Tiger Lilies: Everything You Should Know Before Planting

We've always had a special spot in our heart for lilies. Their flowery blossoms, seamless growth process, year-round independence, and ability to tolerate drought and remain aesthetically pleasing keep us hooked. That explains our recurring pieces on how to grow lilies here at House Digest. Much earlier, we discussed how to raise a Queen Emma lily, and not quite long ago, we did a piece on the popular lily of the valley. Today, we're here with one more species known as the tiger lily (Lilium Lancifolium).

The tiger lily is a herbaceous perennial with green leaves and long and strappy stems that blooms in midsummer. The flowers tend to blossom in orange with notable black spots — which we think makes it reminiscent of a leopard. This perennial is a plus for every gardener and garden, because not only is it easy to grow, but you also get bragging rights because they bloom in numbers. Tiger lilies grow best in USDA hardiness zones of about 3 through 9, writes Michigan Bulb Co., and can grow up to 3 to 5 feet tall and 7 inches wide.

How to use tiger lilies in your garden

The very first perk of having this flower in your garden is that it indiscriminately serves as a pest repellant. Imagine never having to purchase pest and disease repellents as a matter of urgency? Yup, Gardenia writes that the tiger lily helps protect other plants from pests, even more so as it multiplies in bulbs underground.

Another way to use tiger lilies in your garden is for their aesthetic appeal — we mean, what's the point of having flowers that don't add all the color and pop and beauty to your garden? Additionally, the multiplication rate of this downward-facing, spotty orange flower is fast, providing you with the crème de la crème of lily beauty, says One Green Plant.

Lastly, if you live in climes that are susceptible to drought and you want a flower that will thrive nonetheless (because, let's face it, what's the point of growing flowers only to have them die after one season?), you should grow the tiger lily, writes The Gazette.

How to grow tiger lilies

First off, we have to establish that growing a tiger lily is quite simple. Does it seem too good to be true? We'll wager that we can convince you. First off, growing tiger lilies does not start from a seed, as you might have assumed because of its antecedents. Instead, you grow them from bulbs, says American Meadows – bulbs that you either separate from other tiger lilies or purchase right from a store. We'll stick with the store story here.

Secondly, you can plant one in the fall and you'll have a bloom in late summer. Sounds great, doesn't it? Let's go right ahead and learn how. According to Pickup Flowers, the first step to growing a tiger lily is to find the perfect location, soil, and temperature zones. This affects the overall turnout of your plant. The ideal conditions as specified are spots where the plant can get up to six to eight hours of sunlight daily, rich and well-draining soil, and a USDA hardiness zone from 3 to 9 (an amazing range!). Afterward, your next step is to till the ground and then place the bulb in it with the larger part being on the bottom and the top pointy part facing upward. Support the bulb with a hand and cover it up with mulch, compost, and soil.

How to care for tiger lilies

Now that you have your tiger lily plant well-established in your garden, the next step will be to ensure it blooms and doesn't die, as well as how to maintain it even after blooming. We have a lot of information for you, so you might want to get a pen. Just kidding — this plant is very easy to take care of; lazy gardeners will easily find it a favorite.

As you know, the standards are six to eight hours of sunlight daily. However, according to the experts at Michigan Bulb Co., tiger lilies can also tolerate part shade. The only major maintenance you have to do with this plant is the water control issue. Remember that we recommended tilling the land before planting? Well, that was to ensure that you have a sufficient draining system as too much water can rot the roots of the tiger lily, and then all your work will have been for nothing.

When it comes to pruning the plant, you should bear in mind that after blooming the foliage of the tiger lily plant tends to turn yellow. Once this happens, uniformly, it's time to prune to ground level and dispose of it. Finally, on the drainage matter, it is important to add humus or compost every once in a while to help the drainage process and to, of course, prevent rot.

Tiger lily varieties

There are at least nine varieties of the tiger lily plant. However, none of them are pure cultivars, sadly. Instead, they are more of cross-bred variation with other plants, writes Plant Lilies. These variations are mostly native to Asia, whereas the original tiger lily is native to North America.

The known variations of the conventional tiger lily (Lilium lancifolium or L. Tigrinum) include, but are not limited to, Lilium tigrinum, Asiatic hybrids, Lilium catesbaei, pine lily, leopard lily (see!), Easter lily, Oregon lily, oriental hybrids, and Kenton lily.

  • Asiatic Hybrids: This variation bears a striking resemblance to the martagon. Its major colors are peach with plum freckles and a darker peach color at its crux — a strikingly beautiful lily, we might add! The experts at John Scheepers say that this one blooms in the early summer and can grow up to 4 to 8 inches wide and 3 to 5 feet tall.

  • Pine Lily: The distinguishing characteristic of the pine lily (lilium catesbaei) is its red petals mixed with a buttery yellow and then an abundance of purple spots. These lilies can grow up to 2 to 3 inches tall and are native to Florida, writes The Florida Wildflower Foundation.

  • Easter Lily: This variation of the tiger lily is more of a celebration plant. According to South Dakota State University Extension, they are available just before Easter and are grown for that purpose. They can grow up to 4 to 7 inches tall.

Are tiger lilies toxic?

Right, now the toxicity question. Each time we do a piece on a new plant, we feel obliged to tell you that it is important that you know the toxicity levels before planting it. Toxic plants can cause a serious problem for your pets, toddlers, and even you; ignorance is not an option. It might seem like we're reading you the riot act, but it's better than a sick pet — you'll agree, won't you? Great!

Eat the Weeds say that the tiger lily is an edible plant. It has been used to make stellar concoctions like traditional meals in Japan, writes Pro Garden Tips. However, just because it is edible doesn't mean it is toxin-free. Come along, we'll explain what we mean.

First off, if you're a cat mom, or dad, or granny, in general if you are a cat person it is important to note that this plant is deathly toxic to your furry kitten, says Pet Poison Helpline. So, you might want to keep the tiger lily off your garden list — unless, of course, you can manage the risks (we would not recommend this though). Next up, while it is edible to humans, some sources say that tiger lily pollen can be toxic to humans. Weird combo — we found it fishy so we decided to dig in. What we found out was that if you get exposed to the pollen, it's likely nothing will happen to you.

How to repot tiger lilies

There's one caveat, gardeners — the tiger lily is an invasive plant, per Potomac. Now that we've done our part to let you know, we'll teach you how to manage it. Did you think we were going to leave you hanging? Nope, we don't do that here. 

Since they grow from bulbs (bulbs which replicate underneath the ground), tiger lilies tend to grow on their own. You might not have to repot them, unless you want them strategically planted — and we wager that you do want them strategically planted.

The best time to propagate tiger lilies is in spring or fall. This will ensure that you see the next summer's bloom. Now that you know, here's how to do it. Gardening Know How says that the first thing to do is to dig up the existing plant, carefully divide the bulb with your hands, and then cover up the original. Pick a location for the next plant (remember the six to eight hours of full sun measure), till the ground for proper drainage, and replant the bulb in the same way we discussed much earlier. Take good care of this new one and you'll have an exotic bloom in the next few months!