WHILE ASSOCIATED with the Easter season, Easter lilies can grace your garden with fragrant beauty for years to come.
“They’re a surprisingly hardy perennial plant, even in colder climates,” says Lee Riddle, director of the Easter Lily Research Foundation in Brookings, Ore., who offers this advice:
Selecting your lily
Look for a plant that is medium to compact in size and proportional in shape. Foliage should be dark green in color with plentiful leaves all the way to the soil line. For the longest period of enjoyment, look for multiple buds in various stages of development.
Care and feeding
- Watering. “Lilies like to be moist but not soaking wet,” says Riddle, who warns against overwatering and urges quick removal of adorning Easter wrappings that don’t allow water to drain from the bottom of the pot.
- Temperature. “Lilies like household temperatures,” Riddle says. Avoid placing the plants near appliances, fireplaces or heating ducts where they’ll be exposed to excess heat and air.
- Light. “If you want to make your lily happy, they like a nice sunny window,” Riddle says. He suggests indirect natural light from a window but to avoid direct glaring sunlight.
- Pruning. To extend the life of your flower, pluck off the six yellow anthers in the center of the bloom. The anthers contain pollen that can stain white blooms, and they also will make the flower age if they touch the blooms.
After blooming season
When the original stems die, cut them back to soil level. New growth may emerge within a month.
Riddle advises replanting lily bulbs outdoors in a raised bed, about 12 to 18 inches apart, digging a hole the size of the pot and placing the root ball in soil that drains well, such as a good planting mix. “They like the morning sun,” he says, “and when the sprout comes up, water it so the soil is damp when you touch it.” Every six weeks, scatter a teaspoon or less of a mild slow- release fertilizer in a 6-inch circle around the plant’s stem. And guard against slugs, snails and deer. “They find the bulbs quite tasty,” he says.
Your flower already has put on one show at Easter and often will surprise you with a second blooming late in the summer, which is closer to the natural blooming season of Easter lilies. (Professional growers plant the bulbs timed to bloom during the spring for Easter.) ★