Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Easter Lily-History & Care



We can thank Louis Houghton, a World War I soldier, for the popularity of the Bermuda lily --better known as the Easter Lily -- in this country. In 1919 he brought a suitcase full of hybrid lily bulbs to the southern coast of Oregon and gave them to family and friends to plant.

The climate there was ideal for growing this lily, a native of the Ryukyu Islands of Japan, and by 1945, over one thousand west coast growers were producing bulbs for the commercial market. Despite a sales window of only approximately two weeks each year, Easter Lilies are the fourth largest potted plant crop in the U.S., ranking among poinsettias, mums, and azaleas as America's favorite blooming plants.

For many, the beautiful trumpet-shaped white flowers symbolize purity, virtue, innocence, hope and life—the spiritual essence of Easter.

The pure white lily has long been closely associated with the Virgin Mary. In early paintings, the Angel Gabriel is pictured extending to the Virgin Mary a branch of pure white lilies, announcing that she is to be the mother of the Christ Child. 
The legend is told that when the Virgin Mary’s tomb was visited three days after her burial, it was found empty save for bunches of majestic white lilies. 

A mark of purity and grace throughout the ages, the regal white lily is a fitting symbol of the greater meaning of Easter. Gracing millions of homes and churches, the flowers embody joy, hope and life. Whether given as a gift or enjoyed in your own home, the Easter Lily, along with other Easter blooms, serves as a beautiful reminder that Easter is a time for rejoicing and celebrating.

During the Victorian era, the very stamens and pistils were removed because they were seen as overt symbols of sexuality that might move the congregation to impure thoughts.
Selecting the Perfect Easter Lily

Whether you plan to give plants as gifts or use them to decorate your own home, the following tips will help make your Easter Lilies keep on giving.

Two of the greatest charms of the Easter Lily are form and fragrance, so look for high quality plants that are beautiful from all angles. Select a size that is not too tall or short.

For the longest possible period of enjoyment in your home, look for plants with flowers in various stages of bloom. For example, the best selection would be a plant with just one or two open or partly open blooms, and three or more unopened buds of different sizes. The ripe puffy buds will open up within a few days, while the tighter ones will bloom over the next several days.

As the flowers mature, remove the yellow anthers before the pollen starts to shed. This gives longer flower life and prevents the pollen from staining the white flowers. When a mature flower starts to wither after its prime, cut it off to make the plant more attractive while you still enjoy the fresher, newly-opened blooms.

When selecting plants, be sure to also cheek the foliage. An abundance of dark, rich green leaves is not only attractive, but a vital sign of good plant health. The foliage should appear dense and plentiful, all the way down to the soil line, a good indicator of an active, healthy root system.

Easter Lilies and Pets

According to the National Animal Poison Control Center (NAPCC), certain types of lilies can cause renal failure in cats that have ingested a portion of the lily.  For more information, contact your vet or visit the Animal Poison Control Center at aspca.org.

How to Care For Easter Lilies

In the home, Easter Lilies prefer moderately cool temperatures. Ideal daytime temperatures are 60 to 65 degrees F., with slightly cooler temperatures at night. Avoid placing plants near drafts, and avoid exposure to excess heat or dry air from appliances, fireplaces, or heating ducts. The lily will thrive near a window in bright, indirect natural daylight, but avoid glaring, direct sunlight.

Easter Lilies prefer moderately moist, well-drained soil. Water the plant thoroughly when the soil surface feels dry to the touch, but avoid over-watering. If the pot is wrapped in decorative foil, be careful not to let the plant sit in trapped, standing water. For best results, remove the plant from decorative pots or covers, take it over the sink and water thoroughly until water seeps out of the pot's drain holes to completely saturate the soil. Allow the plant to air for a few minutes and discard the excess water before replacing it back into its decorative pot cover.

Planting Easter Lilies Outside

It is very difficult to force Easter lilies into bloom a second time indoors. An alternative is to plant them outdoors in Spring, where they may bloom again in summer or Fall. The plants will need a site with bright light but some shelter from extreme heat and wind.

Plant the Easter Lily bulbs 3 inches below ground level, and mound up an additional 3 inches of topsoil over the bulb. Plant bulbs at least 12 to 18 inches apart in a hole sufficiently deep so that the bulbs can be placed in it with the roots spread out and down, as they naturally grow. Spread the roots and work prepared soil in around the bulbs and the roots, leaving no air pockets. Water immediately and thoroughly after planting.

Another planting tip to consider is that lilies like their roots in shade and their heads in the sun. Use mulching to help conserve moisture. Or, plant a "living mulch" of shallow-rooted, complementary annuals or perennials.


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