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“When you think about elusive beauty, nothing compares to an Easter lily,” sounds like a trite statement. But it’s true. To portray such a serene creation as innocent would be naive. The subject comes up because California’s facing another environmental crisis. This time, there’s a flower with a target on its back—the Easter lily.

We start in Del Norte County, California, population: 767. Exhilaration flows when you locate a secluded place for daydream believers. The scenery is pure National Geographic cover material: fragrant air, protected by a bay, soaring redwood forests, hugged by the Pacific Ocean. Smith River is “California Dreamin’.” Of course, that’s only when everyone’s not busy working.

There’s an 800-acre valley next to the Oregon border that’s home to five horticultural farms owned by four families. Every year, the farms provide the world with something remarkable. They produce 95 percent of the world’s 14 million Easter lily bulbs. Smith River is known as the “Easter Lily Capital of the World.”

In 1919, Louis Houghton, a veteran and agriculturalist, collected a suitcase full of hybrid bulbs from Japan. When he returned home to southern Oregon, Houghton shared the flowers among friends and fellow gardeners. The lilies thrived in the region’s fertile, micro-climate.

A florist staple, the trumpet-shaped white lily is indigenous to Japan’s southern Ryukyu Islands. The Japanese held the thriving US lily export market until World War 2. After Pearl Harbor, trade ended, and lilies became scarce. Cottage industry growers saw an opportunity; calling the lilies “white gold.”

Over time, Smith River area bulbs were deemed religiously beautiful. In fact, the superior Del Norte County product wiped-out competition—inferior farms disappeared.

“Consider the lilies, how they grow” (Luke 12:27). Saint Luke knew a thing or two about the lily’s problem: they’re slow growers. Imagine the drawbacks if you had to spend your life buried in moist, rich soil for three to four years. There’s non-stop, labor-intensive cultivation. Hungry rodents, nematodes, and root rot make for trouble too.

Under these conditions, a lifestyle of stress defines the lily. Bulbs are dug up, divided, pruned, and replanted several times. The boxed harvest is shipped to greenhouses for controlled environment force blooming. Forty days of refrigeration is required to create a “fake” winter.

Flowers are always in high demand during holidays, so shipment and scheduling are crucial. There’s just a narrow, two-week sales window before Easter arrives. Despite the difficulties, the market for Easter lilies remains steady each year.

The spirit of Easter revolves around celebrating the Earth’s rejuvenation at spring. It’s also when children expect a basket full of candy from the Easter bunny. Remember kids, putting a chocolate bunny on a radiator to keep it warm—not a good idea.

The white lily fits into part of this tradition. Easter is a movable holiday with a complicated date setting process based on the Paschal full moon. The calendar dates can vary. Easter can fall on a different Sunday each year, anytime from March 22 to April 25. This year Easter falls on April 21.

Let’s take a moment to contemplate all the myth surrounding the lily’s everlasting role in history. There’s a lot to “consider.” Images of lilies first appeared in ancient Crete as a fertility symbol. In Greek and Roman mythology, wily Zeus tricked queen of the gods Hera to suckle young Hercules. The baby super-god was a hard-biter. Hera’s spilled milk sprayed across the sky and became the Milky Way, while Earthbound droplets became lilies. Neat, always wondered how that happened.

Venus, goddess of love emerged from sea foam. Her eyes fixed upon lily’s beauty and turned green. Venus cursed the flower, causing a large pistil to grow in the flower’s center.

Lilies are core to Christianity and the Bible, symbolizing hope, love and the resurrection of Christ. When expelled from The Garden Eden, lilies sprung from Eve’s tears. Lilies were found in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before Christ’s agony. Lilies grew from the Lord’s blood, sweat and tears during his crucifixion.

Known as the Madonna Lily, several religious paintings show the Archangel Gabriel handing the Virgin Mary white lilies, symbolizing her virtue and purity. And, lilies convey a return to innocence after death, explaining the flower’s popularity around a casket.

