How Far Down Should You Cut Your Lilies?

Lilies are colorful and beautiful flowers, so it makes sense that they are a popular plant for gardeners to include in their gardens. In addition, they are relatively low-maintenance, so you don’t have to work too hard to reap the benefits of this incredible plant. However, some minimal pruning and cutting down benefits your lilies in the long run and helps your plant grow healthy blooms in future growing seasons. 

Lilies should be cut down to the ground in late fall after the foliage and the stems are completely dead and brown. Cutting lilies down to the ground helps ensure that the plant’s energy is going towards future growth. 

In the rest of this article, I’ll explain how far down you should cut your lilies and why. I’ll also offer suggestions for getting the best and most beautiful lily blooms season after season. Finally, I’ll describe the best way to cut lilies for display in a vase or bouquet. 

Why Should You Cut Your Lilies to the Ground?

Lilies should be cut down to the ground to help the plant direct its energy to new growth and maintains a clean and pleasant look in your garden. Ideally, you should wait until the leaves and stems have all dried up in the fall before cutting them.

Lilies should be cut down to the ground, but you should wait until the stems and leaves are completely brown. At the end of the growing season, the stems and leaves of your lily will start to turn yellow, but resist the temptation to cut them immediately.

This is because the bulbs for the next growing season get their energy from the stems and leaves of the previous season, so if you cut them down prematurely, you risk having a disappointing season next year.

The flowers, however, should be removed as soon as they start to wilt, so they don’t waste the plant’s energy and make seeds. Once you remove the flowers, all of the plant’s energy will go towards future growth, setting yourself up for success. 

Once the stems and leaves are completely brown, or after the first frost, you’re ready to cut down your lily plant. Cut the whole stem off with pruning shears, ensuring that there are no stubs left behind. 

You should always use clean, disinfected, high-quality pruning shears to cut down your lilies. It is best to clean the tools immediately after use on one plant before going on to the next. It will help prevent the risk of your plant getting a microbial infection from your tools.

Once the stem and the foliage are dead, there is no reason to keep them. Cutting them down to the ground allows you to have a fresh start the next spring and keep your plant safer and healthier throughout winter. You don’t have to worry because lilies still grow tall and beautiful even after being cut.

Cutting back foliage can also protect flowering plants from diseases like mosaic viruses. These viruses cause mottled and damaged leaves, stunted growth, and other deformities. If you leave stems and foliage as they are and don’t cut them to the ground, you’re exposing them to aphids, which are pests that carry this disease. 

Once a plant is infected, it cannot be saved and must be completely dug up and destroyed. Otherwise, nearby plants might also get infected.

Tips for Better Lily Blooms

Good pruning practices, such as removing the flower as soon as it begins to wilt and waiting until late fall to cut down dead stems and foliage, are a few of the best ways to get bright and beautiful blooms in the spring. Here are some other things you can do to get an impressive lily plant: 

  • Plant lily bulbs as soon as possible. Lily bulbs don’t have a protective covering on them, so you must plant them as soon as possible to keep them from drying out and getting weak. For the best results, purchase your bulbs immediately before you plan on planting them. 
  • Plant them in an area with good soil drainage. Lilies don’t like soggy soil, so make sure you avoid planting them in areas where they might get drowned by roof runoff. The best place for lilies is one that has a gentle slope that goes away from the foundation of your house. 
  • Make sure they’re getting enough sunlight. Lilies need approximately six hours of sunlight a day, so before you plant them, make sure shadows won’t cover them for too long. 
  • Give the lilies enough room to grow. If lilies get too crowded, their overall health and quality will suffer. When you plant the bulbs, keep them at least six inches (15.24 cm) apart to give room for growth.
  • Fertilize with bone meal. Lilies thrive with a little help from bone meal. This fertilizer is a natural source of nitrogen, phosphorus, and calcium, which helps promote strong roots and more vibrant blooms. I also like that it is certified organic and made in the United States. 
  • Add a layer of mulch. Mulching keeps roots cool, reduces weed growth, maintains soil moisture, reduces erosion and soil compaction, and protects plants from harsh winter conditions. Therefore, it is good to always have a layer of organic mulch covering the soil around your lilies. 
  • Keep up with weeding. Some weeds serve as hosts for pests, which can then start damaging your plants and spread fatal diseases to them. Weeding is not fun, but it is an important part of caring for lilies. 
  • Use insecticides to prevent and get rid of pests. Pests can feed on your plants or suck out essential nutrients, resulting in odd-looking blooms. Sometimes, the buds may even fail to open due to pests.

If you prune your lilies well and follow these tips, you will likely have beautiful blooms when the next growing season comes around!  

Cutting Lilies for Display

Another reason you may want to cut your lilies down is if you plan to display them in a vase. They can make a nice and colorful display on your countertop! Here are some tips for cutting lilies for display purposes: 

  • Don’t cut off more than a third of the stem so the foliage can continue creating energy. When you are trimming flowers for display, you must cut the stem before it turns yellow and dies. Therefore, to prevent the plant from losing longevity, try to take off as little stem as possible. 
  • Cut lilies with buds that are just about to open. These buds will open up more once they’re in a vase. 
  • Carry a bucket of water with you and submerge the stems as soon as you cut. This will help prevent the lilies from becoming dehydrated. 
  • Remove lower leaves, so no foliage is in the water. Leaves contaminate vase water, and once the stem is cut, they aren’t useful to the flower anymore, so it is better to just remove them.
  • Change the water every few days. Keeping the water fresh will help the bloom last longer. 
  • Add flower food to the water. Lilies don’t need as much flower food as other kinds of flowers, so you only need to add half of what’s recommended.
  • Keep cut lilies away from direct sunlight. This may seem strange since lilies need sunlight while growing, but once they’re cut, they prefer a cooler and more shaded environment. Therefore, it is best to keep them out of direct sunlight. 


If you cut your lilies to the ground, you are allowing the energy that would otherwise be directed at dying blooms and stems to be redirected for future blooms. This helps the next growing season be more successful and beautiful, as the future blooms will be stronger and more vibrant because they started getting nutrients from the plant early.

However, you need to wait until all leaves and stems have completely died before cutting your lilies to the ground. Otherwise, the plants won’t generate enough energy for the bulb.

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the principal creator of, a website dedicated to gardening tips. Inspired by his mother’s love of gardening, Alex has a passion for taking care of plants and turning backyards into feel-good places and loves to share his experience with the rest of the world.

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