pink, and more. These are very durable, easy-to-grow plants that will multiply and spread with little effort. These lilies fall into Division 1 in the official lily classification system.
  • Easter lilies (Longiflorum hybrids): These lilies are often forced into early bloom in pots for early spring celebrations. When planted in the garden—or if potted plants are kept growing in their pots—they usually bloom in mid-summer. These lilies belong to Division 5, featuring trumpet-shaped, brilliant white flowers.
  • Oriental hybrids: Oriental hybrids, such as the famous stargazer lily, generally begin blooming mid-to-late summer and feature large flowers in rich colors. These are somewhat more delicate plants than the Asiatic lilies, and the bulbs might lose their vigor after a few years, requiring replanting. But the flowers are spectacular, and many offer a spicy scent that is almost as dramatic as they look. Oriental lilies fall into Division 7 of the official classification system.

Propagating Tiger Lilies

Tiger lilies, though not classified as an invasive species, have invasive growing tendencies and spread easily if you let them. If you want to propagate your lilies, you can do so with bulbils (small bulbs that form on the parent plant) or by bulb division. Ideally, this should be done in spring before the season's growth picks up, but you also can divide them in the fall in warmer climates.

Bulb division requires carefully digging up the entire plant when it is dormant and gently separating the individual bulbs. Replant your bulbs as separate plants with the pointed side aimed upward.

Bulbils form along the stem of the plant at leaf axils. If you wish to minimize spreading, remove the bulbils and dispose of them. Or if you wish to propagate, you can carefully remove the bulbils and pot them. Bulbils will take an extra year of growth before they begin to bloom.

Common Pests & Plant Diseases

Tiger lilies are a resilient species and aren't very susceptible to disease. However, they can harbor viruses, such as lily mosaic virus, that can harm other types of lilies. If you suspect this disease, the plant and bulbs should be pulled and destroyed (don't add it to your compost bin).

Lily leaf beetles (Lilioceris lilii) and aphids can be problematic pests for the lilies. So treat your plants as soon as possible if you notice the leaves are being damaged.

  • Are tiger lilies easy to care for?

    Tiger lilies are somewhat drought-tolerant and quite maintenance-free once the bulbs are established.

  • How fast do tiger lilies grow?

    Plant the lily bulbs in the fall or spring and you can expect blooms by mid-to-late summer.

  • Can tiger lilies grow indoors?

    A tiger lily can do well indoors in a pot. Just make sure to keep the soil moist, but never leave the pot in standing water or the bulb will rot.

Article Sources
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  1. Lilium Lancifolium.” Chicagobotanic.Org,

  2. Anderson, Jodi Lynn. Tiger Lily. HarperCollins, 2019

  3. Types of Lilies.” Lilies.Org

  4. Lilium (Group) - Plant Finder.” Missouribotanicalgarden.Org