How to Propagate Lilies – 5 Methods

How to Propagate Lilies – 5 Methods

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There are many fascinating things about lilies, such as the number of ways you can propagate them. You can increase the number of lilies in your garden in a variety of ways without purchasing anything or involving yourself in a complex process.

Today, I discuss the simple ways I have propagated lilies from sowing seed I collected in the fall to dividing bulbs and a method known as scaling.

Growing lilies using seeds

Lily seeds are easily accessible and are among the most common methods I recommend for beginners but it takes up to 3 years to see flowers and sometimes as long as 7 years. Most lily owners tend to deadhead their lilies, thus reducing the chances of seed production. However, you can purchase lily seeds online from specialist suppliers although I often get mine from Amazon at an affordable price.

Growing lilies using seeds takes patience because it will take a while for the seed to germinate and the plant mature. Depending on the type of lily you want to grow, the germination process may differ: for example, Asiatic lilies go through epigeal germination (above ground) and Oriental lilies go through hypogeal germination (Below ground). Epigeal germination happens to be faster than hypogeal germination, so select the lilies you want to plant accordingly.

Asiatic lilies
Asiatic lilies

Please note that lilies grown from seeds may take a while to mature enough to produce flowers. Sow the seeds in fall or at the beginning of spring as this allows the plant to follow the natural progression initiated by temperature changes.

To see a full guide on sowing lily seeds you can read my guide here

Dividing bulbs

Hands gardener divide the bulbs of lilies Asiatic hybrids

As lilies continue to mature, more bulbs clamp together, therefore creating a competitive environment for nutrients. Dividing lilies is not a yearly affair, it should be done at least after every three years to maintain the appearance of the plant while reducing nutritional struggles. Around late summer is the ideal time to divide lilies, and you must be careful when digging them up to avoid damaging the bulbs.

When you dig out the bulbs, replant them immediately or clean them off and store them for planting at a later date.


Scaling from bulbs and bulblets is another sure way to propagate lilies. This method requires you to detach the outer scales of the lily buds, ensuring that each scale has a part of the basal plate attached. Ensuring the scales feature a section of the basal plate is crucial for root formation. Without that, the new plant will not grow.

Traditionally, people place the scales in a paper bag with moist vermiculite to promote root growth. The scales will first incubate in a lighted and warm place for about two months, which should be enough for the basal plate to form, before being subjected to cold temperatures in the refrigerator to promote root development for 3 months.

Alternatively, you can use a soil mix consisting of horticultural grit and potting compost to help the scales develop new growth. Place the mix in a germination tray then bury the scales, ensuring to leave 1/3 of the scale above the surface.

The basal plate needs to be in contact with soil to ensure roots develop so be careful about how you position them. Next, moisten the soil ensuring excess water drains and cover the tray with a lid before placing it in a cold frame. In about a month, roots will be established, and you can replant them after the seedlings mature.

Grow Lilies through Bulbils

Tiger lily Bulbil
Tiger lily Bulbil

Another reliable method to propagate lilies is through bulbils; however, this method applies to certain varieties of lilies, such as the Tiger lily or Lilium sulphureum. This method involves harvesting small matured bulbils from the stem of the plant. Bulbils are young bulbs that form around summer but are harvested in September for replanting.

Bearing the same genetic material as the parent plant, bulbils will grow into healthy plants in the right conditions. They grow relatively fast, and they are easy to cultivate in germination trays filled with potting compost and horticultural grit at a 50/50 mix. Place the tray containing bulbils in a cold frame, ensuring the soil remains moist to support root growth.

You will notice new growth the next spring, but then let the roots develop well before transplanting to permanent locations. You will know the bulbils are ready for transplanting when the roots start peeking through the tray’s drainage holes because space is limited. Occasionally fertilise the plants to encourage optimal growth until well established.

Propagate through cuttings

If you have Asiatic lilies in your garden, using cuttings is a sure way to propagate lilies. Please note that harvesting and replanting cuttings does not work for all types of lilies. Before you embark on using cuttings, make sure the lily you have is suitable for the process.

The cuttings should be taken in spring so that they have enough time to develop roots before winter comes. All you need to do is cut leaves off a healthy lily plant in a downward direction so that the leaf detaches with a bit of the stem. The reason for wanting the leaf to detach with a section of the stem is to ensure there are structures for root development.

The next step is to dip the cuttings in rooting hormone powder before transferring them to a tray/pot with moist horticultural sand. The cuttings should be submerged 3/4 way and covered with a plastic bag or lid to incubate. Place the cuttings in a cold frame and wait for them to form bulbils within a month or so.

Final Conclusion

All the propagation methods mentioned above work, therefore take your time to find a method you find easy to work with. Be sure to let the young plants harden before transplanting outside to increase the chances of survival. Additionally, the young plants will require water and liquid fertiliser to promote optimal growth. Regardless of the method you select, I am sure it will be a success, so be patient.

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