How to Separate Lily Plants

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Lilies reproduce by growing new bulbs, called offsets, and bulblets that produce new flowering lilies. You can naturalize an area with lilies by allowing them to spread. Too many lilies crowding an area may eventually begin to deplete the soil nutrients and produce less robust plants, so it’s best to divide your lily bulbs every three years. You may find it easier to divide and transplant your lilies in the fall, but you may safely divide and move them anytime the ground isn’t frozen.

Difficulty: Moderately Easy


Things You’ll Need:

  • Garden fork
  • Hose or watering can
  • Half-bushel basket
  • Sharp knife
  • Spade
  • Peat moss
  1. Insert a garden fork into the ground close to the lily you want to dig up and separate. Work carefully to avoid nicking or slicing through the bulbs.

  2. Remove the clump of bulbs and roots. Gently brush off large clumps of excess soil.

  3. Rinse the bulb mass to get a good idea of how many bulbs you have to remove. Be careful not to damage any little bulblets that may be sticking to the root crown.

  4. Pull off all the smaller bulblets that may be dangling from the plant. Place all of the bulblets in a half-bushel basket.

  5. Find the center crease of the main or larger bulbs. Twist and break off the offsets. Use a sharp knife if they don’t twist off easily. Add them to the basket.

  6. Dig new planting holes at least 4 to 6 inches deep. Insert one bulb per hole, about 2 inches apart. Water well. The larger separated bulbs will produce stems and flowers within a year.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you don’t have time to divide and replant your lily bulbs in a single day, tuck some moistened peat moss in with them in the basket. Store the basket out of the sun until planting day.

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