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Keep that Easter lily

Perhaps you were fortunate enough to receive a potted Easter lily as a gift this spring or maybe, like me, you bought your own. I was lucky enough to find one with buds not yet open — one bud was just on the verge of opening — so I will get to fully enjoy every single bloom. When buying a flowering plant, choosing one with the fewest blooms and the most buds ensures a longer bloom period and enables you to enjoy blooms that would otherwise go past while the plant is still on the store’s shelf.

An Easter lily does not have to be consigned to the compost bin after it has finished blooming. If you are a gardener, add it to your outdoor lily patch and watch it bloom in your garden in coming years. True, the Easter lily is a trumpet lily and therefore not fully hardy in our area, so it will have to be planted in a sheltered spot with some added protection for the winter. Planting it near the foundation on the south side of the house will provide protection from the wind and allow the plant to benefit from any radiant heat coming through the foundation wall; both will help the lily come through the winter unscathed. Ensure that the plant gets plenty of water and that it goes into the winter with moisture at its roots.

Supply additional protection by piling dry leaves on the lily just before freeze-up and covering with a Styrofoam or plastic cover to keep it dry, making sure that some air can get in to prevent moisture buildup under the cover. If you fear that rodents such as mice might be a problem, put a couple of clothes dryer sheets such as “Bounce” in with the leaves to deter the pests.

This spring, after the lily has finished blooming, place the pot in a sunny window and begin to feed it. Make sure that it is watered regularly so that the planting medium is moist but not sodden — lilies don’t like “wet feet” and the bulb may rot if the soil is kept too wet.

As warmer weather arrives, set the pot outside for short periods of time to help it become acclimatized to outdoor conditions, gradually increasing the exposure from day to day. When all danger of frost has passed, the now hardened-off plant can be planted outdoors and allowed to grow during the summer. I always add a scoop of sand to the bottom of the planting hole as this helps to provide the excellent drainage around their roots that lilies like. Water it regularly and feed your lily all summer until the top browns off — this may happen sooner than it will for your other lilies as the plant is “out of sync” with its natural rhythm because it was forced into growth early.

Don’t be surprised if your Easter lily does not bloom next spring; it might take it a year to get back into its normal routine and to replenish the bulb that was stressed by being forced. In succeeding springs, however, it should provide some wonderful blooms in your outdoor garden — just not at Easter time!

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