Madonna Lily Care: Learning To Grow Lilium Candidum

Lilium candidum [LIL-ee-um, KAN-did-um] is also known as Madonna Lily.

The lily is said to be one of the oldest flowers in cultivation. Images of it have been found in the ruins of Crete and Egypt.

Flowers of the Madonna Lily (Lilium Candidum)

Madonna Lily is a member of the Liliaceae family. The Lilium genus name means “lily”. The specific epithet, candidum, means white and glittering.

More on the many Types of Lilies

Lilium Candidum Madonna Lily Care

Size & Growth

This easy to grow lily reaches 3’ – 4’ feet high. Leaves grow in a rosette shape similar to hosta plants.

Foliage appears early in the springtime followed by dramatic, pure white fragrant blossoms. After flowering, the foliage dies away, and the lily bulb becomes dormant until autumn.

Flowering & Fragrance

As with many lilies, the fragrant flowers are white and the bloom time for the trumpet-shaped flowers to appear is toward the middle of spring.

Light & Temperature

When planting Madonna Lily bulbs, be sure to choose a sunny location. These plants need six or more hours a day of direct full sun.

Madonna lilies are winter hardy in USDA hardiness zone 6 through 9.

Watering & Feeding

Throughout the growing season, keep the soil evenly moist but not soggy. Very wet, poorly drained soil will cause bulb rot.

Provide approximately 1” inch of water a week spring through summer.

Be careful not to overwater, and wait until the soil is almost dry before you water again.

Regular watering is especially important during the first two years after the plant is installed.

Remember bulbs need to be kept slightly moist all year round.

If you live in a warmer setting where the ground does not freeze in the winter, and you don’t get significant snow, you should occasionally water during the wintertime.

Never allow the soil to dry out completely.

In a very cold setting, snow will melt a little bit at a time and take care of your bulbs in the wintertime.

You may fertilize using a water-soluble fertilizer twice a month throughout the growing season.

Alternately, use a controlled, slow-release fertilizer early in the growing season.

Simply work it into the soil early in the springtime.

Organic fertilizers, such as matured compost and organic fish emulsion, may also be applied with discretion throughout the growing season.

More Tips on Feeding Lily Plants

Soil & Transplanting

  • Plant the bulbs only an inch or two below the surface of light well-draining soil.
  • These plants are tolerant of a wide range of soil pH and do quite well in alkaline or limestone soils.
  • They can tolerate soil pH ranges from 6 to 8.5.
  • Before you plant your lily bulbs, prepare the soil for about two weeks in advance by working in 2” – 4” inches of aged compost or manure.
  • This will improve the quality of the soil so it can both retain the right amount of moisture and drain off unnecessary water.
  • Aged compost or manure also provides good feeding for your newly planted bulbs.
  • Be sure to work organic matter deep into the soil (approximately 18” inches) to provide your new bulbs with the best start possible.
  • Bulbs should be planted to a depth about three times their overall height and spaced approximately 1 ½ times their width apart. If the bulb is 1” inch wide, it should have a space of 1½” inches all around it.
  • Be careful to place your bulbs so the roots are on the bottom and the stem is pointing up. If you can’t tell which way is up, plant the bulb sideways.
  • Once you have your bulbs placed, fill in soil over the top of them.
  • Remove any clods or rocks in the way.
  • Pat the soil down gently, but don’t tamp it down firmly.
  • You want it to be easy for the stems to poke through the soil.
  • Your garden will look prettier if you plant your bulbs in a slightly random, staggered manner rather than placing them in rows.
  • Squirrels and gophers are problematic for lily bulbs.
  • A light sprinkling of cayenne pepper in the hole before placing the bulb will help keep these pests away.
  • Additionally, you may wish to lay chicken wire over your bulbs until they are well established and start to sprout.
  • A mulch of sharp gravel or lava rock will also keep chipmunks, squirrels, and moles away.
  • You may wish to pair your lilies with Fritillaria or other types of bulbs to repel rodents.

Grooming & Maintenance

Mulching around plants will keep bulbs cool in the hot months of the summer and protect them against freezing in the winter.

Deadhead lily flowers when they fade as this will prevent them from producing seed.

When blooming is over, wait for the leaves to begin to turn yellow.

At this point, cut the plants back entirely.

Very tall lilies may need to be staked to prevent them from toppling over.

This is especially true if you plant in an area not receiving enough sun because this may cause the stems to be very weak.

Naturally, if your area is prone to high winds, you will need to stake your taller lilies.

How To Propagate Candidum Madonna

Bulbs will naturally multiply, divide them to propagate new plants.

When you need to divide these plants, the best time to do it is late in the summertime or early in the autumn.

Lilium Candidum Pest or Diseases

Madonna Lilies tend to have problems with aphids.

To avoid this, leave plenty of space for good air circulation and don’t overwater your lilies.

Additionally, encourage natural predators such as lacewings and ladybugs to help keep aphids under control.

If aphids are allowed to get out of control, they may cause your lilies to develop the lily mosaic virus.

It’s very important to prevent this because once it has set in is impossible to cure.

If your lilies are affected by the mosaic virus, they must simply be removed, destroyed, and replaced.

Is The Madonna Toxic Or Poisonous?

All true lilies are quite toxic to cats.

Is The Lilium Madonna Invasive?

Madonna Lilies are naturalized in the state of Pennsylvania, but they are not considered invasive.

Suggested Uses For Virgin Mary Lily

Fragrant lilies are a great choice for cutting gardens, cottage gardens, and border plants.

Madonna Lilies also do very well as container plants, but they will not attain their full height and may not bloom as abundantly in a container as when planted in the ground.