The flower that most often comes to mind,
when we think of Easter, is the Easter lily. But there
are others as well, all with rather interesting origins.
Did you know that the Easter lily’s true
name is Bermuda lily? It is a pure white flower, believed
to symbolize purity. Coming from one bulb, the flower
is said to represent the tomb of Jesus with the blossoms
symbolizing his life after death.
In the Alps, the narcissus has been associated
with Easter for centuries. In fact, even before Christianity,
the narcissus represented springtime in Greek mythology.
In England and Russia, pussy willows are
used for Easter flowers. In the Middle East, it is wild
tulips, while in Mexico, tropical flowers fill the churches
during this spring holiday season.
The early Germans decorated with red flowers
and red fruited plants such as English holly, believing
the red color represented the blood of Christ. The field
anemone, Anemone coronaria, also was associated with
the passion of Christ. In this country, most people
buy Easter lilies to celebrate the season. When buying
a lily, select a plant with many unopened buds and leaves
all the way down the stem. Poor growing conditions or
root disease will cause the loss of leaves from the
bottom up, so be sure to pull back the wrapper to check.
Choose a well-proportioned plant, one
that’s about two times as high as the pot. Check the
buds, flowers, and leaves–especially the undersides–for
signs of insect pests and disease.
To keep your lily healthy at home, remove
the decorative foil or paper covering the pot, or make
a hole in the bottom, to allow better drainage. Put
your plant where it will get plenty of bright, indirect
light and cool temperatures. About 40 to 50 degrees
F at night and below 68 degrees F during the day is
You also will need to keep the soil constantly
moist. To prolong the life of the blossoms, remove the
yellow, pollen-bearing pods or anthers found in the
center of each flower.
Don’t expect your lily to flower again
as it’s already been “forced” once by the
grower to bloom in time for Easter. However, you might
get your lily to bloom again next fall by planting it
outdoors once the soil has warmed up.
If you plan to replant your lily outdoors,
remove the flowers as they fade. Put the plant on a
sunny windowsill for four to six weeks until the foliage
matures. Continue to water.
When the leaves turn brown, cut the stem
off at the soil line. Then in late May, plant the bulb
four to six inches deep in a sunny, well-drained location.
Fertilize twice during the summer. With luck, your lily
will bloom this fall. Just don’t count on it surviving
a Vermont winter although you might try protecting it
with a thick layer of straw, then wait to see what happens.
A BASKET OF EASTER FLOWERS
Dr. Leonard Perry
Extension Nursery and Greenhouse Crops Specialist
University of Vermont