Planting an easter lily

Do you have a hard time keeping your lilies blooming? Well, we are here to help you develop a green thumb! Whether you are interested in gifting or have just received an Easter Lily, we have some pro tips to make those flowers blossom.

Easter Lilies are white, trumpet-shaped flowers that have become increasingly popular for their attractive blooms and wonderful fragrance. Native to the southern islands of Japan, 95 percent of Easter Lilies now come from an area along the border of California and Oregon. They can grow up to three feet tall and blossom from April to June, which makes them perfect for the Easter holiday.

How to care for your potted Easter Lily

If you just picked up a potted Easter Lily to brighten up your home for spring, follow the steps below for how to care for your potted Easter Lily.

Step 1: Unwrap your plant immediately once you get home. The decorative packaging they often come in can waterlog the plant causing the roots to rot or deteriorate.

Step 2: Remove the anthers. The anthers are the tall stems that grow from the center of the bloom. Removal can prolong the life of the flower and prevent pollen from staining the pristine white petals.

Step 3: Find a bright spot for it to grow. Avoid any areas of your home with too much direct sunlight as this is sure to shorten their lifespan.

Step 4: Keep it cool. Be sure your plant is protected from any heat sources or vents and try to keep your home between 60°F and 68°F.

Step 5: Water when the soil is dry to touch. Avoid over-watering or letting it sit in water but do not let it stay dry for a prolonged period of time either.

Step 6: Remove any fading flowers. Pruning any withering petals will help promote new growth.

Once your lily has survived the colder days of spring, you can plant it outside and enjoy it throughout summer as well! We also have a brief guide below that outlines how to plant your potted Easter Lily.

Planting your Easter Lily outside

Wait until flowers have finished blooming: To successfully transplant a lily to your garden, wait until all flowers have faded and all danger of frost has passed.

Prune your plant: Be sure to remove any dead or dying blooms. Once you have pruned all blossoms, select an area with bright, indirect light.

Plant the bulb: Plant the bulb to the same depth it was in the pot and then add a few inches of mulch around the roots. Avoid placing much near the stem because it could cause rotting.

Water well while the plant is blooming and continue to prune: Once the original leaves start to brown, trim back to the green leaves. You will begin to see new growth soon! Be sure to water thoroughly at the beginning and during periods of growth.

Be patient and fertilize ahead of the colder months: For some plants, you may have to wait until the next summer to see a second bloom. Cut the stem when it begins to turn brown in the fall and apply a generous amount of mulch to insulate the roots through winter.

The Meaning Behind Easter Lilies

Easter Lilies and Christianity

Easter Lilies are linked to Christianity as a symbol of the resurrection of Christ. They are also referenced in the Bible. In the book of Luke, Jesus himself says, “Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” This tradition is carried on in Christian churches around Easter when they adorn their altars with crosses and beautiful white lilies.

Easter Lilies and Paganism

Easter Lilies are also often linked to motherhood, which is why they’re a great Mother’s Day gift to show your mom how much you appreciate her. They are said to have sprung from the mother’s milk that fell from Hera, the goddess of women and marriage according to Greek mythology.

Across religions, these lovely white flowers symbolize purity and grace.

Now that you are versed in the care, repotting and even history of Easter lilies you need to find one to display as your Easter centerpiece. If you need a handy reminder, print or save this quick guide with basic Easter Lily care tips.

How to Care for an Easter Lily

DonFord1/Getty Images

Synonymous with the religious holiday, the Easter lily is used in many arrangements during the season. You’ll find it in table centerpieces and on church altars—you might even receive one as a hostess gift. The beautiful trumpet-shaped white flower is a symbol of purity and peace for many people. (Though pet lovers should note one important detail: the Easter lily is toxic to cats.)

According to the University of Illinois Extension, over eight million Easter lilies are grown in the United States—three common varieties are “Ace” (which grows to 18 inches tall), “Croft” (24 inches), and “Estate” (three feet).

So, how do you care for these pretty plants so that they last well past Easter? And how do you get them planted for next Easter season? We asked professional landscaper and HGTV and DIY Network host Chris Lambton for his expert advice.

