April 20, 2014
Easter Lilies are known primarily as a potted plant given as a gift or bought for oneself during the Easter holiday. This plant is considered the traditional Easter flower because it is said to symbolize goodness, purity, life, hope and innocence. Most people who buy the plant for themselves or who receive it as a gift throw it out after the blooms have all died, however this need not be. Although it is not known as a hardy houseplant, it can be transplanted outdoors, where it can bloom for many years.
Ironically, this lily does not bloom outdoors during the Easter season. In your garden, they bloom during June or July. Greenhouse growers pot the bulbs in the fall and force them to bloom for the holiday by turning up the heat in their greenhouses. Easter Lilies spout a straight stalk, which grows to a height of about two feet, and bear large, elongated buds that open into pure white flowers with yellow anthers. The large trumpet shape flowers produce a tremendous fragrance.
After the plant’s last bloom has died, it can be planted outdoors after the last frost. Its bulbs should be planted three inches deep, and if planting more than one, they should be spaced twelve to eighteen inches apart. This lily likes a somewhat rich, moist but well-drained soil. It likes the cool morning sun and not a hot afternoon one. It is hardy even in cold climates, but should be mulched. In colder regions, the bulbs should be dug up and stored indoors during the winter months. If left outdoors, the mulch needs to be removed in the spring to allow the new shoots to grow.
Easter Lilies, whose botanical name is Lilium Longiflorum, are native to the Ryukyu Islands of southern Japan. Its U.S. popularity is due to that of one American soldier. At the end of World War I, Louis Houghton bought home a suitcase full of these bulbs. He just happened to live in a region of the southern coast of Oregon, whose climate is very similar to that of the Ryukyu Islands. Before World War II, nearly all bulbs came from Japan, however that all changed when importing them was banned during the war. Ten farms along the California-Oregon border now produce ninety-five percent of all bulbs sold to U.S. growers, where they are grown in greenhouses around the country in time for the holiday. Easter Lilies are the fourth largest potted plant crop sold in the U.S. behind only that of Poinsettias, Mums and Azaleas.
Nearly all Easter Lilies have the Lily Symptomless Virus that could spread to other lilies in your garden. However, the virus may or may not cause problems. One other issue with this plant is that it is highly toxic to cats and other animals.
Steven H. Spring