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Easter Lily
Easter Lilies

One of the traditional signs of Easter is the Easter lily with its large white flowers and its sweet aroma that fills the room. If you have one or more lilies from Easter, you can extend the joy of your plants with a little care.

The Easter lily is native to southern Japan. Prior to World War II, the bulbs were imported from there. Today more than 95 percent of all Easter lily bulbs are produced on just 10 farms along the Pacific coast in a half-mile wide and 12-mile-long strip of land on the California and Oregon border.

Most of the bulbs are the 'Nellie White' variety that James White named after his wife. Every few years, each grower selects a few plants to determine if a
new variety can be developed with desirable production qualities.

Even though Easter lilies have only a two-week sales window, different every year due to the movement of Easter in the calendar, they are the fourth-largest potted plant crop behind poinsettias, mums, and azaleas. Even though we see them for such a
short time, they require year-round production work to produce. Each bulb takes two, three, and maybe four years to grow large enough to sell.

Because Easter is a moving holiday, it is difficult to get lilies to re-bloom on time for the holiday. Greenhouse growers work very hard, many years beginning before Christmas to get them to bloom on time.


When you purchase a lily, look for plants that have large, unopened buds. By looking at several plants, you can observe the natural progression of how the
flower buds open. If you are buying the plants a week or more before Easter, you will want more buds to be unopened. 

If you are buying the plant right before Easter, you will want more flowers already in bloom.

An opened flower should last a week or longer before wilting. Any unopened buds that are starting to turn brown will fall off before blooming. To keep the flower white, it is a good idea to pinch off the yellow anthers as soon as the flower opens so they do not drop pollen on the flower's petals. Removing the pollen will help make the flower last longer too because pollinated flowers fade quickly.

Check the leaves at the base of the stem. They should not be turning yellow and falling off. If the pot is wrapped in foil, peel it back and check to see
the condition of the leaves. If the soil is either too dry or waterlogged, get a different plant. The flowers may not open on a plant that has been mistreated.

If you are buying the plant on a day when the temperature is near freezing, keep the plant protected from the cold. Don't buy plants stored in a tall paper sleeve as they tend to deteriorate quickly.


The lily will bloom longer if you keep the high temperature at about 70 degrees during the day and between 40 and 50 degrees at night. Warmer temperatures will speed the flowering process.

Keep your plant away from drafts and heat sources. Keep it in bright light, but do not place in direct sunlight. As the flowers open, remove the yellow structures (anthers) from the flower centers. This will help the flower last longer and keep the yellow pollen from discoloring the flowers or any other clothing or the tablecloth.

Lilies like to be cool, so keep the lily in a cooler room, especially at night. During the day, 60 to 65 degrees is warm enough. As flowers start to fade and turn brown, you should remove the blossom from the plant.

Most lilies will come with some type of foil to decorate the pot. This should be removed or at least the bottom covering should be removed, so any excess water will drain from the pot. It is easy to overwater an Easter lily. Water a lily when the soil becomes dry to the touch, but don't let it get too dry.


Lilies can be transplanted outdoors successfully. Care for your lilies inside until the weather has warmed and danger of frost has past. Pick a sunny location and prepare the soil as you would for other types of bulbs. Dig the hole deep enough so you can plant the lily at the same depth it is in the pot. Add compost to the soil in the bottom of the hole and to the backfill soil.

Being careful not to disturb the roots, remove your lily from the pot and place it in the hole. Once you backfill it, add one to two inches of organic mulch.

If you are planting the lily outside after Easter, flower removal will help make the plant's food production go into enlarging the bulb and not producing seeds. They are not easy plants to get to re-bloom the following year when grown as a houseplant. They will re-bloom easily if planted outdoors in zones 3 through 7.

Keep them in bright, indirect light until the outdoor nighttime temperatures stay above the 40s. Plant them in a partially sunny site with well-drained
soil, about six inches deep, and add a few inches of mulch.

Next year, they will bloom in mid-summer. They make a nice display when planted in masses, so after Easter, go to the store and buy all of the ones they have left, even if they are no longer in bloom, and plant them outdoors at the proper time.

In zones 8 through 10, they can be planted outside for the summer. In the fall, dig them up and plant them in potting soil in a pot an inch wider than the bulb. Refrigerate the whole pot for eight to twelve weeks, keeping the soil damp. Take them out and leave them in the pot or replant in the ground.

If the lily has discolored flecks on the leaf that run
lengthwise, it may have a virus that aphids can spread to other lilies in your garden, so do not plant that one in the garden.

Let the lily grow for the season and, in the fall, add a few inches of mulch over the area for winter protection. This should be removed in the spring to help the plant warm up. Add fertilizer over the area.

Your lily might not bloom the first year. But it will gain strength, and it will bloom in future years. The normal blooming time for Easter lilies is June and early July, so don't expect much in March or April.

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