How to Grow Easter Lilies

 Photo by Keith Watson

With over 11 million of these plants grown and sold each spring, there’s a good chance you have been graced by it’s presence around the Easter season. Many people enjoy the beauty of these blooms while they last and then discard it when the flowers fade away. However, Easter Lilies are perennials that are grown from bulbs and will continue to bloom year after year if replanted. Enjoy these beautiful, trumpeting flowers for many years with a few simple steps.

Before You Plant

Choosing an Easter Lily Plant:

Most plants are purchased from a nursery or greenhouse. There are several things to watch for when choosing your lily:

  • While the plants with trumpeting blooms are the most tempting, they won’t last as long. Choose a plant with blooms that have not yet opened or are just beginning to open.
  • The plant should be about twice as tall as the pot it is in. If it is taller, it is probably outgrowing the pot and may be stressed.
  • Leaves should be full all the way down the stem to the top of the soil. Look for foliage with a healthy, green color.
  • Dark spots, wilting and crinkling as signs of disease and should be avoided.
  • Any eggs, chew marks or webbing indicates the presence of insects and should also be avoided.

If you are new to planting lilies, there are several varieties that are easier for beginners. Consider coral lily, madonna lily, regal lily, tiger lily, showy lily, Olympic hybrids, Aurelian hybrids, and mid-century hybrids varieties for your first plants.

Find a Suitable Place:

  • An area with full sun is best.
  • An area that drains well is essential to successful lily growing. This can be achieved by raising the bed where you are planting several inches, using a well-drained potting mix and/or a mix with equal parts of soil/peat moss/perlite.

Prepare the Soil: 

  • Work the soil very well by tilling it and remove all weeds.
  • Good quality soil is important. Mix in organic matter as needed prior to planting.
  • Ideally, the soil pH should be neutral, between 6.5 to 7.0. Your local cooperative extension office can test your soil for you, or you can buy pH test kits from hardware and home improvement stores.

Keeping Easter Lilies Indoors

Keep your Easter Lily blooming for as long as possible with these simple steps.

What You Will Need: 

  • Easter Lily plant
  • Tweezers
  • Water
  • Small dish to place under pot

Steps for Preserving Your Plant:

Choose a location that allows the plant to receive bright, indirect sunlight.

  1. Remove any decorative foil cover from the pot and place the plant on the small dish to avoid any water leaking out onto furniture, etc.
  2. Use the tweezers to remove the yellow anther from the center of the flower. The pollen on the anther can stain as it falls off of the flower, so removing it not only preserves the flower, it also prevents staining.
  3. Avoid letting the temperature get too warm. Keep the plant away from appliances, heaters, etc. Temperatures of 60-65° Fahrenheit are ideal during the day and can be even cooler at night. The cooler the temperatures, the longer the blooms will last.
  4. Water when the soil is dry to the touch. The soil should not be allowed to dry out or to have standing water as both are damaging to the plant.
  5. Remove blooms as they begin to wither and die.
  6. When the blooms are gone remove the seed pods and leave the stem and leaves – do NOT throw it away! Keep it in a place that receives indirect sunlight and continue to water it until the weather warms up enough to transplant it to the garden.
  7. The more foliage that the plant has, the better the blooms will be the following year. Cut away only the dead parts of the plant as they begin to turn brown.
  8. Lilies are spring/summer plants and will naturally begin to die as summer ends.

Transplanting Potted Plants

Easter lilies are grown from bulbs which will continue to grow year after year. By transplanting your lily plant outdoors, you’ll be able to enjoy the blooms for many years to come. If you’re lucky, you may even get a second blooming since they naturally bloom in the summer.

What You Will Need:  

  • Easter Lily plants
  • Small shovel
  • Prepared soil
  • Mulch
  • Blood meal or bulb fertilizer

Steps for Transplanting Lily Plants: 

  1. Keep your lily plant indoors until the danger of frost has passed. When the weather begins to warm, you can transplant your lily outdoors.
  2. Begin by digging a hole that is large enough to place the bulb at the same depth it was in the container. Allow enough room to spread the roots out as well.
  3. Remove the plant from the container and loosen the soil around the roots and bulb.
  4. Spread the roots and gently place the bulb into the hole. Ideally, it should be about 3 inches below the soil line.
  5. Carefully fill in around the roots and bulb with the removed soil, ensuring there are no gaps.
  6. Space any additional plants 12-18 inches apart.
  7. Water the plants thoroughly upon completion of planting.
  8. Add several inches of mulch around the base of the plant to retain moisture, control weeds and keep the roots cool.
  9. As the plant continues to die back, cut it back to green sections. This allows for new growth to emerge. If you are lucky, you may get a second blooming in the summer, but most likely you will have to wait until next year.
  10. In the fall as the plant stem turns brown, cut it back all the way to the soil line.
  11. After you have cut it back completely, sprinkle some blood meal or bulb fertilizer on the top of the area where you have planted the bulb. Work it gently into the soil, being careful not to disturb the bulb or roots.
  12. Cover with a good layer of mulch for protection from the winter. Remove this mulch in the spring to allow the plant to grow again.

Planting Bulbs

What You Will Need: 

  • Lily bulbs
  • Blood meal or bulb fertilizer
  • Small shovel or spade
  • Prepared soil

 Steps for Planting Bulbs: 

  1. The autumn months of September, October or November offer the best timing for planting new bulbs.
  2. Bulbs can be purchased from garden supply stores or if you have an established plant, you can use division to propagate new plants. This is done by digging up existing bulbs in the fall and separating the smaller bulbs into individual bulbs to be replanted. Smaller bulbs may take slightly longer to grow and become established so they can develop flowers, so be patient.
  3. Once you have your bulbs, begin by loosening the dirt to a depth of about ten inches.
  4. Moisten the soil inside of the hole to promote immediate root growth.
  5. Place the bulb into the hole at a depth of three inches so that the roots are on the bottom and the pointed end is facing up.
  6. If there are any extended roots, spread them out onto the soil inside of the hole.
  7. Fill in around the roots and bulb with removed soil patting gently to remove any air pockets.
  8. Add soil to build a three inch mound of dirt above ground level.
  9. Place bulbs 10-12 inches apart. Plant closer together for groups of flowers, but avoid overcrowding.
  10. Water the bulbs immediately and thoroughly.
  11. After you have cut it back completely, sprinkle some blood meal or bulb fertilizer on the top of the area where you have planted the bulb. Work it gently into the soil, being careful not to disturb the bulb or roots.
  12. Cover with a good layer of mulch for protection from the winter. Remove this mulch in the spring to allow the plant to grow.

Additional Tips and Advice 

  1. Avoid keeping this plant in your home if you have pets as it is highly toxic to cats.
  2. Easter lilies are forced to bloom at Easter time by garden stores. However, they’re normal bloom time is late spring, early summer.
  3. Don’t be disappointed if your flower does not bloom the following year. Sometimes it takes two years for the plants to recover from being forced to bloom and return to a normal cycle.
  4. In place of mulch around the plants, a shallow ground cover such as complementary annuals can be planted to provide the same protection with added beauty.
  5. Lilies are great for floral arrangements as well. When removing flowers, be careful not to cut too much of the stem as it can weaken the bulb. A general rule of thumb is no more than one-third of the length of the stem.
  6. Lilies are susceptible to frost. If new shoots arrive before the threat of frost has passed, cover them at night for protection.

Related Posts

  1. How to Grow Daffodils

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