When Do You Cut Back Tiger Lilies?

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The Tiger lily (Lilium lancifolium) is a lovely plant for sprucing up any flower garden or home. 

They have bright orange flowers with curved black speckled or spotted petals that point downward.  

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Attractive Tiger Lil flower, When should you cut them back? | NataP-DepositPhotos

Tiger lilies make excellent cut flowers for bouquets and arrangements, as their blooms can last up to 2 weeks in a vase. They are also well suited to containers.

The first-time gardener may receive quite a shock the first time their lilies enter dormancy.

Cutting back and pruning Tiger lilies annually helps preserve their longevity and appearance.

When Should You Prune Back Tiger Lily Plants?

Cut or prune back tiger lilies before winter arrives but before they enter the dormant stage.

Best Time For Pruning Back Tiger Lilies

The best time for pruning back Tiger lilies is in the fall before winter. At the end of summer, the Lily plant leaves turn yellow and die back. This prepares the plant for its dormant stage for winter. It needs to shed any excess leaves.

Close-up of a spotted pink lily flower.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @bluerosecottage

This does not mean that the plant is dying. Trim off the dead leaves and stems. Allow any yellow leaves to remain as the plant enters winter.

Why Should You Cut Back Tiger Lily Plants?

Annual pruning helps protect plant health and ward off unwanted pests. Trimming dead leaves from your perennial plant gives it the necessary space to thrive when spring arrives.

Deadheading or removing the spent blooms will also help prolong the bloom period.

Preserve Plant Health

Most importantly, trimming the dead leaves in the fall preserves the health of your Tiger lilies.

Tiger lilies are hardy. But they are still susceptible to disease or viruses. 

Two types of diseases impact Tiger lilies:

  • Lily Mosaic Virus
  • Basil Rot [source]

Lily Mosaic Virus is a virus spread between lilies. While this disease does not harm tiger lilies, they are carriers. If other lilies are nearby, the virus will spread.

Basil Rot is a disease where the Tiger Lily bulb begins to rot. This is often due to overwatering and lack of drainage in the summer months.

Spotted orange lily in bloom, sunny background.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @patriciabird15

Pruning the Tiger Lily allows time for a yearly plant inspection to ensure it is in good health. Cutting off dead leaves helps prevent any rot once the leaves have fallen to the ground.

Prevent Pest Infestations

Two pests, in particular, harm the Tiger Lily:

Aphids are common pests in gardens. In small numbers, they cannot damage the plant, but they are well known for transmitting plant diseases.

Lily beetles are a less common occurrence in American gardens. This is because the red Lily beetle originated in Europe and has only recently spread to the United States.

These beetle species are known to eat the leaves of lily plants, which can be dangerous for your Tiger Lily.

The best way to keep away these pests is with Neem oil. Neem oil is an all-natural insecticide that deters pests with its putrid smell.

Kills pests who chew on leaves sprayed with the oil. It’s an excellent natural insecticide to guard lilies against aphids and beetles.

How Often Should I Prune My Plant?

Many experts suggest pruning your Tiger Lily annually. The best time to prune the leaves is in the fall.

Vibrant spotted orange lilies among green foliage.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @kralccdivad

As previously mentioned, the Tiger Lily leaves turn yellow towards the end of summer and fall. While there is no cause for worry, removing brown and dead leaves eliminates the chances of disease and pests.

You can also cut yellow stalks and leaves down to ground level and dispose of them.

During spring, you can divide new sprouts and propagate new plants, or you can let your Tiger Lily grow on its own.

Things To Be Aware Of When Pruning

Keep an eye on these issues while pruning tiger lilies.


A great danger when cutting back Tiger lilies at the end of the growing season is over-pruning.

It can be challenging to know which green leaves need cutting. One tip for gardeners is to only trim off the dead leaves near the base of the plant.

Yellow leaves will be able to grow back healthy and full the following spring.

Cutting off too many leaves at once can damage the plant. Reduced foliage can cause the tiger lily to lose its ability to flower, as it will not have enough energy to form seeds.


Divide Tiger Lily bulbs in the late fall or early spring once every four to six years. Dividing helps the plant to propagate and keeps new lily bulbs healthy.

When dividing, it’s essential to ensure lots of space for the new plants. Moreover, ensure your plants receive at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day.  

When planting, add some organic matter, such as well-rotted manure, humus, peat moss, sand, straw, or compost, to the soil. This will help the soil’s fertility and drainage. 

Also, ensure there is good drainage and appropriate moisture when growing them, as too much water can lead to root rot.

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