As I walked in a store this week, there was a strong, sweet fragrance from carts of Easter lilies. Purchased and enjoyed now, these beauties don’t survive as a houseplant but can be planted outdoors for blooms next year.
Two great charms of the Easter lily (Lilium longiflorum) are form and fragrance. The pure white, trumpet-shaped flowers herald the Easter season, celebrating new life as they grace churches and homes. Continue to experience this lily’s beauty for years to come, by transplanting it into your garden.
Before transplanting, keep plants in a sunny window and water thoroughly when the soil is slightly dry. If the lily is wrapped in a decorative pot cover, be careful to not let it sit in water. Also, be aware this lily is highly poisonous to cats.
Once flowers have faded, select a sunny spot outdoors. Good drainage is key, so amend the soil with organic matter to ensure it is well-drained. Remove the plant from the container and gently loosen the roots. Plant bulbs 4 to 6 inches apart and about 5 to 6 inches deep, carefully spreading out the roots. Gently fill the hole with soil, water thoroughly and fertilize every six to eight weeks with an all-purpose garden fertilizer.
Soon after transplanting outdoors, the flowering stalk and leaves will wither and die. Cut them off to ground level to promote new growth. Lilies prefer cooler soil temperatures, so keep them well-mulched. Continue to water and fertilize the bulb as you would other garden plantings. New shoots may flower in the summer, but bulbs are more likely to flower next year in late spring or early summer.
The Bermuda lily, better known as the Easter lily, is native to the southern islands of Japan. As with many other introduced flowers, history has played a part in their development. In World War I, a U.S. soldier reportedly brought some bulbs to Oregon and shared them with fellow gardeners. Growing conditions were ideal, so the bulbs thrived. During World War II, the supply of bulbs from Japan stopped after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Demand grew, and by 1945 more than 1,000 West Coast growers were producing bulbs for the commercial market.
Remarkably, North America is the only area in which this lily is marketed for Easter. Bulbs are commercially grown in the Pacific Northwest and forced to bloom especially for the holiday. Despite a limited time window for sales, they are one of the largest potted plant crops in the U.S.
Charla Anthony is the horticulturist for Brazos County at Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, 2619 Texas 21 W., Bryan, Texas 77803. For local gardening information, visit brazosmg.com. Gardening question? Call 823-0129 or email email@example.com.