The Easter Lily industry is an American success story. Prior to 1941, the majority of the Easter Lily bulbs were exported to the United States from Japan. World War II eliminated the dependence on Japanese-produced bulbs and commercial bulb production shifted to the U.S. The Japanese have never been able to regain any of their lost market share due to the superior quality of the U.S.-grown bulbs.
Today over 95% of all bulbs grown for the potted Easter Lily market are produced by just ten farms in a narrow coastal region straddling the California-Oregon border, from Smith River, California up to Brookings, Oregon.
The Easter Lily bulbs are harvested in the fall, packed and shipped to commercial greenhouses where they are planted in pots and forced under controlled conditions to bloom for the Easter holiday.
About 11.5 million Easter Lily bulbs were shipped to commercial greenhouses in the United States and Canada in 1996.
The cultivar most widely grown today for greenhouse potted Easter Lily production is called “Nellie White.” This selection was made by a lily grower named James White, and was named after his wife. The cultivar “Nellie White” has large, white trumpet shaped flowers.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Easter Lilies had a wholesale value of $37.4 million in 1995. This makes the Easter Lily the fourth largest crop in wholesale value in the United Sates pot plant market, behind poinsettias, mums and azaleas. Of these four top crops, the Easter Lily has the narrowest holiday sales window, typically only 2 weeks. The poinsettia has a holiday sales window of approximately 6 weeks, and mums and azaleas are available year-round.
TRACING THE ROOTS OF YOUR EASTER LILY
Along a few miles of the Pacific Coast at the Oregon and California border lies a unique area where the ideal combination of climate, soil, water and man has developed a product of deep meaning, beauty and tradition – the Easter Lily.
The Harbor-Brookings bench of Southwest Curry County, Oregon and the Smith River area of Northwest Del Norte County, California, is known as the Easter Lily Capital of the World. Here, lily growers toil year-round in their fields to produce nearly all the bulbs from which the large trumpet-shaped flowers bloom.
Uniquely suited for the production of superior quality Easter Lily bulbs, the area offers a climate of year-round mild temperatures afforded by a protective bay, deep, rich, alluvial soils and abundant rainfall – the exact measure of ingredients needed to produce a consistently high quality bulb crop. The lily-perfect conditions combined with the ingenuity and dedication of the area’s growers are why over 95% of the world’s potted Easter Lilies originate from this narrow coastal strip.
The Easter Lily Capital is accessible only by a narrow and winding coastal highway banked by magnificent Redwood forests, overlooking the spectacularly scenic Pacific Ocean. It seems only fitting that the symbolic flower of Easter, which adds beauty, grace and fragrance to millions of homes, businesses and churches, has its roots in such a pristine and beautiful corner of the world.
The Easter Lily — the Latin name is Lilium longiforum – is native to the southern islands of Japan. In the 1880’s, it was widely cultivated in Bermuda and bulbs were shipped to this country. Around the turn of the century, the Japanese took over the annual growing exportation of Easter Lilies to the United States, and continued to dominate the U. S. export market until the start of World War II.
Current U. S. production began with a World War I soldier, Louis Houghton, who brought a suitcase full of hybrid lily bulbs to the South coast of Oregon in 1919. Houghton freely distributed bulbs to his horticultural friends and neighbors. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, the Japanese source of bulbs was abruptly cut off. As a result, the value of lily bulbs sky-rocketed and many who were growing the lilies as a hobby decided to go into business. The Easter Lily bulbs at that time were called “White Gold,” and growers everywhere attempted to cash in on the crop. By 1945, there were about 1,200 growers producing bulbs up and down the Pacific coast, from Vancouver, Canada to Long Beach, California.
But, producing quality, consistent lily bulbs proved to be an exact and demanding science with specific climatic requirements. Over the years, the total number of Easter Lily bulb producers dwindled down to just ten farms in a small, isolated coastal region straddling the Oregon-California border. This region, called the Easter Lily Capital of the World, produces nearly all of the bulbs for the blooming potted Easter Lily market. Even after the Japanese started to ship bulbs in again after the war, they have never been able to come close to the quality of those healthy, U.S.-grown bulbs, and thus never regained any significant market share.
Precise growing conditions are necessary since the Easter Lily bulbs must be cultivated in the fields for three, and sometimes four years, before they are ready to be shipped to commercial greenhouse growers. Those years, however, are not a carefree time for the bulbs nor for the growers. The bulbs are never dormant and require constant care and attention to assure superior quality and cleanliness. Each bulb is handled up to 40 times before it is ready to be shipped.
A commercial- sized bulb often starts as a small, baby bulblet growing underground on the stem of its mother plant. When the mother plant is harvested, the bulblet is carefully removed and planted in another field. One year later, the bulblet, now called a yearling, is dug up again. The yearling is planted in a new field for another full year of cultivation and specialized care to allow it to grow into its full potential, maturity and status as a commercial bulb.
