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The Lily: Easter's Flower
The Easter lily — Lilium longiflorum — is native to the southern islands of Japan. It's the traditional flower of Easter (and spring) and is highly regarded as a joyful symbol of beauty, hope, and life.

Discover the Easter lily's history, legends, and lore; read all about caring for your lily indoors; and follow our steps for planting your lily outdoors.

History, Legends, and Lore

  • Roman mythology links the lily to Juno, queen of the gods. Legend has it that while Juno was nursing her son, Hercules, her excess milk fell from the sky. Some of this milk remained above the earth to form the stars; the rest fell to earth and turned into lilies.
  • The lily has long symbolized the Resurrection. According to legend, when Jesus walked the earth, all the plants and animals — beautiful and ugly alike — bowed their heads in respect. The lily, however, considered itself too beautiful and proud to bow. After the Crucifixion, the lily was so ashamed it bowed its head, and continues to do so as a sign of respect.
  • Easter lilies are native to the Ryukyu Islands of southern Japan, as well as the islands of Okinawa, Amani, and Erabu.
  • Although Easter lilies came to England in 1819, commercial bulb production initially started in Bermuda in 1853. The Bermuda lily industry was devastated in 1898 by a virus infestation.
  • The Easter lily was brought to the U.S. from Bermuda around 1880. Lily bulb production started in the U.S. in the late 1800's. The lily industry was centered in the southern U.S. until the turn of the century, when a new center for bulb production was established in the northwest U.S.
  • Due to their association with Christianity, lilies have long been used to decorate churches. During the Victorian era, however, churches viewed the Easter lily's stamens and pistils as overt symbols of sexuality. Fearing these parts of the flower would encourage impure thoughts, priests and ministers had the stamens and pistils removed!
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Caring for Your Lily Indoors
Given the right conditions, your Easter lily should last several weeks in your office or home.
  • Set your lily in moderate (bright but indirect) sunlight.
  • Avoid placing your lily near drafts, excess heat, or dry air — from appliances, fireplaces, or heating ducts.
  • Keep in a relatively cool environment, around 68°F (21°C).
  • Lilies thrive in reasonably moist, well-drained soil. Watering every other day should do the trick.
  • If your lily is wrapped in foil, make sure the plant is not left standing in excess water.
  • Remove the anthers (yellow pollen-releasing structures) from the center of the flowers.
  • Remove individual flowers as they fade.

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Planting Your Lily Outdoors
The Easter lily usually doesn't survive as a houseplant. Once your lily starts to whither, consider planting it in your garden.

  1. Keep your lily in moderate sunlight and water it when it becomes somewhat dry. When the temperature is mild enough, choose a sunny spot in your garden to plant the bulb. Make sure the spot is safe from high winds.
  2. Take the plant from its original container and loosen the roots.
  3. Plant the bulb 3-5 inches deeper than it was in its container and cover with soil.
  4. Water generously and fertilize with an all-purpose garden fertilizer.
The lily's old shoots — stems — will wither and die soon after planting. Watch for new flowers in late July or August.
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