Dear Aggie: I was gifted an Easter Lily this year. How do I care for it, and will it bloom again?
Easter Lilies (Lilium longiflorum) that are commonly acquired in the spring complete their growth in commercial greenhouses where they are forced to bloom in conjunction with the Easter holiday. This takes quite a bit of energy. They usually will not bloom again unless they are planted outdoors.
While you enjoy the blooms indoors, place your lily where it will receive full sun. A room with a south-facing window offers the brightest light. Keep the soil evenly moist, but not sopping — think of a wrung-out sponge. Remove any foil wrapping around the pot, or poke holes in the bottom so water can drain freely.
Blooms last about 2 weeks. You can prolong the bloom by pinching off the yellow anthers in the center of each bloom. They hold pollen and removing them will make the flowers last longer and prevent the yellow pollen from staining the white flowers. Keeping evening temperatures cool will also extend the flowering period. Overnight, move the plant to an area with temperatures between 40 and 50 degrees.
Easter Lilies are hardy in Zone 4 (most of Northern New York), so they can be planted outside once the weather settles. When flowering has stopped, cut off the faded blooms and water when the soil surface feels dry to the touch. When outdoor temperatures stay above 40 degrees at night, the lily can be planted outside. Before planting, gradually acclimate the lily to outdoor conditions over several days.
Plant your lily in a location with full sun (at least 6 hours per day) and well-drained soil. Easter lilies do not do well in heavy clay soils. If you have this type of soil, amend the planting area by digging in 3 to 4 inches of peat moss or compost.
When the plant dies back in the fall, cut off the dead stem. Work in a top dressing of bulb fertilizer or blood meal while being careful not to disturb the roots. Apply 4 to 5 inches of mulch in late fall. When new shoots begin to emerge in the spring, remove the mulch. Flowering will occur again in mid-summer. Once outside the lily will produce increasing numbers of blooms for many years!
Also, a note to cat lovers: Easter Lilies are poisonous to cats and can cause kidney failure. If your cat ingests any part of the plant, contact your veterinarian.
Written by Sue Gwise, Cornell Cooperative Extension consumer horticulture educator.
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