In springtime, Easter lilies are a common sight in grocery stores, churches, and on dining room tables. With their large, white, trumpet-shaped blooms and delicate fragrance, they are a true symbol of the Easter season. But did you know that spring isn’t the only time these plants can be enjoyed?
If you want to keep your Easter lily as a houseplant, or add it to your outdoor garden, the Kemper Center for Home Gardening has tips on giving your Easter lily life beyond the holiday.
Easter lilies (Lilium longiflorum) are native to the southern islands of Japan as well as Taiwan, where they were cultivated for their showy flowers. Bulbs were introduced to Europe in 1819 and the plant quickly grew in popularity.
Easter lilies are easy to force into bloom by manipulating the length of day and temperature in greenhouse environments, which made them ideal for cut flowers. In the late 1800s, most Easter lilies were grown in Bermuda for export, which is the origin of one of their other common names: the Bermuda lily. A virus infection devastated the Bermuda lily crops at the turn of the century, and the USDA began developing disease-free seed stock as well as breeding dwarf cultivars suitable for growing in containers rather than for cutting. Most Easter lilies in the United States were imported from Japan until World War II when the supply chain was cut off. Today, nearly all of the Easter lilies sold in the US come from farms located in a small, coastal area on the California and Oregon border known as the “Easter Lily Capital of the World.”
Moving Your Easter Lily Outdoors
Once all its flowers have wilted, your Easter lily plant does not have to be thrown away. Consider planting your Easter lily outdoors in a sunny area with well-draining soil once the threat of frost has passed. Gently remove the plants from their pot and plant the bulbs 4-6″ deep. Cut back the stems once they have wilted. Mulch well in the fall, and new growth should start to appear in spring. Bloom time will vary, but in St. Louis typically occurs from mid to late summer.
Keeping Your Easter Lily as a Houseplant
If you’re looking to expand your houseplant collection, potted Easter lilies will provide a long flower display indoors with the proper care. The Kemper Center offers these care tips:
- Plants should be placed in bright, indirect light and kept away from drafts. Too much direct sun will shorten the length of the bloom time.
- Water when the soil feels dry to the touch. Do not let your lily dry out completely or sit in water.
- Temperatures between 60-68°F are ideal for the longest bloom time.
- If desired, the pollen producing anthers can be cut off to prolong the life of the blooms and keep the yellow pollen from staining and detracting from the appearance of the flowers.
Public Information Officer