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. 
 
Selection
 
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 to 3 weeks in the home if given good care.
 
Care in the Home
 
Easter lilies prefer daytime temperatures of 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit with slightly cooler night temperatures.  Avoid drafty locations.  Place the Easter lily in bright light, but out of direct sunlight. 
 
Water plants when the soil surface becomes dry to the touch.  The pots of most Easter lilies are placed inside decorative 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 fertilizer solution.  Plant the Easter lily outdoors when the danger of frost is past. 
 
Harden or acclimate the Easter lily to the outdoors prior to planting.  Initially place the Easter lily in a shady, protected area for 2 or 3 days, then gradually expose it to longer periods of direct sun.  The Easter lily should be properly hardened in 6 or 7 days. 
 
Easter lilies require 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 late summer.  Others will have to wait until next June. Easter lilies are not reliably cold 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.

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Richard Jauron Extension Program Specialist II

Provide horticultural information to home gardeners and extension staff via the telephone, written communication (Horticulture and Home Pest News, Yard and Garden,  and extension publications), radio, computer (Internet and e-mail), and live presentations.   Also assist with the Master ...

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