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What Do Lily Seeds Look Like?

Ask the Expert: Lilies
I have some beautiful lilies that are about 3 feet tall, orange, and they have what looks like a black seed. It is attached between the leaf and the stem-about the size of a peanut. Are these seeds? If not, what are they? If they are seeds, what do I do with them…plant them or what? Thanks!!!

Plant Expert Reply:

The lily family has many members most of which form round black seeds.  Usually the seed form at the end of a bloom stem.  You can plant the seeds now or harvest and save them to plant later.  If you want to save them wait until the pod opens and collect the seed.  Place the seed in a plastic resealable bag. Be sure to remove as much air as possible. Place the bag with seeds in your refrigerator vegetable crisper until you need them.


  1. Here is a picture of the “seeds.” None of my other lilies have these on them, what type of lily is this?

    Attached Image: 013.jpg

  2. I believe you have a tiger lily (Lilium lancifolium) but the black things in the leaf axils are not actually seeds. They are referred to as bulbils (aerial bulblets). These first appear as small nodule-like buds which become shiny and black as they mature. Fully developed bulbils can be harvested when they are mature. Harvesting needs to be done before they fall to the ground. You can plant these bulbils like you would any bulb and a new plant will form. However, it usually takes 3 or more years before you have a mature flowering plant.

    Some Asiatic hybrids lilies will also make bulbils.

  3. Rick Gabriel says:

    On Lily bulblets, do they have to be dried first? What is the best way to insure a plant. I have huderds of bulblets.

  4. If you want more in the bed the lily are in, simply let the bulblets dry and fall to the ground. Do not use a pre-emerge in the bed or the y will not germinate. If you want them in another bed, you will need to pick them just before they drop. Then scatter them in the bed you want them to come up in or in a pot.

  5. Dee Barbour says:

    What do you mean just before they drop? How will I know when is it’s safe to take the bulblet off the plant?

  6. When the Bulblets begin to look like they are detaching from the plant. Another way is to let one of the bulblets drop on their own and then harvest the rest.

  7. rusty shaikh says:

    i just planted mine. root appears in less then a week, 2″ roots in 2 week…. I have 4 different types of bulblets

  8. Michael Hamilton says:

    I just got a bunch of them off of a tiger lily that has been in my yard for many, many years. I’ve never tried to grow them though. The ones that I have just harvested here seem to have little roots on them. Am I to assume that these are the roots that will develop into the new bulb? This is fascinating! I’m a HUGE lily fan, and I have all different kinds in my yard. These bubils only seem to form on the orange tiger lilies though, and not the white ones. Any ideas why?

    Thanks for any info!

  9. The white ones maybe some type of hybrid that does not reproduce the same way.

  10. Steve Harper says:

    Thanks to everyone who wrote. I love my Tiger Lilies, too, and was wondering about these little black seeds or berries.

    Now I know :) .. and am looking forward to dozens of new lilies a few years from now. Can one plant them in flats or peat pots and grow them indoors over the winter? (I’m in Canada, cold winters)

  11. John Butler says:

    I think that the best way to collect the bulbils is to wait until they begin to drop from the plant. They are easy to recognize – shiny, little black beads at the axis of the leaf. Some will have tiny roots. I collect them and put them in a plastic bag with dry vermiculite and put them in the fridge. You can plant them in starting pots in the springtime. Use a non-organic potting soil (to keep plants from rotting) Keep them in a shady, partially-sunny area until they begin pushing a tiny stalk. Now, you can transplant into the garden. Deer/Rabbit Caution – Deer and rabbits will eat the flower heads as the plant grows. No flower heads – no flowers. You may have to spray the plants to deter the deer and rabbits.

  12. I have these same plants, all over the garden, very tall with lots of black seeds, but no flowers. Just keep getting taller. Could these be weeds? Already pulled some out.

  13. Gale,

    Would need a picture to identify. Can you send one?

  14. Rhonda Lilly says:

    I have ornamental lilies that have bloomed well the last 4 years in a pot. This year one didn’t bloom but grew taller and has little green sprouts at the base of the stem.what are these? Anf why didn’t it bloom this year?

  15. Rhonda,
    More than likely the lily bulb that didn’t bloom is dividing into a number of smaller bulbs. They probably would do better if planted directly in the ground instead of growing them in pots. The smaller bulbs should be separated into individual bulbs. They may take more than one growing season to reach blooming size. Lily bulbs are normally planted about the depth that would be 2 to 3 times their diameter. They want fertile, well drained soil. This time of year when they become dormant is the best time to plant.