For Container Easter Lilies

Most Easter lilies come in a potted form—especially if you buy the plant from a flower shop, or even the grocery store. “You should be careful not to overwater and make sure that it is placed near a south-facing window with plenty of sun,” Lambton says. “It does like cooler temperatures and you should be careful not to place near vents as it will dry out.” Place it a few feet away from the window, or drape your sheer curtains, since the lilies prefer indirect light. Keep the soil moist, but not too wet. And for proper drainage, you might want to remove the decorative foil most potted Easter lilies come in.

If you are planting a bulb in a container, Lambton recommends planting it in a well-drained pot with good potting soil (not too dense or wet).

RELATED: How to Make Robin’s Egg Cupcakes for Easter

For Easter Lilies in a Vase

When arranging lilies in a vase, cut the stems on a 45-degree angle so the flowers can get enough water. Like you would with other flower arrangements, make sure no leaves touch the water (this spreads bacteria). Place the lilies in the vase with fresh water—you can also add nutrients to the water (like flower food, lemon juice, and sugar). Change the water every other day. Keep in a cool place out of the sunlight, and remove the pollen on the stamen since it can stain fabrics and also ruin the flower petals.

RELATED: How to Choose a Plant for Every Room in Your House

For In-Ground Easter Lilies

“When planting outdoors make sure you have waited until after the fear of frost has passed,” Lambton says. “It likes full sun and well-drained soil.” Plant the bulb into the soil, about six inches in, and cover with water and soil. If you are planting it from a pot, Lambton suggests waiting for the flowers to die off and the leaves to drop before you plant it in the ground. And this is the plant that keeps on blooming: “The following year after it’s in the ground, it will bloom later in the year and often times will re-bloom in the summer too.”

Easter Lily Care

Botanical Name: Lilium longiflorum

With a few Easter lily care tips, you’ll keep your flowers fresh for 3-4 weeks or more.

Pots of big, beautiful trumpet-shaped blooms are a traditional Easter decoration or gift. The pristine white flowers symbolize purity and life.

Are you buying an Easter lily? Choose a plant with plenty of unopened buds and you’ll enjoy at least a month of fresh flowers. Avoid plants that look wilted — a sign of over- or under-watering.

Here are some tips to get the most out of your potted lilies.

When you bring your potted plant home, take off the plastic sleeve right away to provide good air circulation.

Also remove the foil covering from the pot so that the drainage holes are not blocked. This plant won’t tolerate soggy soil, which will cause the bulb to rot.

Cut off spent flowers to keep your plant looking its best.

Prolong the Bloom

As soon as the flowers open all the way, cut off the anthers.

This will prolong the life of the flower and also prevent the pollen from falling on the furniture or floor.

Easter lily bulbs won’t bloom again indoors. If you want to keep them, you can replant them outside. They’re cold-hardy to Zone 5. Although professional greenhouse growers force them into bloom before the spring holiday, you can expect your lilies to bloom outdoors in early summer, their natural bloom time.

Tips for Planting and Growing Easter Lilies Outdoors

  • Plant your bulbs in the garden as soon as danger of frost has passed. Don’t store them because lily bulbs don’t go dormant.
  • Choose a bright location where the plants will get at least a few hours of direct sun.
  • Plant the bulbs 6 inches (15 cm) deep in rich, well-drained soil, 12 inches (30 cm) apart.
  • Water well and fertilize once a month in spring and summer.
  • Deadhead flowers as they fade and cut stems back after the foliage has turned yellow.
  • Mulch plants in cold climates in winter to protect them. Remember to remove the mulch covering in spring to allow the new shoots to grow.

When planted outside, and with good Easter lily care, you’ll enjoy flowers for years to come.

Easter Lily Care Tips

Origin: Japan

Height: To 3 ft (90 cm)

Light: Bright indirect light

Water: Keep soil lightly moist

Humidity: Average indoor humidity (around 40% relative humidity).

Temperature: Keep your lily plant on the cool side to help prolong the blooms. A room temperature of 60-65°/16-18°C is ideal.

Soil: Peat moss based potting mix

Fertilizer: Not necessary unless you transplant the bulbs outdoors. Feed monthly with a balanced liquid fertilizer.

Propagation: Bulbs

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Once the lovely flowers of an Easter Lily have died, most people don’t know what to do with the plant. Keeping an Easter Lily as a houseplant is not an option. It needs to be planted outside as soon as the weather is warm enough. If you have to keep it indoors until the temperatures rise, place your Easter Lily in a sunny window and water it when the soil is slightly dry.

