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How to Care for an Easter Lily (Lilium Longiflorum)

easter lily (lilium longiflorum)

A popular plant that’s exchanged by millions across the world, an Easter Lily makes for a gift that will keep on giving, year after year, when looked after properly.

The Lilium longiflorum, to give the plant its scientific name, is considered a perennial plant. This means that unlike annual flowers, an Easter Lily will continue to flower every season, providing the conditions are right.

You can choose to keep your Easter Lily indoors or transfer it outside to the garden. In order to give it the best chance of success outside, you must read up on how to care for an Easter Lily so that the groundwork can be done when you first get your lily home.

Easter Lily care summary: When indoors, keep your Easter Lily in bright, but not direct sunlight, so place it near a window. Be sure to keep the conditions cool, at a temperature between 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit (or 18-24 degrees Celsius). Do not overwater your Easter Lily, but instead keep the water damp to the touch, and do not let it dry out. Encourage growth by feeding your Easter Lily a houseplant liquid fertilizer once every two weeks or so.

Why do we Love Easter Lilies So Much?

Easter Lilies are such a popular gift at Easter time because they come into bloom and look their finest around Spring. With their large, white, trumpet-like flowers and sweet, appealing scent, they make a wonderful statement of appreciation for a loved one.

They’re particularly popular at Easter because of their apparent religious connotation, too. Lilies have long been treasured by Christians as a symbol of rebirth and purity, but even for those without such religious inclinations, Easter Lilies still make for a beautiful seasonal present.

However, receiving a plant as a gift can be a daunting experience for those of us who have little to no experience with looking after a plant, particularly an indoor plant.

So, it’s important to get the first steps right, and you’ll soon be well on your way to enjoying the beautiful flowers of your Easter Lily.

How to Choose the Right Easter Lily

If you receive the lily as a gift, then you won’t have much say in the matter of its selection! But if you’re asked to pick your own, or you’re choosing for another person, there are a couple of things to look for in order to find the best Easter Lily.

  • Don’t choose the one with the biggest flowers, no matter how impressive it looks. It means it’ll flower for less time once you get it home. Instead, choose a lily with some partially-opened flowers but plenty of buds, too.
  • Look for a healthy, green color in the leaves and stem and thick, dense foliage. Don’t pick up an Easter Lily that looks withered and sickly as it can be almost impossible to rescue it.
  • Don’t pick an Easter Lily that has any bugs, bugs’ eggs, or diseased areas on the leaves. Check the leaves carefully, especially the underside.
  • Look underneath the pot, too. A lily whose roots are outgrowing the pot won’t last very long in your house. One or two dangling roots are fine, but be careful that the plant isn’t pot-bound.

Early Care will Set You on the Right Course

The first thing you must do on receiving your Easter Lily or getting it home is to remove any gift packaging. Wrapping a plant makes it look extra special for those gift-giving moments, but it must be removed as soon as possible, otherwise it can restrict the plant’s growth or stop water from being drained away properly, causing the plant to become waterlogged and the roots to rot.

Next, remove the anthers from any blooming flowers. It seems a shame to do this at first, but it’s the best move for an indoor lily. The anthers are the long, white or yellow stems that grow from the center of the flower and are topped with pollen.

Lily pollen is obviously vital to the plant’s procreative powers, but it’s a nightmare for many horticulturists. Lily pollen stains practically anything it touches, from your favorite shirt, a rug, or even the flower petals themselves.

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Lily pollen is notorious for aggravating allergies, too, so if you suffer from plant or flower allergies, then by removing the anthers you can still enjoy the beauty of an Easter Lily in your home without all the sneezing and watery eyes.

Finally, lilies are poisonous to many domestic animals, including cats and dogs. In order to protect your pets from lily poisoning, removing the anthers is vital, so that they don’t ingest any of the toxic pollen that falls down.

They should never come into contact with any part of the Easter Lily plant, so be sure to keep your plant out of reach of cats at all times.

Should You Choose Indoor or Outdoor?

When you first receive your Easter Lily, you don’t have to make a decision right away as to where you’ll keep it. You can simply enjoy its flowering season for a month or two before you have to take any action.

This is also a great factor about the plant that’s appreciated by those who do not have an outdoor garden. For example, life in an apartment can be enhanced by cultivating cheerful houseplants and the Easter Lily is such a plant to grow inside.

It should be noted that Easter Lilies, once they’ve lost their first flowers, do better in the long term when transported outside and planted into a garden. Very few people have successfully managed to get a second bloom of flowers from an Easter Lily when kept solely indoors.

Either way, though, the Easter Lily thrives on light so no matter whether you choose to keep the plant indoors or outside, it must be located in a spot that receives plenty of daylight.

