How to grow lilies from seed

How to grow lilies from seed

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Growing your own lilies is an experience in itself, especially with so many hybrids available offering various colours and flower sizes. It may take a while for the plant to mature, but once it matures, you get to relish the beauty of lilies through the seasons.

Are you curious about how you can grow lilies from seeds? Take a few minutes, and read through this article to find out how I this:

Firstly, I always recommend trying to grow lilies that germinate by a process known as epigeal, this simply means they grow above ground from germination and they are typically the easest to grow and include lilies such as Trumpets, Aurelians, Asiatics, and pumilum lily varieties.

I also recommend simply sowing seed straight into a prepared bed in rows or small pots in autumn with around 10 seeds to a 6 inch pot. Then let the seasons do the work and caurse the seeds to germinate naturally.

Tiger lily seedling
Tiger lily seedling

Quick guide for growing lilies

If you grow them in pots, put some crockery into the bottom of pots first and layer some grit over the top and then fill the pot with seed compost. Plant the seed, maybe 8-10 per 6 inch pot and cover with a thin layer of compost maybe 1cm deep. Let the pots soak in a tray of water to absorb the water and cover with a clear plastic bag and place in a sheltered position outdoors. Placing them in a greenhouse can speed up germination but I recommend a cold greenhouse.

Soucing lily seeds

Sourcing lily seeds is not a problem as you can purchase them online from specialist nurseries, many sell them on Amazon or try eBay a try, or you can simply harvest them from existing plants.

Growing lilies from seeds

Lily seeds take a while to grow, regardless of whether they undergo epigeal or hypogeal germination which I talk about the differences below.

What matters is that you sow the seeds in time for the plants to have enough time to mature according to the season. In general, it takes around 3 years to get flowers from germination and can take as long as 7, however sometimes you can get flowers within one year with some varieties.

Epigeal germination

Asiatic lilies
Asiatic lilies

Asiatic lilies and their different cultivars, mostly undergo epigeal germination, this basically means they grow above ground and start producing onion/leek type foliage staright away. Asiatic lilies seeds are sown outdoors in the fall and will take a couple of weeks to germinate.

  1. After collecting or buying seeds, sow them in fertile and well-drained soil either in a prepared bed in rows or in small 6 inch pots, just don’t overcrowd the seeds. Sow them just under the surface of the soil. If grown beds, water the soil with a fine rose can after sowing but be carful not to overwater. If you grow them in pots, let the pots soak in a tray of water.
  2. Since the seeds are exposed to outdoor conditions, there is no need for warm and cold cycles like in the hypogeal germination. The seeds will sprout leaves after around 30 days.
  3. Additionally, mulching is also essential in keeping weeds at bay and helping the soil retain moisture if grown in beds outside. Keep growing them on for a few years, if grown in pots, remove the clear polybag and let them establish. Its worth noting that if you grow them pots and overwinter them in a warm greenhouse, this will bring them on quicker.

You can learn more about how to grow lilies in pots here since they form bulbs

Hypogeal germination

Oriental lilies
Oriental lilies

Hypogeal germination commences below ground so they can appear to take longer to germinate as you can’t actually see any top growth straight away so it can be some months before the growth shoots. In general seeds sown in the fall may not show growth until spring so be patient

Lilies that fall under the hypogeal germination group include Oriental lilies, which germinate in two stages. Planting hypogeal germination lilies requires you to:

  1. Take the lily seeds, spread them on a paper towel and cover with another paper towel. Using a spray bottle, wet the paper towel ensuring the paper is soaked to encourage germination.
  2. Place the moist paper towel in a plastic bag and store it in a warm area with temperatures around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. This warm and moist environment should be maintained for 3 weeks before moving onto the cold stage, and by then the seeds would have presented small bulbs.
  3. After three warm months, place the bag/ germination tray in the refrigerator(45-55 °F) for an additional three months.
  4. Remove the bulbs from the plastic bag and replant them in moist, well-drained soil in six-inch pots. Place the pots in indirect sunlight and away from cold winds for about one or two years before moving them outdoors. They may take another year or two years to bloom, depending on the variety.


It is not difficult to grow lilies from seeds; the issue is that it takes time. You’ll find that lilies are versatile plants with various ways to propagate them apart from using seeds. Seeds are known to operate at a snail’s pace, but they are a reliable method to grow lilies instead of buying actual bulbs. If you want to find out about other ways of propagating lilies, click here.

Also, be on the look out for pests including the red lily beetle which you can learn more about here.

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