Tiger lily

Tiger lilies are easy to cultivate and an eye-catcher in late summer plant beds. Here’s how to plant and care for this bulb flower.

Susanne Nüsslein-Müller Susanne Nüsslein-Müller
Mar 03, 2021 10:46 am
readtime icon 6 Minutes
Growth type
  • Onion
Growth height (from)
from 150 cm to 200 cm
Growth characteristics
  • upright
Flower color
  • orange
  • red
Flowering time (month)
  • August to September
Flower shape
  • terminal
  • panicles
Leaf color
  • green
page format
  • oblong lanceolate
Fruit shape
  • Capsule
  • sunny to scattered light
Soil type
  • sandy to loamy
Soil Moisture
  • fresh to humid
ph value
  • neutral
Lime compatibility
  • lime-tolerant
Nutrient requirements
  • nutrient-rich
  • rich in humus
Decorative or utility value
  • Flower Decoration
Winter Hardness
  • hardy
Climate zones according to USDA
  • 4
areas of life
  • FR2
  • B1
  • Flowerbeds
  • Group planting
  • Planters
  • Rebates
Garden style
  • Flower garden
  • natural garden
Bee Friendly
bee friendly plant

The tiger lily (Lilium lancifolium) belongs to the large genus of lilies (Lilium) within the Liliaceae family. The tiger lily originates from east Asia. It can be predominantly found in nature in the eastern Chinese provinces, and also scattered across Korea and Japan. There, the plants grow at high altitudes of between 1,640 and 8,200 feet in meadows, on river banks, and on the sunny forests edges.


The tiger lily grows from a flat, round bulb composed of numerous bulb scales. As is typical for lilies, these bulb scales do not have a protective shell, rather they are so-called “naked bulbs”. Lilium lancifolium forms strong, upright stems that are brownish-red in color and have lots of short hairs. The plants grow to about 59.11 to 78.74 inches tall. Cultivated species remain about 39.37 to 59.11 inches shorter.


The oblong lanceolate leaves, which the tiger lily has to thank for its species name "lancifolium", are about 5.91 inches long and have woolly, white hair. They are positioned on opposite sides on the stem.


In wild species, three to five individual flowers are positioned on a terminal panicle, in cultivated examples there can be up to twenty individual flowers. These are laid out horizontally and also slightly inclined downwards. They have broad, folded back petals. This flower shape in lilies is referred to as “turban shaped”. Tiger lily petals are a strong orange-red color and have numerous dark brown dots. As is typical for lilies, their stamens have a moveable connection to the filaments. The fragrant flowers of Lilium lancifolium have a diameter of around 3.15 inches. Tiger lilies form an abundance of pollen and nectar. This makes them attractive to bees and other insects that visit flowers. The flowering period is from August to September.

Orange-red tiger lily flowers
The orange-red flowers of the tiger lily look like small turbans

Lilium lancifolium forms upright capsule fruit with three carpels. These contain numerous flat seeds stacked on top of one another. However, these are mostly sterile and not suitable for propagating the plants.


Tiger lilies like a semi-shady place. Plant these lilies in such a way that the flowers are in the sun but the roots are shaded by lower shrubs.


Lilium lancifolium thrives in a loamy-sandy substrate with sufficient moisture and nutrients.


The best time to plant tiger lilies is from August until the end of September, at the latest. This means it still has time to form roots until the end of the vegetation period. Plant the bulbs as soon as possible after purchase, as they dry out easily. Plant them about 5.91 inches deep. Always make sure that the bulbs are planted in the soil with the point facing upwards. Plant the bulbs in small groups with a planting distance of around 9.84 inches - this enables them to best reveal their beauty.


Fertilize the tiger lilies in the spring with a long-term fertilizer for bulb flowers or give them a layer of compost on the planting location. In the event of long droughts in high summer, you should thoroughly water Lilium Lancifolium so that the buds do not dry out. After flowering it’s best to remove the seed sets straight away. Otherwise, leave the plant in peace to withdraw its shoots and foliage. When everything has withered, pull the remaining shoots out of the earth.

Winter Protection

Tiger lilies are very winter-hardy. They do not usually require winter protection. Covering them with 3.94 inches of bark mulch or compost protects them from drying out in very sunny placed and from heavy frosts.


It is better to plant the tiger lily ‘Splendens’ in the background of plant beds due to their height. The robust, strong growing lily species also looks good in more natural wild meadow planting areas together with tall grasses or other larger shrubs with a wild plant character. In Asia, the starch-rich bulbs of the tiger lily are also a food source and healing remedy. They taste slightly bitter. Their healing properties are manifold. The ingredients have an expectorant and diuretic effect and are used to promote child labor and also improve vision.

Flower tub with tiger lilies
Tiger lilies also add a vibrant accent on the patio in containers

In addition to the ‘Splendens’ variety, which is similar to the wild species, there are also varieties with creme-white, yellow, pink, and red flowers. A double-flowered form among these is also Lilium lancifolium ‘Flore Pleno’. However, its flowers are of no interest to insects.


Small, so called bulbils, form in the leaf axils on the stem in the summer; these turn dark brown when mature. The tiger lily can be easily propagated with these. They are removed from the mother plant in the late summer and placed in a pot with potting soil at a depth of about 0.79 inches. It takes about three years for these bulbils to form grown plant flowers. In suitable locations, the plants usually self-propagate through falling bulbs.

Diseases and Pests

Unfortunately, tiger lilies are very popular with scarlet lily beetles. These conspicuous red bugs eat the leaves and flowers, as do their larvae, and generally sit on the under sides of leaves. Slugs also like to eat the leaves and flower buds. Its best to check the plants every morning when they are budding.