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Easter lilies

April 1, 2010
By Stephanie Bethke-DeJaeghere

There is a tradition at my house at this time of the year. As Palm Sunday rolls along, I buy an Easter lily. The boys helped me out this year and I thought I was picky about my flowers! I have to admit all of these past years that I have bought an Easter lily, I have never thought much about them. Oh, I know that they had to come from a grower somewhere but some of those other details that I am friendly with, like I am with another holiday favorite, a poinsettia for example, I just didn't know. So, after reading a great wealth of information that was bestowed upon ourselves via David Zlesak, who is a Regional Extension Educator, I know all of those pressing questions that I once had.

Since most of us probably have their Easter lilies purchased by the time that you read this, here is some trivia about Easter lilies.

Easter lilies are ready to be shipped to greenhouses in October. There is one main cultivar called Nellie White.

Northern California and Southern Oregon is the central area where most Easter lilies are grown for the commercial market. There are nine growers. The Easter lily ranks in the top five flowering potted plants that are sold commercially after poinsettias, mums, orchids and azaleas. In 2005 there were approximately 8.5 million Easter lilies sold for a wholesale price of 35.6 million dollars.

The Easter lily, as we call it, is native to Japan and the bulbs came predominately from Japan until the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The bulbs were then grown on the California coast and Oregon coast since it was most like the Japanese growing environment. There were many farmers back then, who used the bulbs as another cash crop to sustain their farms during the early 1940s. The price, commercially, then for an Easter lily bulb was $1 which is the same price as it is today.

You can imagine how well some of those farms did back then. However, as these things happen, so many people started growing Easter lilies that the price of the bulbs went down dramatically. And thus, this is why there are only a handful of growers left. There were other cultivars but became infected with a lily disease which was unlike the cultivar Nellie White which continues, it seems, to be resistant. It takes about two to three years before a bulb is big enough to be sold on the commercial market and make it into your home.

Easter lilies do carry a disease called 'Lily symptomless virus.' Which by its very name, is symptomless and the plant(s) that are affected just do not have the best show of flowers and maybe do not grow quite as big as you thought it might. So, it can be confused with other problems.

This disease can be transmitted to other lilies in your garden such as you asiatics and your Oriental lilies. These two kinds of lilies are hybrids of the Easter lily.

Easter lilies are easy to take care of once you do have them displayed in your home.

The soil should be allowed to dry out between waterings. In order to keep your plant flowering the longest, remove the antlers (the long things that stick out from the middle of each flower and has yellow stuff (pollen) on them. This keeps the flower from thinking it has been pollinated. The flower pot should also be indirect sunlight that is cool.

You can plant your Easter lily outside and have it bloom in the summer. I have done this several times and it works beautifully. You just need to keep them away from other lilies.

For more information about gardening, you can email me at



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