Why Are Your Oriental Lily Leaves Turning Yellow?

Oriental lilies are a gorgeous and fragrant addition to any yard or garden, especially with their bright, colorful flowers and lush foliage. However, oriental lily leaves sometimes go from vivid, lovely green to a concerning yellow. If your lilies’ leaves are showing this kind of color change, it’s not by chance; there’s an underlying cause that needs to be addressed.

Your oriental lily leaves may be turning yellow due to stress from environmental conditions, pests, diseases, lack of water, or excess water. It could also be because it is the end of the growing season. 

In the rest of this article, I’ll explain why oriental lily leaves turn yellow. I’ll also describe how best to plant and care for an oriental lily plant to avoid yellowing. No one wants unsightly yellow leaves as an eyesore in their garden, so keep reading to learn how to avoid this issue. 

Why Oriental Lily Leaves Turn Yellow

Typically, healthy oriental lily leaves are a light, vivid green. If you notice that your leaves are turning yellow, this is most likely an indication that something is wrong.

There are many reasons why oriental lily leaves turn yellow:

  • Various environmental conditions can cause yellowing.
  • Underwatering or overwatering can damage the foliage.
  • Oriental lily leaves often turn yellow at the end of the growing season. 

Let’s take a closer look at these potential causes. 

Environmental Conditions

One reason your leaves are turning yellow may be that something in the environment is causing damage. For example, lilies do not like strong wind conditions, so the leaves may start to yellow from stress if your plant is exposed to too much wind. 

If you live in a windy area, consider staking your lily plants to help provide more support so the leaves don’t get as stressed. Something like regular bamboo poles will do fine.

Pest and Diseases

Another condition that may be impacting your oriental lily’s leaf color is a disease. Lilies are relatively sturdy plants, but they are susceptible to some viruses, including lily symptomless and cucumber mosaic viruses. Both of these viruses can cause yellowing in leaves, foliage twists, and stunted growth. 

There is no treatment for either of these viruses. So if you suspect that one of them has infiltrated your plant, remove and destroy the infected stems. Then, wash your pruning shears in a mix of rubbing alcohol and water to eliminate any traces of the disease.

Oriental lilies can also attract pests, such as aphid species. These pests feed on the leaves, causing yellowing. If you suspect aphids on your plant, wash the leaves thoroughly with water and consider using a pesticide to get rid of these feeders. 

Underwatering or Overwatering

Oriental lily leaves can also start to yellow if they receive too much or too little water. 

If you touch the soil around your plant and it feels completely dry and dusty, the plant needs more water, and the leaves are yellowing out of dehydration.

If the soil feels soggy, you’re overwatering and drowning your plant. Too much moisture can lead to root rot, which can cause a myriad of issues, including leaf yellowing.

Water may still be the issue if you feel like you’re watering your plant properly and the soil feels slightly damp. Lilies are sensitive to salt, so water containing a high salt content can cause the leaves to yellow. Cow manure is also high in salt content. So if you’re using manure as a fertilizer, it may be doing more harm than good. 

Natural Seasonal Changes

Finally, oriental lily leaves tend to turn yellow and die at the end of the growing season. If you notice yellowing leaves in late fall, your plant is probably healthy; it is simply entering a new season. Leaves also turn yellow when they are old, so that the leaf may have reached the end of its life cycle. 

Proper Lily Planting and Care

One of the best ways to avoid leaf yellowing is to care for the plant properly.

Let’s discuss how.

Choose a Prime Planting Area 

First, you’ll need to find a good place on your property for planting. The area shouldn’t be exposed to roof runoff, as lilies are sensitive to overwatering, and too much water can cause yellowing leaves. Try to find a place that has a gentle slope away from the foundation of your house. 

Lilies also need approximately six hours of sunlight daily, so ensure that you aren’t hiding the plant away in the shadows. If lilies don’t get enough sunlight, they’ll begin to droop and look unpleasant. 

Get Your Planting Process and Timing Right

Before planting, enrich the soil by adding organic materials such as compost or well-rotted manure. However, be mindful of using too much cow manure because of its high salt content.

Make sure that you buy the bulbs you’re planting close to when you plan on putting them in the ground. The bulbs will deteriorate over time, so you’ll end up with dead bulbs if you wait too long.

The best time to plant oriental lily bulbs is in the spring, and the bulbs should be at least 6 inches (15.24 cm) apart to allow ample room for growth. Oriental lilies can grow quite tall, so you may need more space than you think. The bulbs should be planted in a hole at least four inches deep. 

Place the bulb’s roots down and cover with soil. Add some mulch to keep the bulbs cool and protect the roots as they begin to establish themselves. 

Water the plant whenever the soil feels too dry, but be mindful about overwatering. You can water less frequently when you have a layer of mulch covering the roots because mulch holds in moisture. Typically, oriental lilies need an inch (2.54 cm) of water every week.

Care For Your Plants Throughout the Seasons 

Lilies grow best when they are fertilized with bone meal. This organic fertilizer is a natural source of nitrogen, phosphorus, and calcium, which helps promote strong roots and more vibrant blooms organically.

After growth, remove dead or fading blooms as soon as you notice them. Lilies don’t bloom more than once during a growing season, so don’t worry about ruining a potential resurrection.

Removing these blooms prevents the plant from expending too much energy making seeds. You should also cut dead stems to the ground. 

Don’t cut back the leaves on your plant until they have turned completely brown. Even when the leaves are yellowing, they provide nourishment to next season’s blooms. So if you cut the leaves prematurely, you risk having a disappointing flowering season. 

To protect your plant in the winter, you’ll need to add a thick layer of mulch. I would suggest at least 6 inches (10.24 cm). This layer helps delay the ground freeze and keeps the roots growing even in winter. You should leave the plant covered in mulch until the last frost is over. 

In most regions, snowfall is enough to keep the soil moist enough. If you live in an area that doesn’t receive a lot of rain or snow in the winter, you’ll need to keep watering the plant to keep the soil moist.

The following video offers more advice on how to care for oriental lilies: 

If you take care of your plant, you’re less likely to notice yellowing leaves during the growing season. Not only does this help your plant look prettier in your yard, but it also means that it is healthy and thriving.


If you notice yellowing leaves on your oriental lily plant during the growing season, this is cause for concern. An environmental condition such as wind, disease, or pests could be damaging your plant, or you could be overwatering or underwatering.

Yellowing at the end of the growing season isn’t necessarily a symptom of damage. It simply means the plant is going through its natural growth phases.

Dr. Moritz Picot

Dr. Moritz Picot is a horticulture enthusiast and the founder of TheGrowingLeaf.com, where he serves as the lead content writer. He established the website in 2022 as a valuable resource for both gardening aficionados and beginners, compiling all the gardening tips he has accumulated over the past 25 years. Alex has a passion for nurturing plants, transforming backyards into inviting spaces, and sharing his knowledge with the world.

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