It is the time of year when white Easter lilies can be found almost everywhere. Its trumpet-shaped, pure white flowers always look so elegant and they can fill a room with their sweet scent.
The Easter lily was first introduced in England in 1819 and in America in 1880. Lily bulb production was concentrated in Japan and the southern United States in the late 19th century, but the Japanese source was cut off during World War II in 1941. This led to an increased value of the lily bulb. Soon growers boomed in the US, and by 1945 there were around 1,200 growers from Vancouver, Canada to Long Beach, California. Today there are only about 10 growers in a small region on the Oregon-California border. This region is known as the Easter Lily Capital of the World, where over 95% of potted Easter Lily bulbs are made.
More than 8 million Easter Lilies are grown in the US, according to the University of Illinois Extension – three common varieties are Ace (up to 18 inches tall), Croft (24 inches), and Estate (three feet).
Buy Easter Lilies
When buying an Easter lily, look for plants that have only one or two of the flowers open and have multiple closed buds on the stem and plenty of healthy green foliage. Each flower only lasts a few days. The more unopened buds you have, the longer you can enjoy the display as each flower opens over time.
How to care for potted Easter lilies
When you get home, take your plant out of the decorative packaging it often comes in to make sure there is no stagnant water in the soil. This can soak the plant and cause the roots to rot or deteriorate. Remove the anthers (the tall stems that grow from the center of the flower) to extend the life of the flower and prevent pollen from staining your tablecloth.
Lilies prefer a location in your home that has bright, indirect sunlight and temperatures between 60 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit. They should be protected from drafts and sources of heat. You will want to water once the soil is dry. Place the plant in the sink and pour water until it flows from below. Let it drain and dry a little before putting it back in the foil container. Overwatering is more likely to kill a plant than underwatering. Removing any drying or dead flowers will help keep your flowers fresh longer.
Growing Easter lilies in the garden
Often times, once the flowers of these potted Easter lilies fade, the plants are discarded. Many people don’t think about planting them in their gardens. When your lily begins to die, cut the stem to about an inch above the ground. Stop watering and let the soil dry. Once the root ball has dried out completely, remove the bulb from the ground and store it in a cool, dry place until autumn.
Lilies need well-drained soil and full sun to partial shade. Plant the bulb at the same depth as in the pot. You can use an insert to keep them from tipping over. If you’re lucky enough to see them bloom again next year, wait until early summer. They will fall back on their normal flowering period rather than the forced flowering period they get in commercial greenhouses.
Keep them away from pets
According to the FDA, all parts of an Easter Lily are toxic to cats. Not just Easter lilies, but all Lilium species including their hybrids; Asian, day lily, Japanese show lily, tiger, rubrum, stargazer and wood.
Just licking the pollen of the Easter lily or eating a leaf or two can lead to a serious illness that requires veterinary intervention. This includes pollen that may get on your cat’s fur and then lick off as the pet cleans itself. Even drinking water from a vase with a cut lily or eating parts of plants can lead to an emergency visit to the vet. It can cause severe kidney damage and even death. It is best to keep this plant away from your pets to stay on the safe side.
Whether you are growing your own or buying from a store, Easter Lilies are beautiful flowers any time of the year. Taking care of yourself can be a rewarding experience, especially when they’re in full bloom.
For gardening questions, call the UC Master Gardener’s office at (209) 953-6112 or visit our website at ucanr.edu/sjmg.