How to Plant and Grow Easter Lilies

Add a touch of elegance indoors and out with these big, fragrant flowers.

white easter lillies
Photo: David Prahl/Getty Images

Like clockwork, Easter lilies (Lilium longiflorum) appear in grocery stores and flower shops in the spring. Their trumpet-shape, pure white blooms always look fresh and elegant, and they can fill a room with their sweet scent. Frequently, once the flowers of these potted lilies fade, the plants are discarded, but with a little TLC, you can keep them around and add them to your flower beds, where they'll likely bloom again for years to come. Here's what you need to know to get the most out of these easy-to-grow bulbs, both as potted plants and in the garden.

According to the FDA, all parts of an Easter lily are poisonous to cats, causing kidney failure that requires vet care. This includes pollen that might get on your cat's fur and then be licked off when the animal cleans itself. Dogs do not appear to have the same sensitivity, although eating Easter lilies may give them upset stomachs.

Where to Plant Easter Lilies

In the garden, Easter lilies tend to grow best in USDA Hardiness Zones 4—8. The bulbs require well-draining, rich soil with regular moisture throughout the spring growing season. Because of their large flowers and eventual garden height of about three feet, they tend to flop over, so place them where they can lean against other plants yet still get plenty of sunshine. Bamboo stakes and grow-through plant supports are also options.

How and When to Plant Easter Lilies

Plant the bulbs a few weeks before your area's first frost date to allow for root growth. A rule of thumb is to bury them twice the depth of the bulb to keep the plant firmly in the ground during the heaving of winter freeze-thaw cycles. Setting the bulbs a little deeper in the ground also means the plant effectively uses the soil as support for the next season's stem. If they're planted too shallow, they may require more staking.

Easter Lilies Care Tips


Easter lilies prefer full sun but benefit from some cover during the hottest part of the day. Planting them in a bed with shorter perennials and annuals provides some shade.

Soil and Water

Easter lilies require well-draining soil with lots of organic matter and regular watering during their growing season. Water early in the day so the leaves have time to dry out before night and don't mildew.

Temperature and Water

Easter lilies don't flourish in hot, humid locations. They like mild daytime temperatures of about 70°F and nighttime temps of about 55°F. Humidity around 50 percent is ideal for them.


When the flower buds begin to form in early spring, fertilize Easter lilies with fertilizer containing a high phosphorus content, such as a 5-10-5 formulation. The phosphorus is important for bloom development.


Cut the entire stem of the Easter lily back to the ground in fall after the last bloom dies.

Pests and Problems

Aphids are the most common insect gardeners encounter on Easter lilies, although spider mites, thrips and scale are occasional visitors.

As far as diseases go, Botrytis blight (gray mold), root and stem rot, and rust are possible in too-wet growing environments.

How to Propagate Easter Lilies

Easter lilies are easily propagated by bulb division. The bulbs consist of scales, which can be removed and planted, and bulbs often produce bulblets. Either one can be planted right away, but you'll need to wait about three years to have a mature, blooming plant.

You can also buy or harvest seeds from an Easter lily for additional plants. However, you still have to wait about three years for a mature plant. Also, seeds require a period of cold stratification, so they'll need to spend weeks in your refrigerator in a bag of moist peat moss before you can pot them up.

How to Care for Potted Easter Lilies

Native to Japan, Easter lilies have spread across the globe, thanks to their beguiling blooms and strong fragrance. In the United States, you'll most commonly see these plants for sale in the spring, when the potted bulbs have been forced in greenhouses to bloom earlier than they would naturally (Easter lilies usually bloom in summer). Look for plants that have only one or two flowers open, with several closed buds on the stem, along with plenty of healthy green foliage. Each flower only lasts a few days, so the more unopened buds you have, the longer you can enjoy the display.

Indoors, place a potted Easter lily where it can get plenty of bright light. Keep the soil consistently moist. Flowering should continue for up to two weeks, depending on the temperature in your home. To prolong the plant's blooming period, avoid placing it in hot spots, such as near radiators or heating vents. Besides keeping your Easter lily cool, you can extend the life of each flower by cutting off the anthers sticking out from the center of the petals as soon as a bud opens. The orange-yellow pollen seems to stain anything it touches, so this will also help you avoid that annoyance.

Keeping Your Lily from Year to Year

If you plan on keeping a potted Easter lily past its blooming period, it's a good idea to fertilize once a week with a half-dose of liquid fertilizer so the plant has the nutrients it needs to prepare for the next year's bloom cycle. As the flowers wither, remove them while leaving the green stems and foliage intact. Doing this diverts energy from seed production into refueling the bulbs.

By early to midsummer, your potted Easter lily will begin to die back. At this point, you can cut the stems down to about an inch above the soil. Stop watering, and allow the soil to dry. Once the root ball has completely dried out, remove the bulb from the soil and store it in a cool place, such as a basement, until fall.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Do Easter lilies spread in the garden?

    If the Easter lily plant receives good care, the plant makes additional bulbs each year. In early spring or fall, dig up the area around the plant and remove the new bulbs, replanting the parent bulb. The harvested bulbs will continue to grow after they are replanted, so you can move them to other areas of the garden or give them to friends. However, they likely won't bloom until the plant is three years old.

  • How long does it take for an Easter lily bud to bloom?

    In gardens, it takes about 35 days to go from bud to bloom. If the plant is in a container, that time can be sped up or slowed down by raising or lowering the temperature in the house or greenhouse where it lives.

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