During the Victorian past, clergy removed a lily’s reproductive parts before altar placement. Religious types deemed the measure appropriate to prevent any sensual experiences from happening at gatherings. The tale and life of Lilium longiflorum may suggest perfection, but that’s not true. In January 2018, California State reported high pollution levels in the Smith River. Lilies require large amounts of pesticides. According to The Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, “Growers use nearly 300,000 pounds of fumigants, herbicides, and fungicides yearly in the estuary.”

California findings also show there’s a significant threat for migrating salmon. Some farm experts say it’s impossible to grow a bulb in the ground for years without bugs or fungus.

Pesticide use is a touchy subject. Part of the lily’s prosperity has to do with the inert nature of its cultivation. And here’s where the irresistible flower presents a challenge. On one hand, California officials, alongside environmental activists, have pollution concerns. On the other, lily growers are making compliance efforts to restructure within the laws. The floriculture industry stands in question, which is understandable because the livelihoods of farmers are at stake in this thin-margin business.

As the sun grows hot in Smith River—the lilies continue to bloom. After all, everyone wants white lilies for Easter. Gardens overflow with blossoms on Easter Sunday. A mysterious, delicate fragrance drifts throughout the church. Upon further investigation, an altar boy discovers the scent’s source.

A statue of the Virgin Mary is surrounded by dozens of fragrant Easter lilies in full bloom. The curious youth takes note of the “pretty things” recalling, “To gild a lily is to attempt, foolishly, to improve on perfection.” And most likely, the lilies came from Smith River.

Oriental Tree Lily Care: Information On Growing Tree Lily Bulbs

Oriental tree lilies are a hybrid cross between Asiatic and Oriental lilies. These hardy perennials share the best traits of both species—big, beautiful blooms, vibrant color and rich, sweet fragrance. Keep reading to learn more tree lily info.

What is a Tree Lily?

Growing tree lilies are tall and the stalks are large but, in spite of the name, they are not trees; they are herbaceous (non-woody) plants that die down at the end of each growing season.

Average height of an tree lily is 4 feet, although some varieties may reach heights of 5 to 6 feet and sometimes more. The plant is available in bold colors such as red, gold and burgundy, as well as pastel shades of peach, pink, pale yellow and white.

Growing Tree Lilies

Tree lilies require similar growing conditions as most other lilies in the garden – well-drained soil and full or partial sunlight. The plant grows in USDA plant hardiness zones 4 through 8, and may tolerate warmer climates in zones 9 and 10.

Plant tree lily bulbs in autumn for blooms the following summer. Plant the bulbs 10 to 12 inches deep and allow 8 to 12 inches between each bulb. Water the bulbs deeply after planting.

Oriental Tree Lily Care

Water your tree lilies regularly throughout the growing season. The soil should not be soggy, but it should never be completely dry.

Tree lilies generally require no fertilizer; however, if the soil is poor, you can feed the plant a balanced garden fertilizer when shoots emerge in spring and again about a month later. If you prefer, you can use a slow-release fertilizer early in the growing season.

Withhold water when the blooms die but leave the foliage in place until they turn yellow and are easy to pull. Never pull the leaves if they are still attached to the bulb because the foliage absorbs energy from the sun that nourishes the bulbs for the next year’s blooms.

Tree lilies are cold hardy, but if you live in a chilly climate, a thin layer of mulch will protect the new shoots from spring frost. Limit mulch to 3 inches or less; a thicker layer attracts hungry slugs.

Tree lily vs. Orienpets

While often referred to as Orienpets, there are slight differences in the these lily plant varieties. Oriental tree lily plants, as previously stated, are an Asiatic and Oriental lily hybrid. Orientpet lilies, also known as OT lilies, are a cross between oriental and trumpet lily types. And then there is the Asiapet lily, which is a cross between an Asiatic and trumpet lily.

