Lily Bulbs Over Winter


Lily bulbs storage:  Easily winterize lily bulbs over winter during the extreme winter cold and wet season.  So, they remain healthy and grow beautifully the next spring.

Lily’s root is a rhizome.  And bulbous in appearance.  The plant is produced from a swollen underground storage organ known as a corm.  However, is not a true bulb. Instead a tight, concentric ring of succulent scales.  Consequently, attached at their lower end to a basal plate. However, for simplicity reasons, we refer to them as bulbs. The bulb is inserted into the ground to grow.  And, should you decide dig up each bulb, marking their planting location is important.

The natural beauty of a blooming lily is a sight to behold during the spring, summer, and fall months.  The most beloved and rewarding flowers to grow in your garden.  And a variety of plant that should be winterized and protected.  Especially in areas of extreme cold or wet conditions.

Storing lily bulbs over winter is easily accomplished.  Following the proven methods below.

Freezing Lilies

Believe it or not, lilies can withstand periods of freezing temperatures.  However, not below 25 degrees F. And no longer than two or three weeks. 

Wet Conditions

Lily bulbs cannot withstand long periods of wet conditions.  And, they will perish. 

Lilies failing to emerge the following Spring?  Your lily bulbs over winter were too wet.  Equally, too wet in storage or the location where grown.  Therefore, rotting the bulb.  Garden soil or landscape soil normally will provide lily bulbs with natural drainage.  Unless planted in a continually wet area.


Storing lily bulbs over winter in an area that remains extremely cold, simply cover with mulch.  However, in a wet environment through out winter months, you will need to dig them every Fall.  Or treat them as annuals. Additionally, purchasing new ones every year.

There are a few simple techniques for storing lily bulbs.  Enjoying great success.  Best practice is to begin the process of winterizing.  And storing lily bulbs before winter.  As a matter of fact, early fall or mid- September!

First: Cut the Stem

For bouquets or fading blooms, cut the the lily stem about three to four inches above the soil line. In addition, remove all leaves.  Likewise, leave the stem as is.  This forces the lily to provide added growth into the bulb.  In addition, the plant will start growing new bulb-lets before winterizing.


Second: Grow

Let the bulb grow where it is until Fall. 

  • Growing in a container:  Make sure it is in afternoon shade.  Likewise, keep the potting mix damp, not wet.
  • Raised Beds or Garden:  Again, keep the soil or potting mix damp, not wet.
  • Fertilize: Use a low nitrogen, high mineral fertilizer at ground level.  Our Power Grow Fall blend is best!
  • Let the stem turn brown or deteriorate.
Cutting Lily Stem

Third: Removing the Bulb

Again, after cutting the stem, leave the bulb in the ground as long as possible.  We lift our bulbs the first week of November.  However, this may not be possible where you live.

Depending upon how deep your lily bulb is, use the appropriate tool to dig and lift your bulb.  In addition, make sure your tool is far enough away from your bulb location, before digging.  Most importantly, do not damage the bulb.

Start by gently placing the tool a couple of inches deep.  Then, as you progress, check for the bulb with your hand.  And, keep digging until locating the bulb.

Once the bulb has been located, gently soften the soil or potting mix around the bulb and roots.  Preferably with your hands.  Then, remove the bulb with as many roots as possible.

Fourth: Cleaning the Lily Bulb

Use a garden hose, at low pressure.  And, wash off the bulb.  Get as much soil or potting mix off as possible.  Additionally, place the lily bulb where it can dry without burning the scales.  Also, let the bulb dry, without washing it off.  Then, use a soft brush for cleaning.  I prefer washing with the garden hose, first.

Removing all of the visible clinging soil reduces the chance of bacterial infections. Therefore, damaging or destroying the bulb during storage.  Also, it is a good idea to remove any damaged, old, or diseased scales.  And once dry I recommend dusting or dipping with a fungicide.  Like fixed copper or garden sulfur.

Clean Lily Twin Bulbs


Remove Debris from Bulb

Removing all of the visible clinging soil reduces the likelihood of bacterial infections damaging or destroying the bulb during the storage months. It is also a good idea to remove any damaged, old or diseased scales at this time and once dry I recommend dusting with a fungicide.

Preparing and Storage

Small Quantities (<10)

Prepare a damp potting mixture for storing lily bulbs over winter.  And one that allows good air circulation around the bulb and roots.  Again, make sure it is damp, not wet.  Do not use garden soil.  With vent holes, in a plastic bag fill 1/2 full of your damp potting mix.  Place the bulb(s) in the bag as close to upright as you can.  Leave the top partially open.

Storing lily bulbs over winter should be in a cool place.  Such as the vegetable bin in your refrigerator.

Large Quantities (>10)

When storing large quantities of lily bulbs over winter: use a large box with enough air vents for good circulation.  Wood or plastic boxes work best.  Prepare a damp potting mixture.  And one that allows good air circulation around the bulb and roots.  Again, make sure it is damp, not wet.  Do not use garden soil.

Fill the box or container 1/2 full of damp potting mix.  Place the bulbs upright.  Fill remaining space with your damp potting mix.  Also, when storing lily bulbs over winter, store in a cool place.  Preferably indoors. Furthermore, when storing lily bulbs over winter outdoors in containers, cover the top with a piece of plywood.  Secure the plywood to the box.  Check often for adequate moisture.  Do not allow the bulbs to freeze more than 14 days.

Lily in Bag for Storage
Open Top of Bag with Vent Hole
Brown Crate
Crate Perfect for Storing Large Quantities of Lily Bulbs
Wood Crates for Storing Lily Bulbs

Summary – Storing Lily Bulbs Over Winter

The majority of lilies are a pretty tough bunch.  And able to cope with most of what the winter weather will throw at them.

However, they can be prone to rotting off in extreme, cold, and wet conditions.  Especially the ornamental and orienpet varieties that originate from mountainous regions.

But with a little thought, and minimum of intervention, over wintering lilies is quite straight forward.


Provide Good Drainage

Planting lily bulbs into wet conditions.  Equally, in an area prone to heavy rainfall over the winter period.  Is not a very good idea.   Instead, improve the drainage of the soil.  Place and mix plenty of horticultural grit: Pumice, or perlite.  Additionally, even placing small rocks below the bulb improves soil drainage.


It may even be worth creating a low mound or burm. Additionally,  planting your bulbs into keeping them away from a high water table.  Even consider protecting the area around the bulb by covering them with large cloche.  Also, a makeshift plastic tent.  And a thick layer of good autumn mulch such as straw. Likewise, grass clippings.


Storing lily bulbs over winter never really go dormant. And do best when out of the ground for as short a time as possible. If you have the space and weather, plant the bulbs right away.

Storing vs. Potting

Can’t plant right away? Plant them in pots or a small bucket.  Again, use soil less potting mix.  In addition, keep damp.

You can cram them in, bulb to bulb.  You’re just trying to keep the roots fresh and growing. Store lily bulbs over winter in the basement, garage or any other cool location is best.  Then plant when you can, afterwards.  Similarly, spring.

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