When you’re ready to move your Easter Lily outside, remove the Easter Lily from its pot, gently loosen the roots, and find a bright sunny spot in your garden to plant it. An Easter Lily is a bulb plant. Plant the bulb a few inches deeper than it was planted in the pot and cover it with soil. Water your Easter Lily Plant well and feed it with an all-purpose plant food. Continue watering and feeding your Easter Lily along with all of your other outdoor plants. Don’t be alarmed when the remaining green leaves and stems of you Easter Lily wither and die. Around July or August, your Easter Lily will send out new growth. A newly planted Easter Lily doesn’t usually bloom the first year; but the following summer it should produce some beautiful lilies.

If the winters are mild where you live, you can leave the bulbs alone while they are dormant. If your winters get quite cold, be sure to cover your Easter Lily bulbs with about 4” of mulch or dig them up and store them indoors in a cool dark area until spring.

History & Care of the Easter Lily

Common Name: Easter Lily
Botanical Name: Lillium Longiflorum
Family: Liliaceae

History and Interesting Facts:

  1. The Easter lily is native to the southern islands of Japan.
  2. During the early 1800’s, commercial bulb production started in the Bermuda Islands, and the first commercial supplies of bulbs were shipped to the United States. Around the turn of the century the Japanese took over the annual Easter lily growing and exportation to the United States, which continued until World War II.
  3. The current U.S. production began after a World War I soldier, Louis Houghton, brought a suitcase full of hybrid lily bulbs to the south coast of Oregon in 1919. Houghton distributed the bulbs freely to horticulture friends and neighbors. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the source of bulbs from Japan was abruptly cut off. The value of lily bulbs skyrocketed.
  4. Since World War II, commercial bulb production has been centered in the United States, along the Pacific west coast in southern Oregon and northern California.
  5. History, mythology, literature, poetry and the world of art are abundant with stories and images, which speak of beauty, majesty and elegance of the lily’s white flowers. The lily is mentioned numerous times in the Bible.
  6. Lilies, often called the “White Robed Apostles of Hope”, were found growing in the Garden of Gethsemane after Christ’s crucifixion. Tradition has it that beautiful white lilies sprung up where drops of Christ’s sweat fell to the ground in his final hours on the cross. Churches continue this tradition, surrounding their alters and crosses with Easter lilies to celebrate the resurrection of Christ and hope of everlasting life.

Production of Easter Lilies

Easter lilies are classified as “long-day plants”. These plants bloom when they receive more than 12 hours of light. Easter lilies naturally flower in August.

To over come the long day requirements of Easter lilies to flower can be done by a cooling period. Bulbs of Easter lilies are given a cool, moist treatment for 6 weeks at 42°F.

When this period ends, bulbs are potted up, watered and put in a greenhouse. Shoots emerge in about 2 weeks, which should occur in early January.

Easter lilies can be difficult to manipulate to grow so that they reach their peak blooming timed with Easter. To slow the flowering process, lilies are moved to a dark, cool place at about 40°F for a week or less at the “puffy white” bud stage. This helps the lilies so that they will flower on time for Easter.

A bud meter was designed so buds can be measured. If the buds measure 1 inch you have 28 days until the bud opens. If the bud measures 6 inches, you have one day before the bud opens. Depending on the size of the bud and when Easter is will determine whether you need to put the lily in a warmer place to speed up the flowering
process. If the bud is too far ahead, the lily should be placed in a cooler place so the buds do not bloom out before Easter.

Care of Easter Lilies

Easter lilies prefer moderately cool temperatures. A daytime temperature of 60-65°F and slightly cooler night temperatures is ideal. Avoid drafty locations. Easter lilies do best when placed in bright light, but out of direct sun light.

In the plant has a decorative foil pot punch holes in the bottom of the pot and place a saucer beneath. Water the Easter lily only when the soil is dry to the touch. Water thoroughly, so water flows freely out the bottom of the pot. Discard any water that drains into the saucer.

As the flowers open, remove the yellow anthers. Removing anthers prolongs the life of the flower and prevents pollen from staining the white petals. Flowers should be removed as they wither. After flowering, the Easter lily can be saved and planted outdoors.

