In Germany, the fire lily is one of the wild-growing mountain meadow plants in the foothills of the Alps and in the Harz Mountains. Some specimens have also made it to the fields of northern Lower Saxony, where they are a botanical specialty as field weeds. Particularly large occurrences of the conspicuous Lilium bulbiferum are found on the ground moraine soils from the Ice Age in Wendland. She seems to have been at home there for a long time. Today, fertilization and herbicides as well as deep plowing have brought the tiger lily to the brink of extinction in almost all other areas of Germany. The last wild plants are therefore strictly protected.


  • botanischer Name: Lilium bulbiferum
  • belongs to the lily family (Liliaceae)
  • perennial herb (bulb plant)
  • Height of growth: 20 to 90 cm, rarely up to 1.2 m
  • erect, stiff stems, unbranched
  • Flowers: in strong orange (June to July)
  • Flowers are erect and open at the top
  • Fruits: hexagonal, tripartite capsule with brown seeds

species and occurrence

The fire lily is native to Central Europe and is one of the most widespread wild lily species in Europe. It originally comes from areas between the Pyrenees and the Balkans. Therefore, it is also well adapted to our climatic conditions. As one of the few lily species, it even occurs as a wild plant in cool Scandinavia. Thanks to its undemanding nature, the tiger lily is one of the most popular types of lilies in our gardens. In the literature, a distinction is made between two types of fire lily:

  • Lilium bulbiferum var. bulbiferum: Meadow fire lily or fire lily, has dark brown flower spots, mainly found in the Eastern Alps
  • Lilium bulbiferum var. croceum: Field fire lily or crocus fire lily, occurs mainly in the southern and western Alps, more common form


The tiger lily prefers to grow on humus-rich, slightly calcareous loamy soil, with its roots in the shade and its head in the sun. However, it also thrives in any normal garden soil. It even adapts easily to lean, slightly acidic gravel substrates. The only condition for good growth is that the soil is sufficiently drained and able to retain moisture. Dry floors should therefore be avoided at all costs.

  • Light requirements: sunny to semi-shady
  • prefers shaded soil and a sunny head
  • Soil: loamy with good water storage capacity
  • pH value: very adaptable (neutral, slightly acidic or alkaline)


In cooler regions, the bulbs can be planted in the garden soil from early to mid-autumn, in warmer areas this is possible until late autumn. Onions can also be planted in spring from the end of March in a sheltered spot in the bed. Orange lilies typically produce six to seven terminal flowers on upright stems that are only sparsely leafy with lanceolate leaves. If you buy the tiger lily already in a pot, you can plant it outdoors from mid-May.

  • Time: autumn or spring
  • Planting depth: 15 cm
  • Planting distance: 25 cm
  • plant at least three bulbs in a group


Unlike some other lily species, tiger lilies make a very easy to care for, colorful addition to flower beds and borders. Lilium bulbiferum requires minimal care. She has the ability to grow very quickly and eventually produce a large cluster of buds on each stem. And all this almost without the gardener having to do anything.


The soil should be kept evenly moist. The plants do not tolerate severe drying out or waterlogging. In warm weather or even during periods of heat, it has proven useful to mulch the soil generously to limit evaporation. In this way, the fire lily gets through the summer with occasional watering, without the maintenance effort becoming too great.


If the first shoots appear after the resting phase in winter, fertilization is also started. No additional fertilization is necessary for nutrient-rich, humus-rich soil, which may be worked up with a little compost every spring . A long-term fertilizer such as horn shavings is ideal for nutrient-poor garden soils. Of course, a commercially available flowering plant fertilizer, which is administered via the irrigation water every two weeks, also works in buckets. From the end of July, when the tiger lily slowly fades, you stop fertilizing until next spring.

To cut

If the flower has faded in autumn and the shoots begin to wither, the tiger lily is cut back to ground level. This must not happen too soon. If the plant is still full of juice after flowering, it must first store a large amount of nutrients in the bulb for the winter so that it can sprout again after the winter.


Lilies like the tiger lily can be propagated using a wide variety of methods that are easy to carry out even for hobby gardeners. Here the sowing of the seeds and the propagation via onion bulbs or onion scales come into question. All variants are somewhat time-consuming, although not difficult to implement. Propagating your own fire lily becomes an interesting – and often necessary – task for many lily lovers, because the demand for the fiery beauty is high and the supply is not too plentiful.


