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Cottage Garden Favorites: Tiger Lilies

Updated on January 18, 2017
OldRoses profile image

Caren White is a Master Gardener and longtime volunteer at Rutgers Gardens. She also teaches workshops at Home Gardeners School.


No cottage garden would be complete without the mid-summer blooms of tiger lilies. Their bright orange flowers with brown spots, distinctive recurved petals and long stamens add color and dimension to the garden.


Tiger lilies are originally from Asia. They are native to China, Japan and Korea where they were grown as food. They were introduced in Europe first in the 17th century but didn't catch on. They were re-introduced in the early 19th century where they quickly made themselves at home in cottage gardens. It wasn't long before they had made their way across the ocean to North America where they spread across the continent with the pioneers who braved the wilds of the untamed West.


Tiger lilies are a natural fit in the cottage garden. They are hardy through zone 3, are easy to grow and propagate readily either from bulbits or division. They flower profusely, producing up to a dozen blossoms on each plant ranging in color from yellow to orange to red and even pink. They are tall, reaching a height of 3 to 4 feet.

Tiger lilies love sun but prefer to have their roots shaded. Mulching your plants after planting will help or you can plant your bulbs amongst shorter perennials whose foliage will spread and cover the base of your lilies shading their roots. Make sure you plant them in well-drained soil. Tiger lilies don't like wet feet. You should plant them in a hole that is at least twice as deep as your bulb is large.


After flowering, the plants produce small black bulbits along the stems which look like large seeds but are actually immature bulbs. When ripe, they will fall to the ground and start a new plant. Or you can harvest them yourself and plant them where you want more tiger lilies. It will take 3 to 4 years for the bulbits to produce plants large enough to flower.

Alternatively, you can allow your plants to propagate themselves, forming a large clump of lilies which you can then divide making smaller clumps which can be moved to another spot in the garden.

The Typhoid Mary of the garden

It is not recommended that you grow tiger lilies in the same bed as other kinds of lilies. The hardiness which makes them such a good fit in the cottage garden makes them a danger to other lilies. Tiger lilies are immune to most viruses and diseases that plague lilies. In the garden they act like a Typhoid Mary, spreading viruses and diseases to which they are immune to other types of lilies. So grow your tiger lilies in a bed that contains no other kinds of lilies and allow them to be a star on their own!

© 2014 Caren White


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    • OldRoses profile image

      Caren White 3 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

      KL, you won't regret planting them. They grow and multiply every year. I envy you. I can't have them where I live now because the deer eat them. Sigh. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • KL Klein profile image

      Krissa Klein 3 years ago from California

      Tiger lilies have always been one of my very favorite flowers. Out here in California sometimes you find big patches of them just growing wild on stream banks. Never knew they weren't native! When I have room to have a garden [someday..] I'm going to put a bunch in.

    • OldRoses profile image

      Caren White 3 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

      Thanks for reading, Total. And thanks for passing on my hub. Much appreciated.

    • TotalHealth profile image

      TotalHealth 3 years ago from Hermosa Beach, CA

      Interesting subject! I will forward this URL to a family friend who loves to toil away in her garden.

    • OldRoses profile image

      Caren White 3 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

      Kind of the opposite of companion planting! Thanks for reading, Barbara. And thank you for sharing on FB!

    • Barbara Kay profile image

      Barbara Badder 3 years ago from USA

      I didn't know that you shouldn't grow them with other lilies. I have lots of Asiatic lilies. Now I'll have to check if any tiger lilies are near them.

      I'll share this on my Facebook Gardening group. You have lots of good info.

    • OldRoses profile image

      Caren White 3 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

      Thanks for reading and sharing, Jackie!

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 3 years ago from The Beautiful South

      What great information I would have never known. Thank you. Up and sharing.

    • OldRoses profile image

      Caren White 3 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

      I used to grow them at my last house. I haven't had any luck growing them where I live now because deer LOVE lilies. I miss my tiger lilies. Thanks for reading and especially pinning, Peggy.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 3 years ago from Houston, Texas

      I used to grow tiger lilies and also day lilies that I had gotten from my grandmother. I have shared them with many people through the years. I no longer have them but have photos and fond memories tied of course to my grandmother. I did not realize that the tiger lilies can spread diseases to other types of lilies. Interesting! Pinning this to my flowers board.