Transplanting Oriental Lily Bulbs

A few years ago I planted two bags of Oriental lily bulbs in my garden after I found the bulbs on sale and couldn’t pass up a discount. Over two years the bulbs established themselves, grew taller and produced more blooms per stem. One evening while the clumps where at their peak a stranger walking past the garden stopped and asked me what I had sprayed in the garden to get it to smell so good. Then a day later a family member asked me the same question. Both of them where referring to the scent emanating from the lily blooms that is downright enchanting on a humid summer day. When another family member asked me to help start a garden the first plant I thought to share where some of my Oriental lilies. So I set about transplanting Oriental lily bulbs from my garden to this new garden.


I knew the bulbs would benefit from transplanting because the clumps had expanded beyond the small space I had allocated for them. The blooms were opening on stems reaching 6 feet tall and it was clear that when I planted them I chose a location too close to the edge of the garden path. When I planted these bulbs I didn’t bother to read the information on the package and didn’t realize they’d grow so tall and block shorter plants behind them. 

Transplanting Oriental Lily Bulbs in the garden

Whether you’re transplanting Oriental lily bulbs to make room expand your planting or to share bulbs with garden friends the easiest way to do this is to remove the bulbs that grow long the stem just below the soil line. The new bulbs produced are smaller than the original lily bulb and cluster along the stem near the surface of your garden soil as illustrated by the picture of Oriental lily bulbs above. These bulbs can be easily collected by excavating a few inches of soil with a garden trowel and planted in a new location. The best time to harvest these baby bulbs is in the fall after they develop the beginnings of their own root systems that can support them. Transplant these bulbs into a new location in the garden, or a large pot, where the soil is loose and fast-draining.

 Transplanting lily Bulbs

If you have a large clump of Oriental lily bulbs dig a hole that’s wider than the stems above ground to avoid accidentally damaging the grouping of bulbs below ground. After a few years a single bulb can produce a decent size clump of bulbs like the one lily bulbs pictured above. This clump developed from a single bulb that I planted in my garden four years ago. You can plant the whole clump in a new location or separate the bulbs by pulling them apart.

How deep to plant Lily Bulbs

How deep you should plant your Oriental lily bulbs when transplanting them in your garden depends on their size. A good rule of thumb to refer to when planting bulbs is to plant them 2-3 times as deep as they are tall. If you’re the kind of gardener that needs specific measurements: plant the bulbs 6-8 inches below the surface of the soil. Unlike with iris rhizomes I haven’t found that planting them too deep will affect their blooming.

There really isn’t much to transplanting Oriental lily bulbs in your garden. Before heading out to the garden decide how much work you want to put into it. Choose a sunny location in your garden. Gathering the baby bulbs that grow along the stem is less time consuming and less messy, but those bulbs will not bloom for a couple of years until they reach maturity. For instant gratification take larger bulbs, just make sure you don’t damage the bulb in the process by accidentally cutting it in half with a spade or shovel. A garden fork works better than a shovel for this job. If your soil is not fast-draining amend the area with top soil or by mixing in some sand. Transplanting your bulbs into an area of your garden where water stands is a good way to rot your bulbs and miss out on some spectacular fragrant blooms.

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