In the fire lily and its hybrids, so-called brood buds, also known as buds or bulbils, grow in August after flowering in the leaf axils and at the base of the old flower stalk. As soon as these small onions can be easily detached with your fingers, they are ripe and can be removed. Very mature bulbils even fall off on their own.

  • Time: from the end of August
  • Harvest ripe bulbs and plant directly in the substrate
  • Lilium bulbiferum var. bulbiferum: carries the brood nodules in the upper leaf axils
  • Lilium bulbiferum var. croceum: rarely forms bulbils
  • Substrate: sandy peat soil
  • Distance: about 5 cm
  • Planting depth: maximum 3 cm
  • push a hole in the ground with your finger
  • pickle onion
  • cover with fine soil or peat moss
  • two to three bulbils per pot
  • Keep substrate slightly moist

The nodules planted in pots are treated like seeds and are best left on the window sill in a west or east window without midday sun over the winter. In the coming autumn, small bulbs have already grown from the small brood buds, which can be overwintered in a dark and cool place. In May of the following year, the young fire lilies can then be planted out in the garden.
Tip: If the bulbs are planted directly in the sheltered field, they must be covered with a layer of leaves and spruce branches over the winter. In the spring, this should be removed relatively early.

onion scales

In plants whose onion scales lie very loosely on top of each other, the formation of brood onions can be stimulated by separating individual scales. Propagation via onion scales is considered the easiest way to cultivate new fire lilies. You can’t go wrong with this method. To do this, the bulbs of the plant must be dug up during the dormant phase.

  • Time: from September
  • only dig up when the plant has retreated
  • break off individual scales of the onion
  • cut as low as possible at the bulb base of the mother plant
  • remove a maximum of five to six outer scales
  • Replant mother plant immediately
  • Plant scales in loose substrate
  • the tips of the onion scales must stick out
  • Substrate: sandy peat mixture (moist)
  • alternatively place in a plastic bag with peat moss
  • store in a warm, dark place
  • Temperature: around 20 degrees
  • Keep substrate slightly moist

Within about three months, new bulbs slowly formed at the fracture sites. Before the bulbs can be removed, the bag must be refrigerated for a few weeks to allow them to develop. A cool basement (4 to 8 degrees) or a frost-free garage is suitable for this. Then the onion scales with the brood onions are planted in pots with normal sandy uniform soil or from May, when a few leaves have formed and the onion is already thumb-sized, planted outdoors. If you own a cold frame, you can plant them out earlier in the protected bed.

Tip: Cover cold windowsills with a styrofoam plate so that the pots are nice and warm.


The sowing of the seeds, which form in the seed pods from August, is not particularly difficult, but it is a bit tedious. Not all seeds germinate reliably, so a slightly larger number should always be sown.

  • Time: February
  • Soak seeds in water for 24 hours
  • Sow in a seed tray with a loose substrate
  • Substrate: cactus soil or potting soil
  • Cover seeds lightly with soil or fine sand (dark germs)
  • Lightly moisten the soil
  • Protect from evaporation with a pane of glass or a plastic bag
  • air occasionally
  • Germination time: two weeks
  • the germination can also drag on for months
  • prick out after the first true leaves have formed
  • Leave the seed tray standing
  • some seeds germinate much later
  • Plant out in the garden from May


Fire lilies are native to us and can even be found at high altitudes in the Alps. That is why it is not necessary to protect the bulbs in the garden soil from frosts. Only young lilies or bulbs that have been planted out have to be protected from the severe cold with some brushwood. The same applies to tiger lilies in tubs. This should also be wrapped in polystyrene and placed in a protected place.

diseases and pests

Diseases are very rarely found in the robust fire lily. Only in very damp and cool weather can gray mold occasionally appear. In a natural garden, the dreaded lily beetle, which so readily infests other lily species, is also rare. Fire lilies form a symbiosis with certain types of ants, which protect against the beetles and larvae. You should therefore leave the ants on the plants. If lily beetles do appear, natural means (e.g. parasitic wasps) can be used to combat them.

The fire lily, which occurs as a wild plant in Central Europe, is one of the robust and very easy-care lily species. Perfectly adapted to the climatic conditions, it does not require much care and reproduces independently. Only a sunny to semi-shady place in the garden, the soil of which is well drained and can also store the water, is enough for the pretty flowering plant to sprout vigorously every year and form spectacular flowers.

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