Planting Outdoors

Place the plant in a sunny window after flowering. Continue watering when needed. Fertilize once or twice a month with fertilizer for houseplants. Transplant the flower outdoors when the danger of frost has passed. The site you choose for planting should be well drained. When planting, place the bulb 6 inches deep. The original plant will die back within a few weeks. Cut back old growth to the surface of the soil. New growth should emerge by summer.

Growing Together: Recycle your Easter lily for a fun challenge

FARGO — Are you up for an adventure?

No, it’s not running with the bulls at Pamplona, nor zip lining at dizzying heights off the Matterhorn. Remember, this is gardening, and I get an adrenaline rush just from growing a jumbo watermelon.

To join the challenge, instead of discarding your Easter lily when the flowers fade, turn it into an outdoor perennial lily. It’s risky business, like any good adventure, but there’s little to lose. Gardeners don’t brag, but if they did, you’d earn some bragging rights upon successful completion.

Before we describe the how-tos of the venture, let’s discuss the fascinating story of the beautiful bulb that became known as the Easter lily.

The lily species, Lilium longiflorum, is an outdoor perennial flower native to Japan’s Ryukyu Islands. Seafaring traders took the bulbs to other points worldwide, and by the 1800s, the flower became a popular symbol of Easter in Christian churches.

Easter lily bulbs were first brought to the United States by a World War I soldier returning from Bermuda, who smuggled a suitcase filled with bulbs home to Oregon in 1919. The bulbs he gave to family and friends were so well-adapted to the region that commercial production soon followed.

Japan led the world in Easter lily bulb production until their supply was interrupted by World War II, which gave Oregon growers a chance to compete. Today, 95 percent of the world’s Easter lily bulbs are grown on farms along the Washington-Oregon border, and they’re shipped worldwide to greenhouses for potting and “forcing” into bloom in time for Easter.

Because the date of Easter varies each year, greenhouse growers must carefully schedule their crop of potted lilies to bloom at just the right time. Temperature, light and moisture are carefully controlled to keep plants developing on schedule. An entire crop can be worthless if the lilies aren’t blooming in time for Easter, or if they blossom ahead of schedule and the flowers are withered before Easter arrives.

After purchase, flowers will last longer if plants are kept cool, around 68 degrees and cooler at night. To further prolong bloom, remove the yellow anthers immediately as each flower opens so the yellow pollen doesn’t transfer to the central green-white stalk, called the stigma.

Cut holes in decorative foil to prevent plants from sitting in excess drainage water. Place pots in saucers, and discard excess immediately after watering. Keep soil moist when in full bloom.

The challenge

Easter lilies can be grown as an outdoor perennial flower, rather than discarding the potted lily after flowers fade. Lilium longiflorum is considered hardy only to hardiness zone 5, so it will require some adjustment for our zones 3 and 4.

After Easter, place the plant in a sunny window and add water soluble fertilizer, such as Miracle-Gro, with each watering. The longer the foliage remains healthy, the stronger the bulb becomes.

Gradually decrease watering frequency as foliage naturally turns from green to yellow to brown. By mid- to late May, cut stalks to several inches above soil, remove the bulb from the pot and replant in a perennial flowerbed. Location is vital. Choose a sunny, but well-protected, sheltered microclimate where deep snow accumulates, rather than a windswept, exposed spot. Amend the soil with peat moss or compost and plant the bulb about 4 inches deep. Water well.

New shoots will emerge shortly after, and the plant will grow throughout the summer and bloom in late September in its first outdoor growing season. In following years, they’ll emerge in spring and bloom in July – similar times as our more winter-hardy perennial lily types. Because

Easter lilies are definitely borderline in hardiness, maximize protection by planting in a sheltered location, and mulch with 12 to 24 inches of leaves, straw or similar material in early November.

I’ve enjoyed this challenge in the past, and plan to do so again this year with our lily. If you join the adventure, please send me photos this autumn.

Don Kinzler, a lifelong gardener, worked as an NDSU Extension horticulturist and owned Kinzler’s Greenhouse in Fargo. Readers can reach him at [email protected]

By Dr. Bill Barrick, Executive Director

The Easter lily, Lilium longiflorum, is synonymous with Easter. Easter lilies are native to Japan and for years, bulbs were imported from Japan for commercial production in the States. But World War II changed all of that. Today 95% of the bulbs forced for Easter are produced in coastal areas in northern California and southern Oregon. Millions of bulbs are produced annually by commercial bulb growers for forcing in the United States and Canada. We typically grow about 1,000 pots for our spring displays.