Botanists create a ‘Tree Lily’ that grows up to 8ft tall


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Most of us are familiar with Asiatic and Oriental lilies, the true lilies that belong to the genus Lilium. They both develop from a bulb and share similarities yet they are different. The Oriental lily is taller and its bloom size larger than the Asiatic. The Asiatic is not as fragrant as the Oriental.

Recently breeders introduced a stunning hybrid, the tree lily, that is a cross between the Oriental and Asiatic. With the beauty and benefits of both types, the tree lily towers above most other plants in the garden. The one now in full bloom in my garden measures 8 feet in height. Yes, 8 feet tall. Frankly, I thought I was seeing things when its sturdy stake-like stem grew taller by the day pushing its whorls of linear leaves between the branches of a tree in search of sun.

I don’t recall where exactly I purchased the bulb except that it was in one of those cellophane packages found in garden bins at one of Vacaville’s big box stores. I just figured this massive lily was a plain ordinary Lilium that simply outdid itself this year.

The truth is this plant with upward facing white flowers brushed with soft red strokes is not an ordinary Oriental or Asiatic lily but a tree lily. Botanically named Lilium OT hybrid ‘Garden Pleasure,’ this tree lily survives in my garden because it tolerates clay soil. Research reveals this giant lily grows in Zones 3 to 10 in either full sun or half shade and is available in other colors — Satisfaction, Purple Prince, Lavon and Conca d’Or. To view them, visit

Lilium ‘Purple Prince’ (Lily ‘Purple Prince’)

Botanical name

Lilium ‘Purple Prince’

Other names

Lily ‘Purple Prince’, Orienpet lily ‘Purple Prince’, Oriental trumpet lily ‘Purple Prince’


Lilium Lilium

Variety or Cultivar

‘Purple Prince’ _ ‘Purple Prince’ is a vigorous, erect, bulbous perennial with sturdy stems bearing whorled, elliptic, glossy, dark green leaves and, in summer, large, fragrant, bowl-shaped, purple to dark magenta flowers with yellow throats.





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Purple, Magenta in Summer

Dark-green in Spring; Dark-green in Summer; Dark-green in Autumn

How to care

Watch out for

Specific pests

Aphids , Lily beetle (Scarlet) , Slugs , Vine weevil

Specific diseases

Grey mould , Virus

General care


Deadhead regularly.


Separate offsets after the foliage dies down.

Propagation methods


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Where to grow

Lilium ‘Purple Prince’ (Lily ‘Purple Prince’) will reach a height of 1.2m and a spread of 0.5m after 2-5 years.

Suggested uses

Beds and borders, Containers, Cottage/Informal, Flower Arranging, Low Maintenance


Plant at a depth at least 3 times the bulb height in well-drained soil enriched with leaf mould or well-rotted organic matter. Prefers full sun with the base in shade. Often slow to establish after planting.

Soil type

Chalky, Clay, Loamy, Sandy (will tolerate most soil types)

Soil drainage

Moist but well-drained, Well-drained

Soil pH

Acid, Alkaline, Neutral


Partial Shade, Full Sun


North, South, East, West



UK hardiness Note: We are working to update our ratings. Thanks for your patience.

Hardy (H4)

USDA zones

Zone 10, Zone 9, Zone 8, Zone 7, Zone 6, Zone 5, Zone 4

Defra’s Risk register #1

Plant name

Lilium ‘Purple Prince’ (Lily ‘Purple Prince’)

Common pest name

Alfalfa dwarf; Anaheim disease; California vine disease; Dwarf disease of alfalfa; Dwarf disease of lucerne; Leaf scald of oleander; Leaf scald of plum; Leaf scorch; Phony disease of peach; Pierce’s disease of grapevine; Variegated chlorosis of citrus

Scientific pest name

Xylella fastidiosa (all other strains and subspecies)



Current status in UK


Likelihood to spread to UK (1 is very low – 5 is very high)

Impact (1 is very low – 5 is very high)

General biosecurity comments

A bacterial disease with a wide host range and many sub-species and strains; including those that could thrive in cooler climates; showing different levels of pathogenicity. Although EU regulated; there is some concern about the risk of introduction. Should an outbreak occur; there would be a need for eradication action which would result in environmental and social impacts.

