splitting lilies

jhorchidJuly 5, 2006

Hi, I have a huge batch of oriental lilies that really need to be split and moved. When and how should I do this? Currently they are in a 2 by 4 foot area, and there are about thirty stalks. Any information would be terrific.


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Wow! How spectacular those must be!!! But the work this fall....hope you have a strong back!

Wait till the foliage begins to yellow and die down (for Orientals, this is around mid-Oct to November in our area). Then, you can carefully take a garden fork and dig about 1 ft. way from the clump, digging deeply for those bulbs, and lift them up.

In general, golfball sized Oriental bulbs on upwards are capable of blooming size the following summer. I'm pretty sure you'll have a ton of bulblets that you won't know what to do with!!

Then, replant these lilies in their new location as soon as you can before the ground freezes!

Best of luck!


    Bookmark   July 5, 2006 at 12:08PM
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Remember though, they look best in groups so you can have large amounts of the same blossoms at the same time. It's very impressive as a color statement in the landscape. Of course that's MY preference, but that is usually how horticulturists grow them too.


    Bookmark   July 5, 2006 at 10:17PM
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Is it possible to split them the end of August, or could it kill them? Thanks for the help.


    Bookmark   July 7, 2006 at 2:09PM
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hld6(z7 MD)

Hi Jessica,

You won't kill them but you could weaken them (resulting in reduced height and blooms next year). It depends upon how late of a bloomer they are. Wait until their foliage turns yellow in late Summer - early Fall.

You don't really "split" lilies (like some rhizomes) so much as separate them.

Carefully dig out the root mass. Use a hose to gently wash away the soil and it will be easy to see all the bulbs and pull them apart.

Like Lainey says lilies look nice together in a mass planting. You can get that effect by planting a group of them 6"-8" apart which gives them enough room to get nutrition. This would also be a good time to amend the soil.


    Bookmark   July 7, 2006 at 2:44PM
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I purchased and planted some oriental lilley bulbs into tubs 3 years ago, and up to this year they have been brilliant. This year however they have been more stragerly than before. I understand that bulbs should be physically split (broken or cut) into two after so long which would give twice as many bulbs as before. Is this really the case or have I misunderstood and could this be why the lilies have not performed as well this year? Having split the bulbs in late summer should I store them in a dry place or plant them straight away back into pots ready for next year. I would really appreciate some information regarding this as I do not want to risk spoiling what I already have.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2007 at 9:11AM
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After a few years the bulbs can increase in numbers and become congested - so tightly packed together that they compete for food and water and the performance suffers. If this is the case you'll have seen more stems than you originally had, but they'll be smaller with less flowers. You shouldn't need to physically split individual bulbs, just separate the bulbs that are already there. Replant them as soon as possible; if you need to store them for a while put them in a bag with a little barely moist soil or peat and keep them somewhere cool, dark and airy but don't leave them out of the soil any longer than you have to.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2007 at 5:42PM
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cnid(z5b Ont Canada)

My garden is REALLY dry so I often get early die back on my lilies. So I start moving in early Sept. Depends what zone you are in, jhorchid. Also, I have moved lilies in mid-season and they have been fine with lots of spot watering. In that case, I was careful to dig up a big root ball and disturb the roots as little as possible. They did fine. For fall planting, it is important to get them in before freeze up, so they have time to develop roots. Use this opportunity to put bonemeal down with the bulbs and to amend the soil so it is fertile (compost, peat moss for acidity for Orientals) and you will be rewarded next year.

hld6 said to wash the bulbs so you can see them. When you do that, look for little baby bulbs. Orientals don't do that so much as asiatics, but I have got hundreds of lilies to share from all the babies I find around the big parent lily bulbs. It is great.

I envy you. My asiatics clump up wonderfully but my orientals never do. Is this what happens in gardens/zones where conditions are kinder - Orientals clump up like asiatics?

Good luck.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2007 at 9:24AM
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How soon is too soon to split? I planted 3 Stargazer lillies last year in a bunch, but they have tripled in number. I'm looking to spread these around the garden next year, but I'm worried it might be too soon to split. Am I wrong?

    Bookmark   July 21, 2011 at 8:20PM
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hostaholic2 z 4, MN

Wait until the stems and leaves yellow in fall, then dig and separate the bulbs and replant.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2011 at 4:10PM
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Thanks hostahlic. Is there a magic age to split? I've heard some people say don't split a plant that isn't yet 3 years old. Is there truth to that?

    Bookmark   July 23, 2011 at 10:06AM
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hostaholic2 z 4, MN

It really depends on the size of the plant,growing conditions etc. Many perennials are said to sleep the first year, creep the 2nd year and leap the third year in terms of growth and bloom. With lilies, you should divide when bloom begins to decline and the stems become crowded. The North Star Lily Society has some good info on it's website.

Here is a link that might be useful: North Star Lily Society

    Bookmark   July 23, 2011 at 3:39PM
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