Don’t discard that ‘Easter’ Lily

10171-00-baki_20170106135448Every year, ‘Easter’ lilies make their way into people’s homes and places of worship but so many of them end up on the scrap heap when you live in the northern area of the U.S. Don’t take the Easter part of the name too literally. This best-loved member of the lily family, Lilium longiflorum, actually blooms in mid summer when it has its druthers. But since more than 11 million are forced into early bloom and sold all potted up and decorated, this lily and Easter are forever entwined.

Forcing a bulb takes a toll, and it can’t be counted on to force again for the following Easter; but given a year to rest up in your garden, Easter lilies can recover and will bloom next summer and for years to come.

So gather them up (they look much better when planted in groups anyway) and care for them inside until after the last frost date in your area. Knock each bulb out of its pot, trying hard to keep the soil around the roots. Plant it with the base 8 inches deep in a sunny, well-drained spot, leaving the foliage and flower stems intact. The flowers will be finished, but the shiny green leaves should remain all summer; they play an important part in providing food to help the bulb regain its strength.

Planting the lily so deep allows the part of the stem that is below ground to develop roots and protects the bulb over the winter. Unlike many other bulbs that grow roots only from the base of the bulb, L. longiflorum is a stem-rooter, growing roots along the buried stem as well as from the bulb’s bottom.

Don’t cut the stalk down until the leaves turn yellow, and fertilize once a month between now and then. A 3-inch winter mulch is a good idea.

Next Easter will come and go without a peep from your lilies, but the mother bulbs will be hard at work, developing new flower stems for the Easter-in-July show.

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2 thoughts on “Don’t discard that ‘Easter’ Lily

  1. Discarding Easter lilies is worse than discarding poinsettias. Poinsettias sort of deserve it. Anyway, Easter lilies are just too cool to not get a second chance at growing as a perennial.

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    • When we were in school in the late 1980s, almost all Easter lily bulbs came from the region of Smith River, on the coast near the border with Oregon. I do not know if they are still primarily grown there.

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