Bulb harvesting takes place each year in the fall, during late September and early October. At harvest time, the lily fields become a bustle of hectic activity as the growers orchestrate a 3-ring circus. Commercial-sized bulbs are dug, cleaned, graded, sorted, packed and cooled. Yearling bulbs are dug, treated and re-planted in newly-prepared fields for the following year’s commercial crop. And, baby bulblets are stripped from the mother plants and tenderly placed in the ground to start them on the road to becoming commercials in 2 or 3 years.
The commercial bulbs are shipped to greenhouse growers throughout the United States and Canada who force the plants under controlled conditions to flower in time for Easter. This is a very tricky process since Easter falls on a different day each year, dependent upon celestial bodies. The first Sunday that follows the first full moon after the vernal equinox, Easter can be any day between March 22 and April 25. Crop scheduling and timing is critical – another reason why the bulbs have to be of such a consistent high quality with reliable vigor and performance. The flowers must bloom exactly when they’re supposed to, with no margin for error.
From the fields to the greenhouse to your home, the Easter Lily remains the traditional, time-honored flower of Easter. Symbolic of a resurrection, Easter Lilies rise from earthy graves as scaly bulbs, and bloom into majestic flowers that embody the beauty, grace and tranquillity of the special region from which they originate.
THE EASTER LILY HOLIDAY TRADITION
Each holiday is marked by cherished traditions that bring joy, comfort, and warmth, and provide continuity from one generation to the next. Easter has its share of traditions: egg decorations and hunts; gift baskets and chocolate bunnies, sunrise church services, parades, and, of course, the Easter Lily. For many, the beautiful trumpet-shaped white flowers symbolize purity, virtue, innocence, hope and life – the spiritual essence of Easter.
History, mythology, literature, poetry and the world of art are rife with stories and images that speak of the beauty and majesty of the elegant white flowers. Dating back to Biblical lore, the lily is mentioned numerous times in the Bible. One of the most famous Biblical references is in the Sermon on the Mount, when Christ told his listeners: “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they toil not, neither do they spin; and yet….. Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”
Often called the “white-robed apostles of hope,” lilies were found growing in the Garden of Gethsemane after Christ’s agony. Tradition has it that the beautiful white lilies sprung up where drops of Christ’s sweat fell to the ground in his final hours of sorrow and deep distress. Churches continue this tradition at Easter time by banking their alters and surrounding their crosses with masses of Easter Lilies, to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus Christ and hope of life everlasting.
Since the beginning of time, lilies have played significant roles in allegorical tales concerning the sacrament of motherhood. Ancient fables tell us the lily sprang from the milk of Hera, the mythological Queen of Heaven.
The pure white lily has long been closely associated with the Virgin Mary. In early paintings, the Angel Gabriel is pictured extending to the Virgin Mary a branch of pure white lilies, announcing that she is to be the mother of the Christ Child. In other paintings, saints are pictured bringing vases full of white lilies to Mary and the infant Jesus.
The legend is told that when the Virgin Mary’s tomb was visited three days after her burial, it was found empty save for bunches of majestic white lilies. Early writers and artists made the lily the emblem of the Annunciation, the Resurrection of the Virgin: the pure white petals signifying her spotless body and the golden anthers her soul glowing with heavenly light.
It seems the thirteenth-century Barthololmeus Anglicus had this in mind when he wrote: ‘The Lily is an herbe with a white flower; and though the leaves of the floure be white, yet within shineth the likeness of gold.” So goes the saying, ‘To gild a lily is to attempt, foolishly, to improve on perfection.” To many artists and poets it seemed that, if any flower could have one, the lily had a soul.
In yet another expression of womanhood, lilies had a significant presence in the paradise of Adam and Eve. Tradition has it that when Eve left the Garden of Eden she shed real tears of repentance, and from those remorseful tears sprung up lilies. The spiritual principle held here is that true repentance is the beginning of beauty.
A mark of purity and grace throughout the ages, the regal white lily is a fitting symbol of the greater meaning of Easter. Gracing millions of homes and churches, the flowers embody joy, hope and life. Whether given as a gift or enjoyed in your own home, the Easter Lily serves as a beautiful reminder that Easter is a time for rejoicing and celebrating.
The following poem by Louise Lewin Matthews captures the spiritual essence of the Easter Lily:
Easter morn with lilies fair
Fills the church with perfumes rare,
As their clouds of incense rise,
Sweetest offerings to the skies.
Stately lilies pure and white
Flooding darkness with their light,
Bloom and sorrow drifts away,
On this holy hallow’d day.
Easter Lilies bending low
in the golden afterglow,
Bear a message from the sod
To the heavenly towers of God.
