How to Grow and Care for Easter Lilies to Enjoy Their Gorgeous Blooms
Like clockwork, Easter lilies (Lilium longiflorum) appear in grocery stores or flower shops in the spring. Their trumpet-shape, pure white blooms always look so fresh and elegant, plus they can fill a room with their sweet scent. Once the flowers of these potted Easter lilies fade, the plants often get tossed out. But with a little TLC, you can actually keep them around and add them to your flower beds, where they'll likely bloom again in the years to come. Here's what you need to know to get the most of out of these easy-to-grow bulbs, both as potted plants and in the garden.
How to Care for Potted Easter Lilies
Native to Japan, Easter lilies have spread across the globe, thanks to their beguiling beauty and strong fragrance. In the U.S. 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 naturally would (Easter lilies actually bloom in summer). Look for plants that have just one or two of the flowers open, and 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'll get to enjoy the display as each bloom opens over time.
Place your potted Easter lily indoors where it can get plenty of bright light. Keep the soil consistently moist. Flowering should continue for a week to two weeks, depending on the temperature in your house. To prolong your plant's blooming period, avoid very warm 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.
If you plan on keeping your Easter lily past its blooming period, it's a good idea to fertilize once a week with a half-dose liquid fertilizer to make sure the plant has the nutrients it needs to prepare for the next year's bloom cycle. As the flowers wither, remove them from the plant while leaving the green stems and foliage intact. Doing this will divert energy from seed production into refueling the underground bulbs.
By early to midsummer, your Easter lily will begin to die back and at this point, you can cut the stems down to about an inch above the soil level. Stop watering and allow the soil to dry. Once the root ball has completely dried out, remove the bulb from the soil and store in a cool place such as a basement until fall.
Growing Easter Lilies in the Garden
In the garden, Easter lilies tend to grow best in USDA Hardiness Zones 4-8 (I've had success with them in the Midwest as well as California). The bulbs require well-draining, but rich soil with regular moisture throughout the spring growing season. Because of their eventual garden height of about three feet and large flowers, they have a tendency to flop over, so I try to 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 that will keep these lilies upright.
Plant bulbs a few weeks before your area's first frost date to allow for some root growth. A rule of thumb I follow is to bury them twice the depth of the bulb to keep the plant firmly in the ground during the heaving of freeze/thaw cycles throughout the colder months. 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, whereas if they're planted too shallow, they may require more staking.
Are Easter Lilies Toxic to Pets?
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, though eating Easter lilies may give them an upset stomach. It's best to keep this plant away from your pets to stay on the safe side.