Gloriosa Lily Planting Guide

This is another plant that seems to be called something different everywhere you go: gloriosa lily, glory lily, flame lily, fire lily, superb lily, climbing lily and creeping lily. All those lilies! And the funny thing is, this tropical wonder isn’t a lily at all. It’s in the same family with fall flowering crocuses or colchicums; plants that couldn’t appear less related.

Gloriosa lilies grow as light weight vines, hanging on to structures with tiny curled leaf tips. The flowers are open, with swept back petals in bright colors and often with wavy edges. These blooms are guaranteed to stop backyard visitors in their tracks with “Oh my, what’s that?!”

Choosing a Growing Site

Gloriosa lilies do well in full sun to mostly sun sites. In the hottest parts of the country, select a site with some shade in the afternoon. These tropical plants are happiest in areas with moderate to high summer heat. With their vining habit they need to something to climb on; flame lilies partner well with open-form shrubs, roses and sturdy mid-size perennials.

Soil Prep

Average, moderately fertile soil with medium amounts of moisture will be fine for glory lilies. Soil that drains poorly and allows water to puddle will encourage tuber rot. Adding a slow release fertilizer when you plant can be helpful if your soil is a bit lean.

When to Plant Gloriosa Lilies

Plant outdoors in spring when frost danger has past and soil has warmed. These plants originate in tropical regions of Africa and Asia and cannot withstand frosts.

How to Plant

Handle your gloriosa lily tubers gently so as not to damage the growing point and to avoid snapping the tubers; they are a bit brittle. 

Dig the soil to loosen, lay the tuber on its side and cover with 2-4" of soil. Pat down to eliminate air pockets and water well to settle the soil. Keep soil very slightly moist - too much water encourages tuber rot. Roots will start growing in 7-10 days and top growth will be visible in 2-4 weeks. Plant about 6" apart.

During the Season

Gloriosa lilies need very little care during the growing season. Snip off spent flowers if you like. If about 1" of rain per week doesn't fall, provide water with irrigation.

At the Season’s End

For gardeners in zones 9-11, and parts of zone 8 where the soil doesn't freeze, gloriosa lilies typically perform as perennials, successfully overwintering outdoors. In colder areas, treat as annuals or overwinter the bulbs indoors where they won't freeze. We hold ours indoors in a box of peat, similar to the way dahlia tubers are stored.

Insider Tips

  1. These fanciful blooms are not huge, about 3-4" each. Find a planting site that's close to where you walk or sit to ensure that you take in every curly, reflexed flower.
  2. Gloriosa lily bulbs have thin skins and no protective sheath (think tulip bulbs.) As such, they are prone to developing a bit of surface mold. While this looks questionable, it doesn't impede their ability to sprout and grow. Go ahead and plant.
  3. Be gentle when planting. These bulbs can be damaged or broken if pushed roughly into the soil.
  4. These plants are highly variable in terms of both form and color. Expect the unexpected - they're all exciting and fun . . . and they may not look exactly like our photos. 
shop gloriosa lilies
shop gloriosa lilies

Success Snapshot

Light: Full sun to mostly sun

Soil: Average

Depth: Plant 2-4" deep, 6" apart

Water: Average moisture

Uses: Short vine; can climb 2-3ft.

Tip: Site to enjoy the fanciful flowers

GUIDE: Gloriosa Lily Planting Guide

They Start Out Looking Like This: