Lilies are beautiful and elegant flowers that can add a touch of royalty to any garden. However, like many plants, they have specific needs when it comes to winter care. Understanding how to protect lilies from frost and maintain them through the cold months is crucial for ensuring their health and vibrant blooms in the next growing season.

Do Lilies Fear Frost?

Yes, lilies can be sensitive to frost, especially if they are not adequately prepared for the winter months. While some lily varieties are hardier and can tolerate cold better than others, frost can damage or even kill the plants if they are not properly protected.

How to Maintain Lilies in Winter

1. Identify Your Lily Type:

  • Hardy Lilies: Asiatic and Oriental lilies are generally hardier and can withstand colder temperatures with minimal protection.
  • Tender Lilies: Some species, like the Calla lily and others grown in warmer climates, may need extra care and protection from frost.

2. Preparing Lilies for Winter:

Cutting Back:
  • When to Cut: After the first frost has blackened the foliage, cut the stems back to a few inches above the ground. This helps the plant conserve energy for the next growing season.
  • Why: Removing the dead foliage helps prevent disease and pest problems.
  • Materials: Use straw, pine needles, leaves, or other organic mulch materials.
  • Application: Apply a thick layer (3-4 inches) of mulch over the lily beds after the ground has started to freeze. This helps to insulate the bulbs and protect them from temperature fluctuations.
  • Removal: In early spring, gradually remove the mulch to allow new growth to emerge.
  • Before Frost: Ensure the soil is well-watered before the first frost. Moist soil retains heat better than dry soil, providing extra protection for the bulbs.
  • During Winter: Avoid watering during the winter months to prevent the bulbs from rotting.

3. Protecting Tender Lilies:

Digging Up Bulbs:
  • When: In areas with severe winters, dig up tender lily bulbs before the first frost.
  • Storage: Clean the bulbs and store them in a cool, dry place. Use a container with peat moss, sand, or vermiculite to keep them from drying out.
Container Lilies:
  • Indoor Storage: For lilies grown in containers, move the pots to a frost-free location, such as a garage or basement.
  • Care: Keep the soil lightly moist and avoid letting the containers freeze.

4. Inspecting for Pests and Diseases:

  • Regular Checks: Inspect the bulbs and stored containers periodically for signs of rot, mold, or pests.
  • Treatment: Remove any affected bulbs immediately to prevent the spread of disease.

5. Spring Preparation:

  • Replanting: For bulbs that were dug up or stored, replant them in the garden after the last frost date.
  • Gradual Exposure: Gradually expose container lilies to outdoor conditions to avoid shock.


Lilies, while resilient, do require some attention to survive frosty winters. By cutting back the foliage, applying a protective mulch layer, ensuring proper watering before frost, and taking special care of tender varieties, you can help your lilies weather the winter and come back strong and beautiful in the spring. Regular checks for pests and diseases and careful spring preparation will further ensure your lilies thrive year after year.