The Easter lily (Lilium longiflorum) is a perennial bulb with large, white, trumpet-shaped flowers that have a wonderful fragrance. Also known as the trumpet lily, this plant is called the Easter lily due to its role as a traditional Easter-time symbol. And while the lily generally blooms in the summer, growers have cultivated the plant to force it to bloom a little earlier to coincide with Easter. The plant’s thick, rigid stem grows upright and is covered in narrow, dark green leaves that are around 6 inches long. Like many bulbs, the Easter lily emerges and grows relatively quickly each season, though new bulbs might not flower until their second year. The bulbs should be planted in the fall or very early spring.
|Botanical Name||Lilium longiflorum|
|Common Names||Easter lily, trumpet lily, Bermuda lily|
|Plant Type||Perennial, bulb|
|Mature Size||2–3 ft. tall, 1 ft. wide|
|Sun Exposure||Full, partial|
|Soil Type||Loamy, well-drained|
|Soil pH||Acidic, neutral|
|Bloom Time||Summer (Late June through August)|
|Hardiness Zones||4–8 (USDA)|
|Native Area||Southern Japan, Taiwan|
|Toxicity||Toxic to cats|
Easter Lily Care
How you grow an Easter lily depends on whether you’re keeping it as a potted plant or want it in the garden. Houseplants should be kept by a window with bright, indirect light and protected from cold drafts and heat sources, including heaters, fireplaces, and appliances. If the pot is wrapped in decorative foil (as is common for the plants sold in the spring around Easter), either remove it or check often to make sure water isn’t collecting under the pot and in the foil. Overwatering will kill a plant more often than underwatering.
Easter lily bulbs in the garden are typically much easier to care for than transplanted potted plants. The bulbs should be planted around 4 to 6 inches deep and spaced about a foot apart. Don’t allow the soil around the bulbs to dry out, but also ensure that they have good drainage to prevent rot.
Once your Easter lilies grow tall, it's common for them to need staking to keep them upright. However, potted plants often don’t reach their maximum size potential, so they might not need staking. Remove flowers once they fade and wither. And cut the whole stem down to the soil once the plant is done flowering and the stem and leaves have yellowed.
Easter lilies prefer to grow in full sun to partial shade. Protection from strong afternoon sun is often necessary, as light that’s too bright can scorch the foliage. If possible, position your Easter lily so its top portion is in full sun but the area toward the soil is in shade, as the plant likes its roots to remain cool. Some shorter plants around the lily or a layer of mulch over its roots can help to achieve this.
These flowers like a well-drained soil that’s rich in organic matter, though they can grow in a variety of soil types as long as the drainage is good. They prefer a slightly acidic to neutral soil pH, but they can tolerate slightly alkaline soil as well.
Easter lilies like even soil moisture. So water whenever the top inch of soil dries out. Never allow the plants to sit in water, but also don’t permit the soil to dry out completely. It’s ideal to water in the morning, so the foliage has time to dry in the sun. Otherwise the plant might have problems with mildew.
Temperature and Humidity
Easter lilies grow and flower best in mild temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit with nighttime temperatures dipping down to 55 to 60 degrees. They like an average humidity level and tend not to do well in very hot, humid climates.
Use a slow-release, balanced fertilizer in the spring once new growth appears. If you don’t have rich soil, it can be beneficial to do another fertilizer application in the summer.
Is the Easter Lily Toxic?
The entire Lilium longiflorum plant is highly toxic to cats when ingested. It can cause severe kidney damage and even death. Just licking the pollen of the Easter lily or eating a leaf or two can cause serious illness that requires veterinary intervention.
Symptoms of Poisoning
Symptoms that a cat has ingested Easter lily include lethargy, loss of appetite, and vomiting. Seek medical care immediately if you suspect your cat has eaten any amount of the plant. Early treatment can help to prevent the more critical effects.
Varieties of Easter Lily
There are several varieties of the Easter lily:
- L. longiflorum 'White Heaven' is a classic pure white Easter lily that grows 2 to 3 feet high with 7-inch-long flowers.
- L. longiflorum 'Nellie White' is the cultivar normally grown and sold by commercial growers for the Easter lily trade.
- L. longiflorum 'Deliana' is a variety with creamy yellow flowers.
- L. longiflorum 'Elegant Lady' features fragrant pink flowers and is sometimes known as the pink Easter lily.
- L. langiflorum 'Trimphator' has white flowers with rosy pink centers.
The Easter lily is susceptible to some pests or diseases. Occasionally a plant might have an aphid infestation, which can cause degraded foliage. Bring the infestation under control by hosing off the aphids with strong water blasts or by using insecticidal soap. Moreover, the plants are susceptible to the lily mosaic virus, which is spread via aphids and causes leaf discoloration and degradation. There is no cure for this disease, so affected plants must be dug up and destroyed before it spreads. There are also several types of bulb rot that can affect Easter lilies, along with botrytis blight and leaf scorch, and stem rot. To prevent these conditions, check your Easter lilies daily and perform remediations immediately.
Keep Lilies Away From Your Cats. US Food & Drug Administration