Love them or hate them, orange tiger lilies (Lilium lancifolium, also known as Lilium tigrinum) are one hardy plant. Unlike fancier hybrid lilies, tiger lilies seem to seed themselves throughout a garden. But it’s not seeds that are dropping throughout the borders, it’s bulbils. Bulbils are baby bulbs and if you look closely at the stems of your tiger lilies, you’ll see small black balls where the leaves meet the stems. These are the bulbils.
Bulbils start forming when the tiger lilies and their hybrids bloom, in late summer. You’ll know they’re ripe when they start to fall off on their own, with a gentle nudge. When they fall, they send out what’s called an exploratory root. This root finds its way into the soil and then pulls the bulbil under with it.
Can You Encourage Them to Sprout?
Tiger lily bulbils need light and a chilling period to germinate, so don’t expect to see plants until next season. If you’re a tiger lily lover, you can bring them indoors to start. Just pot them up or place them in a plastic bag with some dampened potting soil and place the whole thing in the refrigerator for a month. Then move them to a sunny spot or under grow lights and they should germinate within a few weeks. The plants won’t get very large and you can move them outdoors when the soil warms.
Why You Might Want to Avoid Tiger Lilies
Besides being victims of garden snobbery, tiger lilies have some very real drawbacks.
First, they are toxic to cats. If you have cats, you definitely should not start the bulbils in doors and you will want to keep the cats away from the plants outdoors. If cats eat any part of the plant, it can result in stomach upset, kidney failure and even death.
Secondly, tiger lilies are too healthy for other lilies, either. Tiger lilies are carriers of viral diseases. Although they are rarely affected by these viruses, they bring them into the garden where they can infect other types of lilies. If you are growing both, keep them well apart.