Defra’s Risk register #2

Lilium ‘Purple Prince’ (Lily ‘Purple Prince’)

Lance nematode; Nematode; Lance

Hoplolaimus spp.



Nematode species potentially affecting a wide variety of crops; prohibition of soil likely to mitigate risk substantially; keep under review in light of interceptions or findings should they occur in the EU.

Defra’s Risk register #3

Lilium ‘Purple Prince’ (Lily ‘Purple Prince’)

Plantago asiatica mosaic virus

Virus or Viroid


Pest risk analysis suggested potential economic impacts would be small; and management by industry would be appropriate. Industry may wish to monitor for the presence of the pest and the Dutch industry certification scheme is of added benefit to the UK.

About this section

Our plants are under greater threat than ever before. There is increasing movement of plants and other material traded from an increasing variety of sources. This increases the chances of exotic pests arriving with imported goods and travellers, as well as by natural means. Shoot is working with Defra to help members to do their part in preventing the introduction and spread of invasive risks.

Traveling or importing plants? Please read “Don’t risk it” advice here

Suspected outbreak?

Date updated: 7th March 2019 For more information visit:

Lilies: Planting Depth and Distance

Lilies make perfect partners with other plants and help create strikingly beautiful combinations in the garden. There are many Lily species and even more hybrid Lilies to choose from which offer a rich array of heights, colors and bloom times. These hearty bulbs are easy to grow and require minimal care, provided that you plant them in the right place at the proper depth and distance.

The depth and distance apart at which you will plant your Lily bulbs vary according to the type of Lilies.

Asiatic Lilies

Asiatic lilies are among the earliest to bloom and they are also the easiest of lilies to grow. Medium size plants with upward or outward facing flowers, mostly unscented. Their flowers are 4-6 in wide (10-15 cm) and can bloom for up to one month in the garden.

  • Plant them 8 in. deep (20 cm) and 8 in. apart (20 cm).
  • If you do not intend to lift the bulbs at the end of the season and decide to leave them undisturbed for 2-3 years, allow 12 in. (30 cm) to make room for the increasing number of bulbs.

LA Lilies and Orienpet Lilies

LA hybrid Lilies result from crosses between Lilium longiflorum (‘Easter lilies’) and Asiatic Lilies. They are robust growers with strong, sturdy stems and exceptionally large fragrant flowers.

Adored by gardeners, Orienpet Lilies are outstanding garden plants. They are a real breakthrough in the history of Lily breeding. They combine the incredible beauty of the Oriental Lilies with the robustness, heat tolerance and colors of the Trumpet & Aurelian Hybrids. The best of both worlds. Blooming towards the end of the lily season, Orienpet Lilies are perfect additions to the late summer garden. Their fresh and impressive blooms are welcomed by gardeners since many other plants have started to fade.

  • Plant them 8 in. deep (20 cm) and 8 in. apart (20 cm).

Lilium candidum (Madonna Lily)

Cultivated for centuries, award-winner Lilium Candidum is a majestic Lily with large (2-3 in or 6-8 cm long), glistening pure white trumpets facing outward and bright yellow pollen. Celebrated for its intense and delicious fragrance, this prolific Lily produces clusters of up to 20 blossoms per stem for a spectacular long-lasting display. Plant it near a patio and enjoy its intoxicating fragrance on a summer evening!

  • As opposed to the planting directions for other lilies, these Lily bulbs must be planted so that 1 in. (3 cm) of soil covers the nose of the bulb.
  • Plant them 8-10 in. apart (20-25 cm).