-Louise Lewin Matthews
HOW TO MAKE YOUR EASTER LILIES KEEP ON GIVING
The Easter Lily, the traditional time-honored flower of Easter, is highly regarded as a joyful symbol of beauty, hope and life. The large, trumpet-shaped, fragrant white flowers make a meaningful gift that embodies the very essence of the celebration of Easter. Whether you plan to give the potted plants as a gift or use them to decorate your own home, the following tips will help make your Easter Lilies keep on giving.
Two of the greatest charms of the Easter Lily are form and fragrance, so look for high quality plants that are aesthetically pleasing from all angles. Select medium-to-compact plants that are well-balanced and proportional in size – not too tall and not too short.
For the longest possible period of enjoyment in your home, look for plants with flowers in various stages of ripeness. For example, the best selection would be a plant with just one or two open or partly open blooms, and three or more puffy, unopened buds of different sizes. The ripe puffy buds will open up within a few days, while the tighter ones will bloom over the next several days.
As the flowers mature, remove the yellow anthers before the pollen starts to shed. This gives longer flower life and prevents the pollen from staining the white flowers. When a mature flower starts to wither after its prime, cut it off to make the plant more attractive while you still enjoy the fresher, newly-opened blooms.
When selecting plants, be sure to also cheek out the foliage: an abundance of dark, rich green foliage is not only attractive, but a vital sign of good plant health. The foliage should appear dense and plentiful, all the way down to the soil line, a good indicator of an active, healthy root system.
Be wary of Easter Lilies displayed in paper, plastic or mesh sleeves. The protective sleeves are used for shipping and should be removed immediately upon arrival at the store. While the packaging may seem convenient, the quality of the plants will deteriorate if they are left sleeved too long. Also avoid waterlogged plants, especially if the plant looks wilted. This could be a sign of root rot.
In the home, Easter Lilies prefer moderately cool temperatures. Recommended daytime temperatures are 60o to 65o F. with slightly cooler night temperatures. Avoid placing plants near drafts, and avoid exposure to excess heat or dry air from appliances, fireplaces or heating ducts. The lily will thrive near a window in bright, indirect natural daylight, but avoid glaring, direct sunlight.
Easter Lilies prefer moderately moist, well-drained soil. Water the plant thoroughly when the soil surface feels dry to a light touch, but avoid over-watering. If the pot is wrapped in decorative foil, be careful not to let the plant sit in trapped, standing water. For best results, remove the plant from decorative pots or covers, take it over the sink and water thoroughly until water seeps out of the pot’s drain holes to completely saturate the soil. Allow the plant to air for a few minutes and discard the excess water before replacing it back into its decorative pot cover.
After the last bloom has withered and has been cut away, you can continue to grow your Easter Lilies, and even plant them outside in your garden to enjoy them for years to come. Once the lilies have finished flowering, place the potted plants in a sunny location. Continue to water thoroughly as needed, and add one teaspoon of slow-release Osmocote fertilizer every 6 weeks. You can move the pots to a sunny location outdoors after the danger of frost has passed.
To plant your Easter Lilies outside, prepare a well-drained garden bed in a sunny location with rich, organic matter. Use a well- drained planting mix, or a mix of one part soil, one part peat moss and one part perlite. Good drainage is the key for success with lilies. To ensure adequate drainage, raise the garden bed by adding good soil to the top of the bed, thus obtaining a deeper topsoil and a rise to the planting area.
Plant the Easter Lily bulbs 3 inches below ground level, and mound up an additional 3 inches of topsoil over the bulb. Plant bulbs at least 12 to 18 inches apart in a hole sufficiently deep so that the bulbs can be placed in it with the roots spread out and down, as they naturally grow. Spread the roots and work the prepared soil in around the bulbs and the roots, leaving no air pockets. Water in immediately and thoroughly after planting. Try not to allow the soil to heave or shift after planting.
As the original plants begin to die back, cut the stems back to the soil surface. New growth will soon emerge. The Easter Lilies, which were forced to bloom under controlled greenhouse conditions in March, bloom naturally in the summer. You may be rewarded with a second bloom later this summer, but most likely you will have to wait until next June or July to see your Easter Lilies bloom again.
Another planting tip to consider is that lilies like their roots in shade and their heads in the sun. Mulching helps conserve moisture in between waterings, keeps the soil cool and loose, and provides a fluffy, nutritious medium for the stem roots. Or, a more attractive alternative would be to plant a “living mulch,” or a low ground cover of shallow-rooted, complementary annuals or perennials. The stately Easter Lilies rising above lacy violas or primulas is not only aesthetically pleasing, but also sound gardening.