If you keep your Easter Lily indoors, place it on a widow-ledge or by a glass door which lets plenty of light into the room. However, you should be sure to keep the lily out of the direct rays of the sun, so find that perfect spot that strikes the right balance.

Keep your Easter Lily away from air ducts as while they like a generally cooler atmosphere, they’re not the kind of plant to tolerate direct cold, in the same way they don’t like direct sun.

Moderate, cooler temperatures that don’t fluctuate greatly over the course of the day mean the plant remains in consistent conditions, which is where they’re the most settled.

Best Soil for an Easter Lily

Easter Lilies can tolerate alkaline soil but they’re more likely to thrive in more neutral soil, edging toward the acidic. So, a pH of around 6.5 to 7 in a soil should be just about right.

While most grocery stores, florists and garden centers will have planted the Easter Lilies into soil that’s good enough to keep them alive for a while, you’ll want to take better care of your plant once it’s in your care.

When you first receive your Easter Lily, though, there won’t be too much to do but enjoy its flowers for the time that it’s in bloom. While Easter Lilies should bloom around June to July, their popularity as an Easter gift means they’re forced into early blooming for the holiday.

Once the flowers have died, cut them right down so there are no more petals left. This forces the plant into diverting its growth down, to the bulb, rather than up, to the flowers. This is what you want: for the bulb to get nice and large, so it’ll give you even more flowers next year.

Then, transfer your Easter Lily into a good-quality, nutrient-rich soil. Lilies like to have their heads over the soil, in the sun, but they don’t like their roots to be exposed, so be sure to put the bulb of your Easter Lily down around 6 inches or so.

Cover the roots and most of the stem with the soil. If you’re planting the Easter Lily outside, then you’re also going to get better results if you cover the soil around the plant with mulch or compost, as this will feed the lily over the next few months and keep it protected from too much cold.

Note: never let mulch come into direct contact with the plant’s stem as this can cause it to rot.

As mentioned earlier, Easter Lilies don’t like to be waterlogged, so it’s important to plant your Easter Lily in soil that has good drainage, whether you keep it indoors or outside.

Watering and Feeding Your Easter Lily

Easter Lilies aren’t particularly thirsty plants, and they react very poorly to being watered too often and they may grow healthier with bottled water. When keeping your plant indoors, it can be hard to follow an advised watering schedule as everyone’s indoor conditions are different.

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Heat, humidity and the size of your plant can determine how much water it needs but the general rule of thumb for watering Easter Lilies is to make sure that the soil is always slightly damp. Prod the soil a little every few days and only top up with water if it’s dry.

Every two weeks after the flowers have finished blooming, feed the plant with a liquid fertilizer, particularly if you’re keeping your plant indoors. Directions for how much to feed the plant will depend on its size and the size of its pot, so be sure to read the instructions carefully.

Humidity and Your Easter Lily

Easter Lilies aren’t tropical houseplants, so there’s no need to spray their leaves or keep them in humid conditions to get the best out of them. Instead, an average indoor humidity of around 40% is thought to be optimum.

Once again, it’s crucial to have good drainage in the soil of your Easter Lily, be that in a pot or the garden, so as not to keep the roots in wet conditions, which can cause them to quickly rot away.

When in bloom, the flowers prefer a slightly cooler, less humid living condition but there’s no need to keep a window open or turn on the air conditioning for them. In fact, they should be moved away from all air vents. Regular indoor temperature is usually fine.

Are Easter Lilies Toxic?

Yes, they can be.

Easter Lilies, like many lilies, are filled with pollen-rich anthers that grow from the center of their trumpet-like flowers. These can cause allergies in humans so remove them when you see them growing, which is also a good idea to keep the flowers in bloom for longer.

However, it’s not just the anthers or the pollen alone that are dangerous to animals.

Every part of an Easter Lily is toxic to cats. Whether that’s the pollen, a leaf, or a piece of the flower, ingesting the smallest amount of an Easter Lily can swiftly cause kidney failure in your cat.

For this reason, you may choose not to cultivate Easter Lilies if you own a cat. If you’re thinking of buying a friend an Easter Lily, then you might want to get them a different kind of gift if you know they’re a cat owner.

Dogs and other animals won’t have the same violent reaction to ingesting any part of an Easter Lily, but they may have mild gastrointestinal issues after eating so keep out of their reach, and particularly out of the reach of children, at all times.

Propagating Your Easter Lily

This is where most people struggle in their care of Easter Lilies. While these plants are perennials and should reward you with flowers every year, the process you must go through in order to get them to do this can be tedious.

A couple of experts will say that keeping your plant indoors will still yield flowers every season as long as you follow the instructions on how to look after the plant for the rest of the year.

