1235 Lilium longiflorumCommon Names: Easter lily, Bermuda lily, trumpet lily, white trumpet lily, St. Joseph lily Family: Liliaceae (lily Family)
The Easter lily is one of the nearly 100 species of lilies as opposed to one of the thousands of lily hybrids and cultivars that have been created by gardeners. Easter lilies grow from bulbs that are around an inch and a half (3.75 cm) in diameter. The bulbs have roots on their bottoms and also develop roots on the below ground part of the stem. Above ground, Easter lilies have an unbranched, erect stem 16-38 in (40-100 cm) tall, with numerous lance shaped glossy dark green leaves scattered along its length. The leaves are around 7 in (18 cm) long and 1 in (2.5 cm) wide. The trumpet shaped flowers are pure white with six tepals and six stamens topped with bright yellow anthers. They are around 7 in (18 cm) long, and held horizontally, often in clusters (racemes) of two to six. The flowers are very fragrant, blooming in summer unless forced intentionally to bloom earlier.
A couple botanical varieties have been recognized and numerous hybrids with other lily species have been developed. L. longiflorum var. eximium has strongly recurved tepals and is the variety most widely available; var. takeshima has orange anthers and purplish tepals. ‘Aladdin’s Dream’ and ‘Casa Rosa’ have pink flowers. The tepals of ‘Longidragon’ are yellow at the base and dark purple on the back. ‘Albomarginatum’ has leaves with white margins. ‘White America’ has tepals with green tips. ‘Croft’ is smaller, to just a foot (30 cm) tall, and is the cultivar (of var. eximium) most often used for forcing and sale at Easter. Newer cultivars include some with yellow and red flowers.
Lilium longiflorum is native to Taiwan and southern Japan where it grows in open woodlands and scrubby meadows.
Light:Easter lilies usually do best in partial shade, especially in warmer areas. If an Easter lily could pick its own position it would grow with full sun on its leaves and shade at soil level. Moisture: Provide Easter lilies with a fertile, humus rich, very well drained soil. Water freely during the growing season, but less so when they are dormant. Excellent drainage is essential. Repeat: Excellent drainage is essential. Unlike many other lilies, Easter lilies are tolerant of alkaline soils. They also tolerate salt spray and seaside conditions. Hardiness: USDA Zones 6 - 9. Easter lilies do better in warm climates than many other lily species. They still need a cool dormant period and some gardeners have noticed that they flower better following especially cold winters. They might be grown in zone 10 if protected from full sun. The bulbs will need to be mulched for winter protection in zones 6 and 7. Propagation: Easter lilies are usually available as potted plants in bloom at Easter time. These may be set out in the garden after the flowers fade. Bury the bulbs 4-6 in (10-15 cm) deep. The bulbs divide and split as they grow and offsets can be removed for replanting as soon as the stems die back. Bulbs should be planted immediately after dividing with the top of the bulb 4-6 in (10-15 cm) below the ground surface. Lily bulbs lack a protective covering as many other bulbs have, and should not be allowed to dry out. Seeds can be planted as soon as ripe. The seeds should be sown on the surface of the medium and not buried.
Easter lilies are very easy to cultivate. They do not need to be divided as frequently as some other bulbous perennials, and can be left in the ground undisturbed for many years. They like to have their bulbs and roots cool, so plant them deep and use mulch or overplant with other perennials or ground covers. Easter lilies are tolerant of salt spray and are often planted in seaside gardens. They are effective in masses and in mixed borders. Plant some Easter lilies in a naturalized partly shady setting. The fragrant flowers attract butterflies.
Easter lilies are great for container gardening. The pots can be situated so the tops of the lilies are in full sun and the bulb and roots in the shade. Since Easter lilies produce roots not just from the base of the bulb but also from the stem just above the bulb, they need a relatively deep container.
Easter lilies are excellent as cut flowers, lasting several days in a vase. When cutting, take as little of the stem as necessary to avoid weakening the plant and thus reducing next year’s flowering.
Lots of plants have “lily” in their names, but only about a hundred are in the lily genus, Lilium. The true lilies are native to temperate regions of Europe, Asia and North America, with the majority found in China and the Himalayas. Lilium longiflorum is called Easter lily because containerized plants forced to bloom before they normally would are sold around Easter time. Many of these were grown on large commercial farms in Bermuda, hence another common name.
All parts of Easter lilies are toxic and should not be eaten by people or pets.
Steve Christman 2/8/15