The Easter Lily bulbs are surprisingly hardy even in cold climates. Just be sure to provide winter protection by mulching the ground with a thick, generous layer of straw, pine needles, leaves, ground corncob, pieces of boxes or bags. Carefully remove the mulch in the spring to allow new shoots to come up, as your Easter Lilies will keep on giving beauty, grace and fragrance in years to come.
Those pretty indoor Easter lilies are really hardy perennials, so don’t throw them out after the Easter holiday has passed, plant them outdoors to beautify your landscape instead.
Prolonging Indoor Bloom
To prolong bloom time indoors, be sure to pinch off the yellow anthers as soon as the flowers open. This prevents pollination (un-pollinated flowers last longer), and keeps the flowers white. Daytime temperatures in the 70’s and nighttime temperatures in the 40’s will also prolong bloom time. Warmer temperatures negatively impact bloom time.
Preparing for Outdoor Bloom
If grown indoors as a houseplant, it’s difficult to get an Easter lily to re-bloom, but if planted outdoors, they readily re-bloom each year. To prepare for planting outdoors (once your Easter lilies flowers have faded) remove all of the plant’s flowers. This forces the plant to enlarge the bulb rather than producing flower seed. Then, keep it in bright, indirect light until nighttime temperatures stay above 40 degrees outdoors.
Plant it about 6 inches deep, in a partially-sunny site with well-drained soil. Cover with several inches of mulch in cold winter areas for winter protection. Easter lilies planted this way should bloom mid-summer next year.
Right after Easter is also a good time to check for deals on Easter lilies at stores, they’re usually trying to get rid of them (who wants them after Easter has passed after all). Sometimes you can find them for ridiculously low prices!
- Yes – Easter Lilies Can Indeed Be Saved & Thrive Outdoors!
- Care & Advice
- Good To Know
- Easter Lily Meaning
- Everything You Need To Know About The Easter Lily
- The Symbolism
- The History
- The Care
- Here’s What Each of the Most Popular Easter Flowers Symbolize
- Easter Lily and Lily of the Valley
- Baby’s Breath
- Daisies and Dandelions
- TRADITIONAL EASTER LILYFlowering Easter Plant
- Plant Care Tips For Potted Easter Lilies
- Easter Lily (Lilium longiflorum) Plant Care Tips:
Yes – Easter Lilies Can Indeed Be Saved & Thrive Outdoors!
Easter lilies (Lilium longiflorum) are beautiful with their white trumpet flowers and are traditionally given as gifts or purchased for decoration during the holiday season. They produce such a lovely fragrance and when they’re arranged in groups, the display is stunning!
This year don’t toss away that splendid lily after the blooms are gone–save & nurture it! Give it a chance at new life by trying to grow it in your garden…there’s a good chance you will be rewarded with more blooms in the Fall or next Spring.
Care & Advice
Here’s how you can save Easter lilies to enjoy from one season to the next.
- Choose a sunny or bright location that receives plenty of “indirect” light during the day. Position away from heat sources (like a heat register) since it prefers being cool at night.
- Water when soil feels dry to the touch but avoid overwatering. I tend to give a little drink each day, keeping things moist/damp but not waterlogged or soggy…depends on how dry my home is at the time.
- Once it blooms and the leaves begin to yellow, continue watering until ready to transplant outdoors (allow the leaves to die naturally before pruning them). Wait until the blooms are gone before moving to the garden.
Making The Move Outside:
- When all danger of frost has passed in the Spring and as soon as the soil can be worked, plant the bulb 6 to 8 inches deep.
- Choose a location where it will receive plenty of sun and make sure the soil is well-draining.
- Once the bulb is planted, top the soil with about an inch or two of mulch to help keep the roots cool during the hot summer.
- Important: Keep the stem and leaves intact, cutting down to ground level only when it dies back (in the Fall) before snow comes.
- You might get lucky and have it re-bloom in the Fall of the same year it is transplanted but it more typically does so in late Spring of the following year (expect it to make an appearance sometime during May, June or even July). If the plant is thriving but produces no blooms during the following summer of first planting it outdoors…don’t give up on it and leave it in the ground. They’ve been known to appear for the first time after the 2nd year!
- When first making your selections to buy, choose those that haven’t fully bloomed and have several unopened buds, this will give you an extended time of flowering.
- Is the tall stem starting to lean over in one direction? Simply turn the pot the other way to give the other side the best light exposure. This will force it back so it grows upright.
- Foil Wrap Traps: The pretty foil wraps around the container holds the water so the pot doesn’t drain well and the roots don’t like that! Remove the foil or poke some holes in the bottom (setting the whole thing on a tray to collect the excess water).
- If it starts growing up out of the soil too early in the Spring (when it will likely get killed off by frost), try covering the new growth with a few inches of potting soil.
- You can stretch the life of the blossoms by removing the little yellow pollen anthers in the center of the flowers. Careful when doing so, they can stain fingers and clothes terribly. This also helps maintain nice blossoms that are white & unstained.
