Lilium longiflorum, or Easter lily belongs in the family Liliaceae of the Lilium genus. This plant is indigenous to Taiwan and the Japanese Ryukyu Islands and was cultivated in China and Japan for hundreds of years before early Western explorers arrived. This particular lily was “discovered” in 1777 by the famous botanical explorer Carl Thunberg and was first brought to England in 1819 and to America in 1880.
There are around 80-100 different species of lilies, distributed all over the Northern Hemisphere and have a broad range of colors, from pink, cream, and yellow. Lilies have been valued throughout history for their perfume and beauty and were considered sacred by many ancient cultures such as the Greek, Minoan and Roman civilizations. There are also references to lilies in the Bible and it has become a representation of purity and chastity by Christians and connected to the Virgin Mary.
This plant grows from about 20-39 inches tall. It has 6-inch long green oval leaves and produces two or more white 3-7 inch long flowers on top of its stem from April until June. It naturally flowers at irregular periods during the year, which is exploited by cultivators to induce the plant to flower for Easter. The stem is cylindrical with a 2-inch diameter.
A variety of Easter lily, native to Japan, grows taller and vigorous and is widely grown for cut flowers. This variety was also named the Bermuda lily since it was extensively cultivated in Bermuda.
Easter lily bulb cultivation and production were centered mainly in Japan and the U.S. from the late 1800s onwards. Until the 1940s, Easter lily bulbs were generally imported from Japan. After Pearl Harbor, Easter lilies became very valuable in the US. At present, almost all Easter lily bulbs in North America are cultivated in California and Oregon.
Some gardeners and florists suggest that removing the anthers from the flower increases the life of the flower and prevents pollen stains on the white petals, particularly indoors where the pollen can fall and stain surfaces.
This plant prefers growing in full sun with partial shade. Protecting the plant from harsh afternoon sunlight is sometimes necessary, as the foliage can get scorched. If possible, place the plant in the center of shorter plants to shade the soil since it likes its soil to remain cool. A nice layer of mulch can also help achieve this. When growing it indoors, choose an area with indirect bright light.
Easter lilies like their soil to be moist but not water-logged, water it whenever the topsoil dries out but don’t allow the soil to become totally dry. Watering the plant in the morning is better as the leaves can dry out under the sun. Watering it in the evening might result in problems with mildew. Water-logging the plant will result in leaf wilt and root rot.
It thrives better in average humidity levels and doesn’t like very hot and humid climates.
It prefers temperatures around 60-65°F in the daytime as this helps to extend the life of the flowers. Night temperatures should stay around 55-60°F.
This plant enjoys growing in nutrient-rich soil, although it can grow in any soil type provided that drainage is good. It likes a soil pH level that is a bit acidic to neutral, but it can tolerate slightly alkaline soil as well. Mulching is necessary to shield the soil when it is grown outdoors since this plant prefers cool soil. Alternatively, planting a ground cover of annual or perennial plants around the plant will also help.
Remove the plant and free the roots from old soil while spreading them out. Prepare another pot partially filled with soil and put the plant inside to fill in soil around the plant, pressing down to keep it in place and water it well.
This plant is propagated by dividing the bulb since it naturally produces small offsets. After the plant flowers, remove the offsets or bulbs, prepare as many pots filled with soil as there are bulbs/offsets, and plant the bulbs. Water them and care for them as usual.
It will benefit from a slow-releasing, balanced fertilizer once new growth appears in spring. If the soil you are using isn’t rich in nutrients, it can be fertilized again in summer.
Remove withered flowers to stop the plant from spending energy producing seeds. Once flowering is done in summer, cut off the flowering part of the stalk. The plant will stay green and attractive until fall when the leaves will become yellow and die. Prune the whole plant down to the level of the soil when it dies. It will resume growing in spring.
This plant sometimes has problems with aphids that can damage the leaves, you can control this infestation by spraying off the aphids with water or using insecticidal soap.
In addition to this, aphids also help in transmitting the mosaic virus, which can be deadly for the plant since there is no cure/treatment for the disease this virus causes. Infected plants should be immediately destroyed before they can spread and infect other plants.
This plant can also be afflicted by several kinds of bulb rot. These conditions are usually due to waterlogging and/or improper drainage. Always monitor the plant to prevent these problems.
Botrytis Blight causes brownish-red spots to form on leaves and brown spots on flowers to prevent this, humidity must be maintained below 85%, use a fungicide to safeguard healthy plants.
Leaf Scorch is another problem that is indicated by semicircular dead areas forming along the margins of leaves and might engulf the leaf tips. There are many causes for this such as fluoride toxicity or mineral deficiency caused by root rot and even low soil pH. Avoid using superphosphate and any other fertilizers containing fluoride. Monitor your watering schedule to avoid root rot and check the pH of the soil – this plant requires a soil pH level around 6-7.