There is one thing that you can be sure to find in flower shops and nurseries early in spring each year. The trumpet-shaped flower of the Easter Lily – (lilium longiflorum) – is a well known Easter plant decoration.
These beautiful perennials are forced to bloom around the time of the religious holiday, but this flowering is completely out of their normal flowering time which is mid-summer.
This stunning bulb bears large white or white flowers with pink streaks which have a wonderful fragrance that fills a room with their scent.
Often, they are discarded after flowering, but you can easily grow them in your garden, instead. In fact, a common question that I get from readers is “can you plant an Easter lily outside?”
The answer is yes, and doing so will give you years of joy from the plants, instead of weeks. Keep reading to learn more about planting and caring for Easter Lily.
Facts about Easter Lily
What is the Easter lily meaning? By many, it is thought of as the traditional symbol of hope and purity during the Easter holiday season.
It is mentioned many times in the Bible that the white Easter lily symbolizes purity, new beginnings, rebirth and hope. It is often associated with the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Long ago, Pagans associated the Easter lily with motherhood and is often given to mothers as a symbol of gratitude.
Let’s brush up on your knowledge of this pretty plant with these fun facts:
- Botanic name: Lilium longiflorum
- Family: Liliaceae
- Plant Type: perennial bulb
- Normal bloom time: Summer
- Common name: Easter lily, Bermuda lily, trumpet lily
- Native to: the three small southern islands of Japan and Taiwan
Care of lilium longiflorum
If you purchase an Easter Lily plant in flower, it will only last a few weeks . However, with proper care of an Easter lily indoors and then planting it outside after the blooms have faded, you will be able to enjoy the plant for years to come.
Choose a plant that has just one or two of the flowers open, with several more closed buds on the stem, as well as healthy green foliage. Since each flower only lasts a few days, the more unopened buds you have, the longer you will be able to enjoy it indoors.
Caring for an Easter lily indoors
One of the best ways to make sure that your Easter lily does well when planted outdoors is to give it good care while it is still blooming indoors.
This means placing it near a window that gets bright light, but not direct sunlight. Cool temperatures of 65 – 75° F are best for growing lilium longiflorum plants.
To prolong your longiflorum lily’s blooming period, avoid very warm spots such as those near heating vents and radiators.
Be sure to water so that the soil is slightly moist and fertilize it every two weeks. If the pot is wrapped in decorative foil, remove this when you water to allow the pot to drain fully before replacing it for display. Overwatering will kill the plant.
When the blooms start to fade, remove them from the plant, but leave the stems and foliage intact. This will nourish the underground bulbs.
When all of the flowers have faded, cut the stems near the base. Now your plant is ready to transition to the outdoors.
Planting an Easter lily outdoors
Like many bulbs, Easter lily bulbs are normally planted in the fall and then start growing the following spring. They may not bloom until the second year after planting.
Easter lilies that have been forced into bloom for Easter have had their period of flowering already, so you will be planting their bulbs to get blooms the following year.
Sunlight needs for Easter lilies
Choose a location with full sun to partial shade. Protection from late afternoon sun is good.
Too much sunlight can cause the blooms to wilt or to develop brown edges.
Bear in mind that Easter lilies can grow to 3 feet tall or more, so they may be best suited for the back of a border with smaller plants in front.
Planting and soil requirements for lilium longiflorum
Prepare the soil for planting after the ground has warmed. Dig a hole that is wide enough to allow the roots to spread and cover the bulb with 3 inches of soil.
Space multiple bulbs 12 to 18 inches apart to allow room for the foliage to grow. Press the soil to squeeze out air pockets and then water well.
Be sure that the soil drains very well. It is easy to over water Easter lilies. Adding compost or organic matter to the planting hole helps with drainage.
Easter lilies prefer a slightly acidic to neutral soil pH, but they can tolerate slight alkalinity, too.
Mulch heavily before winter to protect from the weather.
Water and fertilizing requirements for Easter lily
Longiflorum lilies like evenly moist soil, but they do not like to sit in soggy soil. This can cause root rot.
During bloom time, they may need to be watered daily. Watering is best done in the morning to prevent mildew.
Fertilize with a slow-release fertilizer in the spring, once some new growth appears, and use mulch to help the soil retain moisture. (affiliate link)
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The Easter lily flower and foliage
Easter lilies grow with single stems that have leaves up to 6 inches long. Cooler conditions produce more leaves. Staking is sometimes needed for the stems, especially when in flower.
Two or more flowers grow atop the strong stalks and face outward. Very vigorous plants may contain as many as 12-15 flowers.
The blooms are very fragrant and open starting in mid summer.
The flowers are trumpet-shaped and 3-7 inches long. Potted Easter lilies are normally white but cultivars come in shades of pink, yellow or cream.
