Welcome Spring with Easter Lilies
Nothing announces that spring is here as well as the bright white trumpet flowers of the Easter lily. Standing for purity, virtue and innocence, the traditional Easter lily boasts several four to six inch fragrant blooms on top of an eighteen-to-thirty inch leafy green stem.
There are over 63,000 retailers who market Easter lilies as part of their spring line up of blooming plants. From that group, over 53% of the purchases made in those stores were Easter Lilies. Easter Lilies, (Lilium longiflorum), have large trumpet-shaped flowers with a strong fragrance. 95% of the 11.5 million plants grown per year are grown on the border of California and Oregon, but the plant is native to the Ryukru Islands of southern Japan and the islands of Okinawa, Amani and Erabu.
U.S. production of the Easter lily began in the early 1900’s when a WWI soldier from Oregon brought a suitcase full of bulbs when he returned home. During WWII the supply of bulbs from Japan was blocked and a small group began growing them domestically where they are still being produced today.
Here are a few quick tips to keep your lily blooming:
• Display your plant in bright, but indirect sunlight.
• Protect your Easter lily from drafts and heat sources, such as fireplaces, heaters and appliances.
• Remove the yellow anthers from the flower centers. This helps prolong the life of the blossoms and prevents the pollen on the anthers from staining the flowers, your hands, clothing, tablecloths, rugs and anything else it can find its way to.
• Cool daytime temperatures in the 60-65 degree F. range will prolong the life of the blooms. The temperature can be even cooler at night.
• Water the Easter lily only when the soil becomes dry to the touch and don’t leave it dry for an extended period of time.
• If the lily’s pot is in a decorative foil wrapper or container, be sure water is not accumulating under the pot. More plants die from over-watering than under-watering.
• Remove flowers as they fade and wither.
After May 15th, you can transplant your lily to an area in your yard that gets approximately 6 hours of sun per day. A little shade is OK. Your plant will grow a little larger than it was in the house – possibly 25% larger. If it is planted in an area that gets less than 6 hours of sun, the plant will grow larger, but it may not bloom.
To plant, remove the plant from the container and loosen the root system. There will be some torn roots; don’t panic, it’s better for the plant to have a less-compacted root system. Plant the bulb a few inches deeper than it was in the container and cover with soil. Water thoroughly and fertilize as you would other garden plantings. Soon after planting, the old top will wither and die. Again, don’t panic, new shoots will soon emerge that may flower in July or August.
Some gardeners have good results when over-wintering lilies, although they are not reliably hardy. To improve your chances for over-wintering success, mulch the plants with at least 4″ of straw in the fall or for best results dig up the bulb(s) and store indoors for the winter and replant in the spring in the same fashion as other tender bulbs.