- As with most flowering plants, pinching off the faded blossoms helps the bulb stay strong & focused on high production.
- If you live in a colder climate than Zone 6, try mulching heavily in the Fall–it might just do the trick and ensure the lily makes an appearance next Spring. I know someone with a green thumb who lives in Zone 3…she’s bringing them back to life year after year!
Vintage Illustration – Boston Public Library
Good To Know
- The white trumpet flowers symbolize purity, hope and life.
- After Easter services many Churches will tend to the plants as long as they can then throw them out. Check with your parish and let them know you’re interested in taking a few home when they’re ready to get rid of them…you might just get a few for free!
- Lilies are very poisonous to cats so make sure to keep them out of reach of your favorite feline.
- No garden or flower bed to dig into? You can repot in a patio container and grow outside on your deck or balcony.
- Position: full sun or partial shade
- Soil: well-drained soil
- Rate of growth: fast-growing
- Flowering period: June to July
- Hardiness: frost hardy (may need winter protection)
- Bulb Size: 14/16
Big, deliciously scented, white flowers form in open clusters at the top of the upright stems in midsummer. These wonderfully showy flowers look brilliant in the border, but also work well in large, deep pots and containers. Make sure they are planted near a path, seating area or entranceway, so you can enjoy their heady perfume each time you pass. The flowers will also last well after being cut, so make sure you plant some extras for the vase. The RSPCA have recently reported that all parts of lilies can be fatal to cats, including the flower, leaves and pollen. For more information visit Rspca.org
- Garden care: Lilies can be planted at any time from early autumn, to mid-spring. Planting in autumn often helps them settle in and become better established before they start to put on their new spring growth, but spring planting is a better option if your soil is heavy and wet during winter. Choose a sunny spot, preferably where the plant receives a little light shade at its base, and plant each bulb 15-20cm deep in a well-drained soil, enriched with well-rotted organic matter or leaf mould. Space them between 15 – 30cm intervals and provide support before the flowers appear. Deadhead the faded blooms promptly and cut the dead stems back to ground level at the end of autumn.
Easter lilies may look prissy, but they are not the high-maintenance beauty queens most people think they are. In most regions of the United States, zones 4-9 in fact, lilies can thrive. Otherwise known as Lilium longiflorum, the tall, white, graceful blossoms decorate mother’s tables and adorn alters through Passover season each spring.
Think of bulbs like eggs – Easter eggs, if you will. Just as you wouldn’t boil and color a cracked egg, plant only undamaged bulbs. Discard bulbs that have cracks, mold or discolorations. Also be wary of soft or rippled spots.
Bulbs should be large, tear shaped, and round at the base. Mature bulbs will oftentimes beget small baby bulbs. These can actually be separated from the parent bulb and planted independently. Commercial growers produce more lilies year after year in that way.
Planting Easter Lily Bulbs
Lilies don’t require particular soil pH, and they don’t mind full or partial sun. Easter lily bulbs, however, are more fragile than other lily bulbs because they don’t have the natural protective wrapper that most other lilies have. This covering is called a tunic because it protects bulbs from extreme temperatures and from drying out. Easter lilies are more susceptible because of their lack of this extra protection.
Make sure you plant your Easter lily bulbs as soon as they arrive. They need moist but well-drained soil. They will also appreciate nutrient-rich dirt that has been amended with aged organic matter. Leaf mold, peat, or composted manure will create a suitable soil structure and offer your bulbs an ideal growing environment.
After removing sticks and rocks, plant bulbs at least a foot apart and three inches under the ground in a hole that’s been lined with bone meal. Mound up another three inches of soil on top of the bulb. Commercial growers have machines that plant the bulbs and then add dirt to the top of the entire row at once. Home gardeners might find it helpful to simulate this technique in order to save time and effort.
After bulbs are planted in amended soil, you won’t need to feed them again until you see the green of their new leaves. At that time, water the new plant after encircling it with organic fertilizer. During this infant stage, don’t allow dirt to move when watering or in wind as shifting soil might damage plant development.
Mulching will maintain moisture and keep the roots cool. While compost will work, bark or wood chips will suffice until winter. You can also mulch lilies – and most other deep-rooting bulbs – with shallow-rooting plants, like violas, that will turn your lily display into a bouquet. For winter, if you experience a hard freeze in your area, put a blanket of straw over planted bulbs for protection.
After harvesting for cuttings, old plants will begin to die back. Remember, the foliage may be dying, but the bulbs are perfectly healthy. If you’re in a milder climate, you can encourage a second growth in one season by cutting the stems all the way down to the soil surface.
