Easter Lily History

Friday was the first day of spring, and Easter is April 5. It seems this year has just flown by, and Oklahoma barely had a winter this year. We had some snow a few times, but we had more 70 degree days than snow days this season. That is bad news for pet owners, but great news for exterminators!

Since Easter is in two weeks, I thought I'd write about my favorite lily: the Easter lily. The beautiful, trumpet shaped white blooms are thought to symbolize purity, innocence and hope. References to Easter lilies can be found in mythology, literature, historical accounts and even art. Many accounts say Easter lilies were found growing in the Garden of Gethsemane after Christ's agony. Easter lilies are used in Easter services to honor the resurrection of Christ and to symbolize life everlasting.

The history of Easter lilies in the United States began in 1919 when a WWI soldier named Louis Houghton brought home a suitcase full of the bulbs, which he then gave to family and friends to plant. Prior to 1941, most Easter lily bulbs were imported from Japan. By 1945, there were over 1,000 commercial growers on the west coast, and now, they are the fourth largest potted plant crop in the US. Over 95% are grown in a relatively small stretch of land at the California-Oregon border and stretching further north in Oregon. Did you know most plants are cultivated for 3-4 years before being ready to be shipped to commercial growers?

When choosing an Easter lily, look for plants with flowers in various stages from slightly opened flowers to buds. Be sure to choose plants with healthy green leaves that extend to the soil line. You want to look for a plant that is about two times as tall as the pot. Plants larger than this are outgrowing their pots and will be stressed.

Your Easter lily should be in an area of bright sunlight, but be careful not to put the plant in direct sunlight, as they prefer cooler temps. Make sure the area is free of drafts and away from appliances. Water when the soil is dry about an inch down in the pot, and remove the flowers as they wither and die. Do remove the yellow anthers from the center of the flowers, as this will help the blooms last longer.

Should you choose to plant your own Easter lily bulbs, keep in mind that florists "force" the flowers to bloom early, so you may not have flowers by Easter. The most popular bulbs are called "Nellie White." When planting outdoors, find a location with full sun but cool soil.  With our fiercely hot, dry summers, Oklahoma is probably not the best place to attempt to grow Easter lilies outside. Transplanting your plants to bigger pots is probably the best way to help your Easter lilies continue to bloom.

Since Easter is in two weeks, stop by Lilygrass flowers & décor in Oklahoma City now for the best selection. Until next week!

Easter morn with lilies fair
Fills the church with perfumes rare,
As their clouds of incense rise,
Sweetest offerings to the skies.
Stately lilies pure and white
Flooding darkness with their light,
Bloom and sorrow drifts away,
On this holy hallow'd day.
Easter Lilies bending low
in the golden afterglow,
Bear a message from the sod
To the heavenly towers of God.

-Louise Lewin Matthews


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