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After Use, Plant Easter Lilies in Garden

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photo by Deborah J. Benoit
Tulips, a symbol of rebirth, are a classic spring-blooming flower, often gifted to someone special around Easter time.

by Deborah J. Benoit, Extension Master Gardener, University of Vermont

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. – It’s no surprise that the Easter lily (Lilium longiflorum) is the most popular floral gift for Easter giving, but did you know that, contrary to its name, it isn’t a spring-blooming flower?

When grown outdoors, they bloom during the summer. Commercial growers go through a carefully timed process to coax them to bloom at the proper time each spring.

Easter lilies are commonly sold as a plant, but their white, trumpet-shaped flowers often take center stage in cut flower arrangements. They symbolize rebirth, new beginnings and hope.

After the holiday, potted Easter lilies can be planted in your garden after all danger of frost has passed. Be sure to introduce them to the outdoors over the course of several days by bringing them out for a while each day, gradually increasing the number of hours.

Easter lilies are hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Hardiness Zones 5-11, possibly Zone 4, if protected from winter temperatures by sufficient snow cover and a generous layer of mulch. Choose a sunny location with soil that drains well. The leaves will eventually yellow and die back in the fall.

photo by Deborah J. Benoit
Tulips, available in an array of colors, make a beautiful cut-flower bouquet to give as a gift or to decorate a home at Easter.

As beautiful as they are, be aware that every part of an Easter lily can cause stomach upset in dogs if eaten but is highly poisonous to cats. That includes the yellow pollen that is easily shed. If you have pets, be sure to keep Easter lilies well out of their reach.

In addition, the pollen can permanently stain fabric. An easy way to prevent the spread of pollen is to simply remove the anthers (the yellow part of the flower that produces pollen).

Of course, Easter lilies aren’t the only flower popular for Easter gift giving.

Daffodils (Narcissus) are one of the first flowers to emerge as winter ends and are true harbingers of spring. They appear in cut flower bouquets and as potted plants at florists around this time of year. Their bright yellow, trumpet-shaped blooms represent rebirth and are a popular gift for Easter.

Daffodils are hardy in USDA Hardiness Zones 3-8. While bulbs are traditionally planted in the fall, potted daffodils can be transferred to the garden after flowers have faded. Simply deadhead the flowers and allow the greenery to continue to grow until it dies off naturally. Remove from the pot and plant in the garden once temperatures have warmed and the ground is workable.

Like daffodils, tulips (Tulipa) are a classic spring-blooming flower. They’re available in a rainbow of colors and can be found at florists as cut flowers or potted plants. The egg-shaped flowers can represent rebirth and love.

Tulips are hardy in USDA Hardiness Zones 3-7. Potted tulips can be transplanted in the garden in the same manner as daffodils. Like daffodils, they’re toxic to dogs and cats if eaten.

courtesy photo
The ever-popular Easter lily, sold as a potted plant or cut flowers, symbolizes rebirth, new beginnings and hope.

You may already be familiar with other holiday cacti—Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumbergera truncata) and Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii)—but have you heard of the Easter cactus (Rhipsalidopsis gaertneri)? Its flowers come in shades of red, orange and pink. It’s easy to care for and generally considered pet friendly.

Like other holiday cacti, Easter cactus is actually a succulent. Treat it to bright, indirect sunlight and water when the soil feels dry. It’s hardy only to USDA Hardiness Zones 10-12, so while it can spend warmer months outside (avoid hot, direct sunlight), be sure to bring it back indoors before there’s danger of frost.

Whether you receive Easter flowers as a bouquet, a potted plant or a mixed-bulb planting, they’re a wonderful way to celebrate and a sure sign of spring.

Deborah J. Benoit is a UVM Extension Master Gardener from North Adams, Mass., who is part of the Bennington County Chapter.

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