The implication that Easter lilies are forced to bloom for holidays in greenhouse conditions would be that plants would not be thrifty enough for a second bloom in the same season. In reality, Smith River, CA produces over 95% of the Easter lilies in fields just south of the Oregon border. White flower blooms make it look like snow has blanketed the fields every spring on the coast of the Pacific Northwest.
Cutting & Display
Lilies make beautiful floral displays as full plants or cuttings. Keep your lily plant reblooming by removing spent blooms. If you take a cutting, clip one third to half the stem. You don’t want to take more than that since the plant uses all its top matter to refuel the hidden bulb for the next growing season. Snip off the anthers at the top of the stamen on cut flowers because the orange pollen produced there can stain clothing and irritate allergies. Florists say this also encourages longer-lasting blooms.
A lily is an excellent focal-point in any bouquet, placed at the center base of the display. This flower can also stand alone with maximum impact in a single vase. To arrange multiple lily cuttings in large bouquets, cut an odd number of blooms (3, 5, or 7) at varying lengths. Place them in the vase before other flowers, with the shorter stems in the front and longer stems like a pyramid in the back. Add complimenting flowers to the vase, building the bouquet into a beautiful center piece or gift.
Easter Lily Meaning
The Easter season is masked with several legends and folklores about the lily and its religious significance. Easter Lily is the traditional flower of Easter and is highly regarded as a joyful symbol of elegance, beauty, spirituality, hope, and life. In Christendom the lily has come to symbolize the resurrection of Jesus because of its delicacy of form and its snow white colosr.But have you ever wondered about the history and significance of this symbolic Easter flower, which adds elegance, grace and fragrance to millions of homes and churches during the spring time.
Every year, on the first Sunday after the first full moon, churches are filled with exquisite Easter lilies. Churches at Easter time grace the altars and surround the cross with Easter Lilies, to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
This importance rests even more clearly on a legend that the blood of Jesus, as it fell from the cross, was by a miracle transformed into flowers which filled heaven and earth.The popular Easter lily we use today to celebrate the holiday is referred to as the white-robed apostles of hope. These beautiful trumpet shaped white flowers were brought to the United States in 1875 from Japan by an American tourist and named after the florist who made it popular. The flower retells the resurrection story with its life cycle. These snow white flowers symbolize new life and hope.
The bulb of these flowers buried in the ground represents the tomb of Jesus and the glorious white trumpet-like fragrant flowers which grow from the bulbs symbolize His life after death. The snowy white color stands for the purity of the Divine Savior and the joy of the resurrection while the trumpet shape signifies Gabriel’s trumpet call to rebirth and new life.
Easter Cards in Different Languages
Everything You Need To Know About The Easter Lily
During the Easter season, homes and churches alike are adorned with the gorgeous, fragrant white blooms we call Easter lilies. But have you ever thought about where these flowers came from, or how they got their name? As you pick out a lily arrangement to show off on your Easter table, you can take a little extra knowledge (and some tips from our very own Grumpy Gardener) with you.
There are several theories about Christian symbolism surrounding the Easter lily. Often referred to as “white-robed apostles of hope,” their color symbolizes the purity of Christ, who was free from sin. In many paintings, the angel Gabriel is depicted as handing Mary white lilies, which symbolizes her purity as well. The trumpet shape of the Easter lily represents a trumpet sounding the message that Jesus has risen, and the nature in which lilies grow is symbolic of the resurrection as well. From ugly bulbs that are underground for three years or longer, they become beautiful flowers. This process is reminiscent of Jesus’s brutal death and holy resurrection. Thus, lilies represent rebirth and hope, just as the resurrection does in the Christian faith.
Lilies are also mentioned or alluded to several times in the Bible. Some think that it was white lilies that sprouted in the Garden of Eden as Eve’s remorseful tears fell to the ground. There are also theories that Easter lilies grew where Jesus’s tears and blood fell from the cross, and lilies were supposedly found in the Garden of Gethsemane after the crucifixion, tying them even closer to the Easter holiday.
In Matthew 6:25-29, Jesus says, “Therefore I say unto you, Be not anxious for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than the food, and the body than the raiment? Behold the birds of the heaven, that they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; and your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not ye of much more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit unto the measure of his life? And why are ye anxious concerning raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”
Although Easter lilies are symbols of new life and purity, their history of getting to America is actually rooted in war. Easter lilies are native to a few islands south of Japan. They were brought to England in 1777 and later Bermuda, where they were produced on a large scale and earned their first nickname, the Bermuda lily. After a virus wiped them from Bermuda, Japan was once again the only source of Easter lilies.
Following World War I, solider Louis Houghton brought a suitcase of lily bulbs from Japan back to the U.S., specifically to his home state of Oregon. Houghton gave the lily bulbs to his horticultural friends, and soon enough, the area along the California-Oregon border, which happened to have prime growing conditions for the flowers, became known as the Easter Lily Capital of the World. After Pearl Harbor, Japanese shipment of Easter lilies was cut off, which brought high demand to the Oregon and California growers, giving the flowers yet another nickname—White Gold.