  16. Do we harvest them before a frost if they haven’ falling off the plant and are still green in color

  17. I have been harvesting these bulblets from my Tiger Lilies for years. I have taken them in all stages of growth, but the bigger the better. Sometimes they are double bulblets. However, you don’t want to wait too long. They should be planted as soon as you harvest them so they have time to develop a true bulb before winter. I have planted them in peat, high price potting soil, cheap potting soil, starter soil, top soil, garden dirt, clay soil, sandy soil, any kind of medium you can find. It all comes out the same. They will send out a root, sometimes two or three. Then it sends up one narrow leaf about 2-3 inches long with no stem. This leaf is what feeds and makes the true bulb. That is all that happens the first season. Then the plant needs to rest for the winter. If it does not get a chance to rest, it will not develop further. After resting for the winter, they will sent up a thin stem with 3-5 narrow leaves on it. It will stay that way all season. It is just building another, bigger bulb. It needs to rest again for the second winter. The following spring it will send up a thicker stem with 8-10 leaves and stay like that all season. It is building the bulb for it’s mature life. After resting for another winter, it will really take off and finally bloom. The stem will be the size of your little finger and be about 2-3 feet tall. The older they are the taller they get. Mine are over 6 feet tall and the stem is bigger than my thumb. I transplant the bulbs in fall after the top freezes off but before the ground gets hard. The bulbs are the size of a medium onion and has side bulbs like a garlic. But don’t separate them. That will set them back. Let the plant send off side shoots by itself. I have been growing them for over 30 years and I have to keep them from spreading too much with my lawn mower. They are that prolific once you get a good patch growing. If you want to start them in a nursery bed to plant somewhere else, I recommend that you get some empty used 6 pack pots from your local store before they throw them out in the spring. Fill them with half potting soil and half dirt. Put two bulblets in each section and then bury the the 6 pack up to the rim outside in your nursery bed. Leave them there for the rest of the season, through winter, and through the second season. At the beginning of the third season, before they get more than an inch high, take them out of the 6 pack pots and either plant them where you want them to grow or move them to a 4 inch pot and again bury it to the rim in the nursery bed. They will be producing bulblets of their own by now, but they are not viable. You can harvest the seeds, but they may not germinate or be true to variety and it will take an extra year or two depending on when you start the seeds. Planting the bulblets is easier. I only start about a dozen of them every year so I will have some plants to give away when they are three years old. That way my friends will get blossoms the next year and I don’t have to dig up any mature plants to share them. There is one thing to be very careful of. The pollen from the flower looks like it is dark red, but if you get it on your clothes, it makes a bright yellow stain that will not come out. I have turned several good dress shirts into garden/work shirts because I was not careful around them. Enjoy!

  18. BTW… I live in zone 3 and these bulbs have survived 40 below zero as long as there is 6 inches or more of snow.

  19. So do these not multiply on their on? I had one plant for several years and then all of a sudden another one came up and that’s been at least 3 yrs ago, I too want to collect the black seeds this year. Right now I’ve got a round wire Tomato cage over them to protect them, the backyard area is my dog area too!

  20. Jamie Woods says:

    Hi Nancy,
    If you haven’t ever collected the seeds before, it’s likely they fell off and one of them rooted and sprouted. Just watch for when the seeds start to detach from the stalk and collect them as suggested in the other comments. Good luck!

  21. Donna Toon says:

    Why doesn’t my lilies produce seed?

  22. Jamie Woods says:

    Hi Donna,
    What kind of lily do you have? Also, lilies are self-sterile, so they can’t produce seeds if they were pollinated by their own pollen. Cross pollination is the only way seeds can be produced.

  23. Hello Fellow Lilly Lover’s,
    1st time planting Lilys, and may I say I’m very pleased with the out come of these most beautiful plant’s! Here’s my issue though, not quite sure if I understand about the “green about 1 1/2 ‘ long pod ” that grew where the flower has been? I thought another Lily was going to form/grow there, not the case. Are these the seed pods y’all are talking about? I also have a very dark one only small looks like a seed at the top of my Lily plant? Am I making any sense? If you understand what I’m referring to, please someone help me out with this Lily delima. Need to know what to do with these, cut them, plant them, disgared them?
    Thank you so much in advance for all your help with my Lily Delia.
    Sincerely and with care,

  24. Jamie Woods says:

    Hi Michelle,
    The green pods you are referring to are the seed pods. If you are wanting to harvest the seeds to plant, let the pods dry out and start to turn brown. When it begins to crack open, this is when you should harvest the seeds.

  25. Gill Pearce says:

    I have black pods on a Asiatic Lily are these also seeds?

  26. Jamie Woods says:

    These are called bulblets and they can be used to grow new plants. You will want to harvest them before they fall to the ground. Then you can grow them indoors until the following summer and plant them where you like. Be aware that it can sometimes take up to 3 years before they mature enough to produce flowers.

  27. Hi Robert and every lily lover,

    I planted an oriental lily last year in pot from bulb, it bloomed very nice last year. Then I cut the stem off when blooming finish and left it for Winter. This year the plant has grown again, but there are only 5 to 6 tiny stems with leaves, now they are like 2 ft tall. I don’t think they will bloom because the tiny stems will not support the weight of the flowers, and also I don’t see the sign of any new flowers growing….
    Should I let it keep on growing leaves? Or Do I need to do something? Will it bloom again next year?

  28. Jamie Woods says:

    I would continue to let it grow. It’s possible that it won’t bloom again until next year. If you still have it in a pot, you might consider transplanting it to a bigger one. Sometimes they can become crowded and this will hinder their growth.

  29. Thanks Jamie, good advice.

  30. Sylvia Mayer says:

    DAYLILY seeds are after the flower blooms. Watch for the pod to dry out and shake. They are ready to harvest. ASIATIC or STARGAZER LILIES will have black seed like bulbs up and down the stems.

  31. Karen D Fox says:

    Ally, hi i know im late to the convo but hopefully you will see this….when i read your description & question the thing that came to my mind is this : if you prune the foliage off as soon as the flowers have wilted then the plant does not have any way to make the energy that it needs to store up to be able to grow a strong plant the next year to produce its flowers for you. It sounds to me like this may be what happened with yours. It only had enough energy in store to grow a small plant the following season.
    THE GOOD NEWS IS that this years small plant SHOULD be enough for the plant to turn sunlight into stored energy SO IT IS ABLE GROW TO FULL SIZE AND FLOWER FOR YOU NEXT YEAR!
    When i first started gardening i didn’t know the difference between deadheading (removing spent flowers to encourage more blooms OR to prevent the plant from expending energy on seed production so it can use that energy to grow & become stronger)and PRUNING (removing either all or parts of the above ground portion of a plant) and i made the same mistake…luckily plants are usually very forgiving & will recover from our unintentional abuse. We just have to be understanding in turn and allow them the time they require to do that…
    I hope this will be the case for you- Good luck!

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