However, most horticulturists say that once you’ve lost the flowers from the first bloom, you won’t get a repeat performance unless you plant your Easter Lily outside.

Keeping your Easter Lily indoors after it’s bloomed won’t kill it, but you’re unlikely to see flowers appearing the following year if you keep your lily as a houseplant. If you’re in it for the flowers (and let’s face it, the flowers are the best thing about a lily), you need to plant the bulb outside.

Once the flowers have all gone, remove any withered petals and leaves from the stem, but keep the plant in its pot and in a place with plenty of light. Keep the soil damp but not wet, and feed once every couple of weeks.

It might look a little bare and boring, but it’s doing what it’s supposed to as it get ready for the following year.

Keep the lily inside until after the next winter. Then, as long as there’s no risk of frost outside, which could kill the bulb, then it’s time to transplant your Easter Lily to the great outdoors. You should always find a place in the garden that gets plenty of light but won’t be in the heat of the midday sun. Lilies like light but not heat.

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It can be a tricky thing to balance!

If you live in a part of the country where the temperature will plummet (check out your own location on the USDA planting zone map) then you may want to plant your Easter Lilies into large containers that sit outside, so they still get the benefit of being outdoors, but they can be taken inside when the weather gets particularly cold.

You Can Still Try Growing an Easter Lily Indoors!

Some people have still had success producing flowers from an Easter Lily that they’ve kept as a houseplant, rather than transferring outside. The trick is to mimic the conditions that the plant would have be in if it were out and planted in your garden.

If it’s been in your house since the previous Easter, by the next time January rolls around again take the bulb out of the pot, cover it with a damp paper towel and place it in the refrigerator, inside a plastic bag.

This makes the bulb ‘think’ it’s going through the same cold, dark and damp process that it would go through during the winter, if it were in the ground.

In March, remove the bulb, plant it in a pot in the house at around 2 inches deep, and wait for a new shoot to come up! This is a tricker process to get right but many people have success with getting flowers from an indoor Easter Lily almost every year.

Growing an Easter Lily from a Bulb

If you haven’t managed to find an Easter Lily plant ready-grown in stores, you can still grow them from bulbs. Check out your local garden center for Easter Lily bulbs and plant them any time from the fall to the spring.

If you live in a particularly cold climate, then you’ll want to wait until the spring to plant your bulbs, so that the winter doesn’t kill them off before they’ve even had a chance to grow.

Bury the bulb around six inches into the ground, in soil that isn’t too compacted but that doesn’t leave any of the bulb exposed. Always avoid planting an Easter Lily in clay-like soil, as it’s far too compacted and will not allow for the right amount of drainage necessary.

Don’t Worry if You See Nothing for a Year or Two!

Lilies are rather slow at producing the kinds of flowers we expect from them, but don’t fret! It takes a huge amount of work and effort on the plant’s behalf to produce flowers, so they can spend a couple of years underground, working on their flower-making powers.

So, don’t remove your Easter Lily bulbs! Give them the time they need to settle in, even if it means going flowerless for a couple of seasons.

Are Easter Lilies at Risk of Pests and Diseases?

It’s not thought that there are any particular diseases that target Easter Lilies but they’re known to attract aphids.

Aphids are better known by gardeners as greenfly or blackfly, and they’re the scourge of many a plant lover. Aphids live off the sap that plants emit and while many hardier plants and trees can cope with their little nibbling invasions, delicate plants like lilies can suffer.

Aphids are known to carry diseases from plant to plant and in particular they can affect your Easter Lily with a disease called Lily Mosaic Virus. This is a disease that can’t be cured once infection has taken hold, so be sure to keep on top of any aphid invasion.

Remove aphids by squirting or pouring water over your plant’s leaves, but if they’re stubbornly clinging on, then remove them with some insecticidal soap, one that’s mild enough to remove the critters but won’t damage your lily.

Poor Soil Can Damage Your Easter Lily Bulbs

If the drainage of your soil is poor or you over-water your bulbs, they will rot. Clay-like soil and soil that is too alkaline will also damage bulbs beyond recovery.

Some small animals like to nibble on lily bulbs and others will simply dig them up thinking they’re edible before ignoring them. Either way, it’ll mean you lose your bulbs so to keep small animals like squirrels away, cover the bulb planting area with chicken wire or mesh.

With a Little Work, You’ll Be Rewarded!

When you’re gifted an Easter Lily, it might be tempting to think it’ll only last for a small amount of time, much like a Christmas poinsettia or a bunch of cut flowers.

But with a little time, patience, and tender loving care, you may find that your Easter Lily gives you beautiful flowers for many years to come.

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