Dividing Lilies

“Dear ma’am,

I have a Black Beauty Lily that is 4 years old.  I would like to move it because I have deer problems.  How and when do I move it?  Thank you.”


Moving lilies and dividing them kind of boil down to one in the same.  As you have had them for four years, it is probably time that you can be doing a bit of dividing too.

Late September and early October is the best time to divide and transplant lilies here in the upper Midwest. It is best to use a garden or potato fork to carefully dig and lift out the clump. Do not use a shovel or a spade because it is easy to slice the bulbs. I usually dig about 8” away from the plant so nothing gets stabbed and then work my way in.  Be prepared to dig deeper than you originally planted the bulbs.

Pull the clump out of the ground and gentle hose off the clump so you can better see the bulb divisions and all the little bulblets that have formed. Separate the larger bulbs and pull the small bulblets away from the stem. The clumps may be a little hard to break apart, so a little bit of twisting might be necessary to separate them. Before replanting, clip this year’s stem off the top of the bulb. You may notice many roots along the stem above the bulb. These are called adventitious prop roots and help to anchor the stem and flower portion of the bulb in the ground. They absorb nutrients during the summer growing season and have bulblets form on them.

Plant the bulbs 4 – 6 inches deep, larger bulbs being the deepest. The smaller bulblets should be planted only 1 – 2 inches deep. Basal roots that come out of the bottom of the bulb will self-adjust the plant over time to the correct depth. If the lily needed more nutrients or moisture, you may find the bulb you planted 4 inches deep 4 years ago has pulled itself deeper and is now 8 or even 10 inches under the surface. Lilies are quite amazing!

Larger bulbs will probably produce blooms the next summer. Smaller bulbs may take a year or two to bloom and are well worth planting to increase the future size and beauty of your lily garden.


© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


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