It take two to four years to produce bulbs large enough for forcing. Bulbs are harvested from the fields in late September and October. After harvesting, the vernalization (cold treatment) process begins. Generally 110 to 120 days of cooling are required before shipping to commercial growers and organizations like Bellingrath. Our bulbs are pre-chilled in moist peat moss and are shipped to us in crates. This Easter’s bulbs were shipped to us on December 3, 2014, and were potted up in a commercial soil mix. The growing process began on December 13, 2014 in a heated greenhouse.

Easter lilies can bloom annually.

Getting Easter lilies to bloom on Easter can be challenging as the date of Easter changes from year to year and growers have to adjust their productioncycle to meet each year’s specific date. Elaborate leaf counting and flower bud progression techniques are developed each year for the grower to determine if his crop will be on schedule. Adjusting the temperature in the greenhouses is the primary way a grower can alter the production schedule. Each year, Chuck Owens and his production staff have never failed to have lilies in bloom for Easter.

Once your Easter lily has finished blooming, there is no need to discard your plant since they can be planted in your garden for years of continuous bloom. In the last several years, we have been replanting many of the lilies used in our spring displays in the Gazebo garden. Replanted bulbs will bloom much later typically in May or June. Many of our superior new garden varieties of lily have been hybridized using Lilium longiflorum as one of the parents.

How to Plant Easter Lilies Outdoors

Easter lilies are simple to save and plant outdoors after the Easter season is over.

Easter lilies are a very popular way to decorate for the spring and Easter season. They are used to decorate churches, shops, and exchange among friends. The bright white symbolizes the newness of spring. There is no better way to celebrate this season of new beginnings than with a beautiful, fragrant lily.

Easter lilies are one of the most popular potted plants sold in the United States. They are only on the market for about two weeks. However, according to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension, Easter lilies only trail poinsettias, mums and azaleas in wholesale sales. While they are an incredibly popular indoor potted plant they are often discarded as soon as they begin to fade.

Keep Your Easter Lilies

This year don’t throw away your Easter lilies. Instead, you can plant them outdoors. Trim back the flowers as they fade, but leave the foliage intact. As soon as the weather is free from the threat of frost and the ground is workable, plant the bulb six inches deep. Choose a location that has good drainage and exposure to sun for at least a half a day. P. Allen Smith Garden Home suggests mixing sand and compost into the soil if it is not naturally well draining. You can even plant the lilies in containers as long as you prevent the containers from freezing during the winter season. Store the containers where they will stay cool, but not freeze. It is important that lilies have time to chill during the dormant winter season.

Care

Once the plant is in the ground allow the foliage to continue to grow throughout the summer and fall. When the foliage becomes brown and dry, cut it off level with the ground.

Mound mulch over the top of the bulb after the foliage is removed to help protect the bulbs from the elements. In the spring when you begin to see new growth, remove the mulch. Easter lilies like plenty of water, but they don’t want to sit in a soggy environment. If the weather is hot and dry during the summer, be sure to give your plant plenty of extra water.

When the plant emerges in the spring wait until it is about three inches tall, then Green Circle Growers recommends fertilizing with a 5-10-10 fertilizer. They also suggest surrounding the plants with crushed eggshells to deter slugs and snails.

Summer Blooming

Don’t be concerned when your plant emerges in time for Easter but is nowhere near producing a bloom. Easter lilies don’t naturally bloom in time for Easter. The plants purchased in flower shops are forced in greenhouses to flower in time for Easter. Easter lilies grown outdoors will naturally bloom later in May.

Replanting

If your plants are well taken care of, your Easter lily bulbs will multiply each year. You can dig up bulbs to move and replant them or pass them on to friends in early spring before they start growing or in the fall once they have died back.

It does not take much extra work to plant your Easter lily outside instead of throwing it away. With very little care these attractive plants will grow and multiply for years to come. Have you ever planted your Easter lilies outdoors?

Sources

“Easter Lily Care.” UNL Extension in Lancaster County. <http://lancaster.unl.edu/hort/nebline/easterlily.shtml>

“Planting Easter Lily Bulbs” P. Allen Smith Garden Home. <http://www.pallensmith.com/articles/planting-easter-lily-bulbs>

Image: “Easter lily” by Ken Cook

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