Pruning Easter lilies
Lilium longiflorum should be pruned about the middle of the growing season by deadheading spent blooms. This is also the time to cut back any brown foliage.
If you cut the stalks close to the base, it will allow the plant to send its energy to produce more flowers. You may be lucky to get a second round of flowers!
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Propagating lilium longiflorum
Eater lilies are propagated by separating the small bulblets (small bulbs) and replanting them in spring.
To do this, dig up the lilies to expose the small bulbs in fall. Pull them apart and store the small bulbs in peat moss over the winter. In spring, plant them into holes at least 6 inches apart, stem side up.
Mix in some compost and add soil to fill the hole. It can take 2-3 years for these small bulblets to flower.
Where to find Easter lilies for sale
Most of the big box stores, as well as Walmart, have white Easter lilies for sale in spring. You can also find them at your local florist shop, small local nurseries, or the Farmer’s Market.
Easter lily plants and bulbs can also be purchased from online vendors.
Easter lily varieties
In addition to the traditional white Easter lily, there are other cultivars for sale. Some to look for are:
- Lilium longiflorum ‘White Heaven‘ – fragrant 7 inch flowers.
- ‘Elegant Lady’ – pink fragrant flowers. Also called Pink Easter Lily.
- Lilium longiflorum ‘Triumphator’ – bright white flowers with rosy pink centers.
- ‘White Elegance – white flowers with pink centers. Smaller variety.
- ‘Deliana’ – creamy yellow flowers.
- Miracle Dwarf longiflorum lily – 20 inch stems with 3-5 white lilies each.
- Lilium longiflorum ‘Nellie White’ – cultivar forced to bloom at Easter. It is the most popular cultivar sold.
Cold hardiness of Easter lily hardiness zones
Lilium longiflorum is cold hardy in USDA zones 5-8. Some will grow in zone 4 with winter protection.
Colder than these zones, the plant should be grown in planters that can be brought indoors for the winter.
Easter lilies vs Asiatic lilies vs Oriental lilies
One of the main differences between the three is their bloom time and color varieties. Easter lilies will bloom in mid-summer, after the Asiatic lilies but before the Oriental lilies bloom.
Easter lily colors are normally white, or white with faint pink streaks and a few other mild colors, while the other types of lilies come in many color varieties.
Troubleshooting Easter lily problems
Easter lilies are relatively easy to care for, but be on the look-out for these problems.
- Flowers that wilt – too much heat or sunlight causes this. Move to a location less sunny location.
- Black tips on leaves – this is caused by cold and makes the plant unattractive. Move to a warmer location.
- Easter lily leaves turning yellow – usually caused by overwatering. Be sure the soil drains well or allow it to dry out a bit more between waterings.
- Brown edges on flowers – caused by hot sun. Protect from the heat of afternoon sun.
- Stems that wilt and look brown – root rot can be the cause. Check the watering levels.
- Light growth with lower yellow leaves – caused by plant crowding. Divide bulbs in the fall to replant in spring.
- Aphid infestation can be a problem with some plants. Spray with dish soap and water to remove.
- Leaf discoloration and degradation – caused by lily mosaic virus (spread by aphids). There is no cure, so digging up the bulbs and discarding is necessary.
Are Easter lilies toxic to pets?
All parts of an Easter lily are poisonous to cats and can cause kidney failure that will require a trip to the vet. Death is also a possibility. Even the pollen which can get on the cat’s fur and be licked off is dangerous to them.
Easter lilies and dogs or horses aren’t as much of a problem, although eating them may upset the animals’ stomachs.
To be on the safe side, keep pets away from lilium longiflorum.
Pin this post for caring for Easter lily
Would you like a reminder of this post for how to care for Easter lily? Just pin this image to one of your gardening boards on Pinterest so that you can easily find it later.
You can also watch our video for growing Easter lily outdoors on YouTube.
- 1 Easter lily plant
- Slow release fertiller
- Compost or organic matter
- Hose or watering can
- Place your potted plant in a spot, indoors, that gets bright indirect light.
- Cool temperatures of 65 – 75° F are best.
- Water so that the soil is slightly moist and fertilize it every two weeks. Avoid overwatering.
- Remove flowers when they fade.
- Cut the stem to the base when flowering is finished. It's time to move it outdoors.
- When the soil has warmed, dig a hole wide enough for the roots to spread.
- Add compost or organic matter.
- Plant the lily bulb, press down and water well.
- Fertilize with slow release fertilizer.
- It probably won't bloom again the first year, but should thereafter.
- The bulb are cold hardy in zones 5-8. May overwinter in zone 4 if protected.
- Mulch heavily before winter to protect the plant.