Plant Palette

Plant Palette

Easter Lilies

Photo of Jennifer Schultz Nelson

Jennifer Schultz Nelson
Extension Educator, Horticulture
jaschult@illinois.edu

Easter Lilies

Looks can be deceiving. You might think that the Easter Lily you have in your home this holiday is a delicate exotic tropical plant, destined to survive only for a brief show of flowering beauty before withering away. Surprisingly, the Easter Lily is quite durable and is a great addition to your flower garden.

Most likely the plant you have this holiday is in the midst of blooming. To prolong this blooming period, you should keep the plant in a cool room, out of direct sunlight and warm drafts. Warm air and sunlight makes the flowers age faster, so they do not last as long as flowers kept in a cool environment. No matter where you keep the plant, the flowers will eventually fade. Remove the flowers as they wither, and trim any yellowing or brown leaves.

In the case of yellowing leaves, this indicates the plant is going into a dormancy, or rest period. You should reduce watering at this time to prevent the lily bulb from rotting. Dormant or not, the plant should be kept indoors until the danger of frost has past. For our area, this is approximately until Mother's Day, on or around May 15th.

The Easter Lily can be moved outdoors and planted in a sunny garden spot as soon as weather permits after the last frost. Remove it from its pot, and be sure to loosen up the root ball, which is very likely overgrown and dense. Breaking up the root ball will encourage new roots to grow out into the garden soil. After planting, regular application of a balanced fertilizer will encourage new growth. It is normal for the green top of the plant to die back after planting. Soon new growth will appear, and should bloom by July or August. Although the Easter Lily is not reliably hardy, planting in a well drained soil and adding a thick layer of mulch in the winter increases the chance that the bulb will survive the winter and provide multiple years of beautiful blooms.

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