Easter lilies

The white trumpet-shaped flowers of the Easter lily have become the traditional time-honored symbol of beauty, hope and life during the Easter season. Potted flowering Easter lilies can be planted in the landscape now and will produce blooms next summer.

Over the years I have become an ardent admirer of bulbs of all types. Bulbs are easy to plant and care for, and suitable for beds or containers. It’s hard to believe that so much beauty can come from such humble origins.

The newest blooming bulb addition in my landscape is the Easter lily. The source of my Easter lily was from a potted specimen I received a few years ago — I was not about to discard such a beautiful plant that was at the end of its bloom cycle.

Lilium longiforum is the botanical name for Easter lilies and they do not bloom during Easter under natural growing conditions. Greenhouse growers pot up the bulbs in fall and force them into bloom for the holiday.

Part of the challenge in producing Easter lilies for Easter is that the Easter holiday does not fall on the same day each year. Easter is the first Sunday following a full moon, on or after the vernal equinox, March 21. Therefore, Easter lily production schedules are slightly different each year.

The primary method for forcing flower production is known as vernalization, a cold, moist treatment to the bulb for a defined time period. After bulbs are subjected to this treatment, growth is forced under greenhouse growing conditions.

I get questions this time of year about the feasibility of planting Easter lilies in the home landscape after the holiday season is over. You can plant your Easter lilies outdoors after the holiday. Pinch off flowers as they fade but don’t cut the foliage.

Indeed, after the last flower has withered away, a potted Easter lily can then be planted in the landscape. Do not remove the green foliage as it is needed to help reinvigorate the bulb for next year’s flower.

Prepare a well-drained garden bed in a sunny location amended with organic matter such as compost. Good drainage is a major key for success with lilies.

To ensure adequate drainage, create a raised garden bed by moving soil to the top a few inches higher than the surrounding soil level. Plant the Easter lily bulbs 6 inches deep from the base of the bulb to the top of the mulched surface, assuming at least a 2-inch layer of mulch.

Plant bulbs 4 to 6 inches apart. The planting hole should be wide enough so the roots can be easily spread out. Work the soil in around the roots, and water them immediately after planting.

Easter lilies like their “feet in the shade and their heads in the sun.” Mulch with a 2-inch layer of compost or shredded pine bark. This helps conserve moisture in between waterings, suppresses weed growth, keeps the soil cool and provides nutrients as it decays.

As the leaves and stems of the original plants begin to turn brown and die back, cut them back just above a healthy leaf on the stem. New growth will soon emerge. However, it is unlikely that a second flowering will occur later in the summer. Easter lilies, which were forced to flower under controlled greenhouse conditions, will flower naturally from mid-May to mid-June in the following and subsequent years and will reach a height of 3 feet or more.

During the winter months, maintain a generous layer of mulch. Carefully remove the mulch in the spring to allow new shoots to come up. Apply a slow-release fertilizer during the growing season when new shoots emerge in the spring. Apply the fertilizer to the soil around each plant about 2 inches from the stem and water it in.

While it’s wonderful to see these beautiful flowers adorning the interiors of homes and churches this time of the year, it is also nice to know that they can become long-lived, reliable spring flowering bulbs for Gulf Coast landscapes.

Beneficials in the

Garden Seminar

Over my tenure as an extension horticulture agent I provided a variety of presentations on a variety of topics. My early presentations utilized 35 mm slides and a slide projector. My how times have changed. I have transitioned to the use of PowerPoint presentations and the improvements, from display quality to ease of preparing a program, make it well-worth the agony of having to learn a new process.

One of my favorite topics to present and discuss is the diversity of beneficials that occur in our local gardening area. Beneficials include way more than honeybees and lady beetles. I invite gardeners to attend my upcoming presentation on Tuesday, April 25, from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Galveston County AgriLife Extension Office in Carbide Park, 4102-B Main St., in La Marque. Preregistration is requested. To apply, email at galvcountymgs@gmail.com or call 281-309-5065.

William Johnson is a horticulturist with the Galveston County Office of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. Visit his website at http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/galveston.

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