Lilium Martagon

Amazingly decorative and easy to grow, Martagon Lilies feature bountiful 2-4 inch blossoms (5-10 cm), mostly downward facing with strongly recurved tepals and resembling a Turk’s cap (hence their common name). Yellow, pink, lavender, light orange, deep dark red and white are the colors most frequently seen and are often accompanied by whimsical speckles and freckles.

  • Plant them 7 in. deep (17 cm) and 7 in. apart (17 cm).

Oriental Lilies

Known as the most flamboyant personalities within the world of lilies, Oriental Hybrid Lilies are characterized by their immense flowers, intense fragrance and rich colors. Blooming over a long period of time, from mid to late summer and even into fall for some varieties, their flowers are usually large and open, outward facing or pendant with striking patterns of spots.

  • Plant them 8 in. deep (20 cm) and 10 in. apart (25 cm)

Species Lilies

Species Lilies are wild lilies, native to North America, Europe, and especially Asia. Delicate and full of charm, there are about 80 to 100 accredited Species. Some of them make excellent garden plants that can be grown without fuss. Others may require special attention to some specific needs and be challenging to grow.

Tiger Lilies

Tiger Lilies (Lilium Lancifolium or Lilium Tigrinum) command our attention with their bright and showy, orange-colored flowers covered with black or deep crimson spots, giving the appearance of the skin of the tiger, hence their common name. Native of China and Japan, they are robust and easy to grow. Amazingly decorative, Tiger Lilies feature unscented 5 inch blossoms (12 cm), mostly downward facing with gracefully recurved tepals. Prolific, mature bulbs can produce up to 12 blossoms per stem and will multiply to form clumps over the years.

  • Plant them 8 in. deep (20 cm) and 8 in. apart (20 cm).

Trumpet Lilies

Blooming in mid summer, Trumpet Lilies enjoy a heavy, sweet fragrance, and their huge waxy trumpet flowers, up to 6-10 in. long (15-25 cm), may be pendant, widely flaring in a shallow bowl shape or be upward facing. Adding distinction and elegance to the garden, their colors vary from pure glistening white to bright gold, yellow, pink, plum, apricot, with some having dramatic maroon petals on the outside of the trumpet.

  • Plant them 8 in. deep (20 cm) and 10 in. apart (25 cm).
  • Trumpet Lilies with large bulbs such as Lilium regale or Lilium ‘Pink Perfection’ need to be planted more deeply, 6-8 in. (15-20 cm). To accommodate their huge flowers, you need to provide plenty of space and plant them at least 15 in. apart (37 cm).

Lily Planting recommendations

  • Plant your Lily bulbs in spring or fall.
  • Plant your Lily bulbs in groups for bolder impact (minimum 3 bulbs), rather than scattering single bulbs. A group of 5 or more will be even more spectacular.
  • Mixing Lilies cultivars is not always a successful idea from a design standpoint. Each cultivar has its own height, blooming period and character. Planting together Lily varieties of varying heights or flowering season would reduce the overall effect.
  • Usually, tall Lilies are planted at the back of the border or at the center of island beds while dwarf Lily varieties are placed at the front. Tall Lilies may be planted among or behind shrub roses and small to medium-sized shrubs such as Spireas, which help in providing support and reduce the need for staking.
  • There is a wide range of companion plants that will bring out the best qualities of your Lilies and share their space with a serene balance. Make sure you select any ornamental grasses, perennials, annuals or shrubs that have the same growing requirements as your Lilies. Most Lilies do best in full sun and well-drained soil, but some varieties prefer partial shade. Most Lilies do well in slightly acidic soil while others, such as Martagon Lilies, love alkaline soils. Be aware that a few rules need to be respected to ensure your Lilies will thrive among these plants.
  • Loosen the soil to a depth of 12-15 inches (30-37 cm). Deep planting is important as it will help stabilize your Lily and potentially eliminate the need for staking. Mix in a 2-4 in. layer of compost (5-10 cm). Dig a hole based on the above depth recommendations and set the Lilies with their roots facing downwards. Cover them with a layer of soil, press down firmly and water thoroughly.

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