Oregon and California now produce the majority of the world’s Easter lilies, although there are only about 10 growers left. Easter lilies are difficult to grow, and the process to the final product is a long, precise one. The bulbs have to be cultivated in fields for at least three years, during which they require care, moving, and tending as they progress through growth stages. Once the bulbs are ready to be shipped, they’re placed under strict temperature restrictions to ensure they bloom on time for Easter, which can be a gamble, considering Easter doesn’t fall on the same day each year. So when you pick up an Easter lily at the store this year, keep in mind the years of work that got it to you. Pretty neat.
Now that you know about the Easter lily’s origin, we’ve got some tips for how to care for your Easter lilies, from our resident Grumpy Gardener, Steve Bender:
“Churches and greenhouses all across the South are overflowing with Easter lilies (Lilium longiflorum) right now, but what should you do with the flowers after Easter? Plant them, of course. Unlike poinsettias, which are hardy only in the Tropical South (USDA Zones 10 through 11), Easter lilies are perennial everywhere. Depending on the selection, they grow 1 to 3 feet tall and bear clusters of very fragrant, trumpet-shaped flowers up to 7 inches long. Plant them in a sunny spot with well-drained soil at the same depth as they were situated while growing in their containers. Then spread several inches of mulch around the bases of the flowers. To avoid viruses, don’t plant Easter lilies with other lilies.”
WATCH: How To Make an Easter Centerpiece
Whether you’re picking up an Easter lily to gift, decorate, or just admire, you can appreciate the arduous passage it took to you and keep it growing for years.
Here’s What Each of the Most Popular Easter Flowers Symbolize
Easter is a celebration of rebirth. Take a look around and you’ll start to see the signs in the first months of spring between March and April when flowers begin to bloom and animals give birth to their young. After the long winter, the canvas of vivid colors and pastels-and yes, that fresh fragrance of blooming trees-contribute to the idea of waking up in a new world filled with promise.
Historians once believed that Easter had connections to the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring and fertility Eostre, but newly discovered facts tell a different story. The word “Easter” has been traced back to the Latin phrase for a Christian celebration called “in albis” (meaning “dawn”) that later became the Old High German word “eostarum,” according to Britannica. The holiday celebrates Easter Sunday as the day of Jesus Christ’s resurrection, which is written in the New Testament of the bible. For Christians around the world, this symbolizes redemption for humankind, forgiveness for past wrongdoing, and an opportunity to live a better life. Over the years, spring flowers-those that bloom between March and April-have taken on a special meaning for the holiday. Colors like red, white, and purple symbolize of different aspects of the Easter story while the flower’s shape indicates other meanings. As beautiful as these flowers are in nature, nothing compares to how they can be used at home in tabletop centerpieces, baskets, and outdoor decorations.
RELATED: HOW TO CARE FOR YOUR EASTER LILY
Easter Lily and Lily of the Valley
White flowers like the Easter lily often symbolize purity and innocence. For Christians, this purity and innocence is associated with Christ. Lilies also have religious significance from being mentioned in the Bible, both in the Old and New Testaments. Lilies of the valley were mentioned by King Solomon several times and referenced by Christ in the Sermon on the Mount. The lily of the valley symbolizes the Advent of Christ and the purity of the Virgin Mary, according to “Signs & Symbols in Christian Art” from Oxford University Press.
Discovered by a Swedish naturalist named Carl Peter Thunberg in 1777, modern-day lilies originate from the Ryukyu Islands of Japan. English and Bermuda horticulturists began growing their own crops of the lilies. But it wasn’t until the flowers made it to flower shops in Philadelphia that the lilies began to be called Easter lilies.
Tulips are the ultimate spring flower. Beautiful and vibrant, these flowers come in an array of different colors. According to ProFlowers, white tulips are associated with forgiveness, a common theme for Easter. The purple tulip represents royalty, so a bouquet with white and purple tulips would celebrate the royalty of Jesus Christ as the son of God.
The tulip has its origins in Turkey but became associated with Holland after being cultivated by the Dutch. A little-known and interesting fact about tulips is that their bulbs became so prized that they were used as currency for a time, until the tulip market crashed. But, as author and historian Anne Goldgar cautions, there never really was a “tulip fever.” Tulips remain popular to this day because of their beauty and versatility. You can find a tulip to express your feelings or decorate a room with relative ease thanks to the many varieties. For Easter, an arrangement of tulips is always a lovely choice.
