Selection and Care of the Easter Lily

A popular symbol of Easter is the trumpet- shaped, white, fragrant flowers of the Easter lily (Lilium longiflorum). Plants are available from flower shops, greenhouses, and other retail outlets.


Select a compact plant with dark green leaves, 1 or 2 open flowers, and several unopened buds of different sizes. These plants should bloom for 2 or 3 weeks in the home if given good care.

Care in the Home

Easter lilies prefer moderately cool temperatures. Recommended daytime temperatures are 60 to 65 F with slightly cooler night temperatures. Avoid drafty locations. Place the Easter lily in bright light, but out of direct sunlight.

If the pot is wrapped in decorative foil, punch a hole in the foil at the bottom of the pot for water drainage and place a saucer underneath the pot. Water the Easter lily when the soil surface becomes dry to the touch. Water the plant thoroughly until water flows out the bottom of the pot. Discard the excess water that drains into the saucer. Today, many florists use molded plastic pot covers. When watering these plants, carefully remove the Easter lily from the pot covering, water the plant in the sink, then drop it back into the molded pot cover.

As the flowers open, remove the yellow anthers before the pollen starts to shed. Removal of the anthers prolongs the life of the flower and prevents the pollen from staining the white petals.

Remove the flowers as they wither. After flowering, the Easter lily can be discarded or saved and planted outdoors in the perennial garden.

Planting Outdoors

Individuals wishing to save their Easter lily should place the plant in a sunny window after flowering. Continue to water the plant when needed. Fertilize once or twice a month with a dilute houseplant fertilizer solution. Plant the Easter lily outdoors when the danger of frost is past. Choose a well-drained, sunny site. When planting, place the bulb about 6 inches deep. The original plant will die back within a few weeks of bloom. At this time it should be cut back to the soil surface. New growth will emerge by summer. Lucky gardeners may be rewarded with a second bloom in September. Others will have to wait until next June. Easter lilies are not reliably hardy in Iowa. However, they may survive and bloom in the garden for several years if heavily mulched in the fall. Several inches of straw should provide adequate protection. Remove the mulch in the spring.

This article originally appeared in the March 5, 1999 issue, p. 20.


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