RELATED: BEAUTIFUL FLORAL CENTERPIECES FOR EASTER AND SPRING
Irises symbolize the Passion of Christ and resurrection, as told in historical manuscripts at The Getty. Irises come in different colors, each with their own symbolism. According to the Journal of Experimental Botany, “iris” is a Greek word that means “rainbow” (because of its many available colors). The flowers have sword-like petals, which may explain why the flowers are sometimes referred to as “sword lilies,” according to “Signs & Symbols in Christian Art.” The upright petals of the iris are said to symbolize the three virtues: faith, valor, and wisdom.
When arranging irises for display, choose one type and one color per container for the prettiest effect. An old-fashioned celery glass makes a nice vase for these flowers.
Baby’s breath symbolizes innocence and purity. On Easter, this refers to the purity of Christ. They mostly come in white, though pink baby’s breath is sometimes found. These delicate, tiny flowers are often used as filler in bouquets and make for gorgeous arrangements.
For Easter, baby’s breath adds a lightness to bouquets, wreaths, and centerpieces for the table. Add a garland of baby’s breath along a banister to accent the other flowers in your home.
Daisies and Dandelions
If any flower is iconic of spring, the daisy is a given. White daisies symbolize hope, serenity, and purity, according to Eastern Floral. The dandelion also have some religious symbolism for Easter. According to “Symbols of the Christian Faith” by Alva William Steffler, it was featured in Flemish and German paintings of the Crucifixion and thus came to represent the Passion of Christ.
For Easter, daisies and dandelions pair well together in bouquets, boutonnières, and front door wreaths. The white petals and yellow center adds a pop of color that brightens up any room.
- By Roxanna Coldiron
TRADITIONAL EASTER LILYFlowering Easter Plant
Plant Care Tips For Potted Easter Lilies
The Easter Lily (Lilium longiflorum) is a midseason bloomer with pure white trumpet-shaped blossoms that are widely grown for pot production or cut flowers. The popularity of the Easter Lily soars during the early spring when Easter is celebrated. However, the natural blooming period for this beloved flower is from early to mid-summer, typically during the months of June and July. Potted Easter Lilies can be grown indoors until temperatures are warmer, when they can be plant outside.
Easter Lily (Lilium longiflorum) Plant Care Tips:
Potted Easter Lilies grown indoors will need bright, indirect natural daylight; direct, bright sunlight can cause burning issues. Potted Easter lilies (Lilium longiflorum) can be planted in the garden after all danger of frost; this should be done after the flowers have withered away. Plant Easter Lilies in a sunny location; make sure the bed is well drained, organically rich and mulched. Easter lilies like to have their roots shaded; mulch will help shade the roots.
Potted Easter Lilies (Lilium longiflorum) often arrive with a decorative foil wrapper, paper, plastic or mesh sleeves. Remove the wrapper as soon as possible. The packaging around an Easter Lily can cause the lily to become water logged. Indoors the potted Easter Lilies require a medium moisture level and must not be allowed to stand in water for any length of time. Once the Easter Lily is planted in the garden it should be watered freely during the active growth period and kept towards the moist side during the winter.
Although Easter Lilies (Lilium longiflorum) are among the more alkaline tolerant lilies, they are best in slightly acidic to neutral soil (6.5 to 7.0). Potted Easter Lilies that are blooming will not need to be fertilized. Easter Lilies in the garden will need a balanced fertilizer as the new shoots emerge in the spring. During the growing season the Easter Lilies do best with a slow release fertilizer applied once or twice.
Pests and Diseases
Easter Lilies (Lilium longiflorum) are susceptible to a small number of insects, viruses, fungal diseases, and some small animals. Common insects are red lily beetles, slugs, snails and aphids. Insects like aphids can spread viruses, however, many of the new lily varieties are tolerant or immune to these viruses. Gray mold is the most common fungal disease and is most problematic during a wet, cool spring or summer. Root rot is another issue that plagues Easter Lilies that are not in well drain soil or pots with drainage holes. Birds may peck holes in the buds while rabbits, groundhogs, and deer may eat the entire plant.
Potted Easter Lilies prefer a cool temperature around 65degrees Fahrenheit during the day and slightly cooler at night. Exposure to wide temperature changes is detrimental to the Easter Lily. They do not like drafts from doors or exposure to excessive heat or dry air; keep away from air ducts. In the garden Easter Lilies can live in Zones 7 to 9. Temperatures in these zone range from a maximum cold of 0 degrees Fahrenheit to multiple days over 86 degrees Fahrenheit.
Propagation and Potting
Easter lily (Lilium longiflorum) seeds should be sown in a cold container as soon as ripe. Easter lilies seeds may also be germinated under lights indoors at 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit during the spring. For vegetative propagation remove scales, offsets, or bulblets as the foliage dies down in the summer. These can be stored for later planting or immediately planted in new areas.
Buy potted Easter Lilies from a local florist!