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Easter Lilies Signal Spring

Written by Rhonda Ferree, retired horticulture educator

Easter is just around the corner. Have you purchased you Easter lily yet? If not, be sure to choose an Easter lily with lots of unopened buds for longer bloom enjoyment.

Easter lily history

The popular Easter lily is the Christian symbol of purity, innocence, and chastity. But this particular lily has been popular for eons. In the Semitic world, it is the symbol of motherhood. It was the flower of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, and was later the flower of Roman Goddess's Diana and Venus.


To keep the plant looking its best longer, keep the plants out of direct sunlight or warm drafts. Remove flowers as soon as they wither and clip any leaf ends that may brown.

Should you remove the stamens? Removing the yellow stamens inside the bloom is simply a matter of choice and aesthetics. Removal does not make the flower last longer. The only reason to remove it is for looks since as the pollen falls from the stamen it can stain the flower.

Plant Outside

It is somewhat sad to see Eastern lily used only as a potted plant because it also makes a gorgeous garden plant. Do not throw out your Easter lily when it is done blooming. Instead, after your lily finishes flowering, keep it watered until the leaves turn yellow. Then, about Memorial Day you can plant your lily bulb outdoors and watch it bloom again later this summer.

Planting from bulb

One of my college friends planted Easter lilies outside their church and they were in full bloom during their late summer wedding.

Today, the lily sold as the Easter lily is most likely the Lilium candidum, known by the common name of Madonna lily. The Madonna Lily bulb should be planted close to the surface of the soil, which is different from most other lilies. This year it should send up a new shoot later this summer and bloom before frost.

Lilies do well in full sun or partial shade. Provide fertile soil and mulch to keep the root zone cool. Drainage is very important. Typically the bulbs are planted in the fall. Most lily bulbs are planted with 4 to 6 inches of soil above the top of the bulb.

The bulb should overwinter here and bloom in July in subsequent years. In the garden, the flowering stem carries as many as 15 or more pure white fragrant flowers 5 inches in diameter, reaching a height of 48 inches or more.

True lilies

There are many other types of true lilies available for the garden ranging in colors of white, orange, scarlet, rose, pink, or yellow. True lilies are different from day lilies in leaf and flower arrangement. True lilies have leaves going up a single stem with flowers at the top, whereas day lilies have long leaves and flower stalks coming from large clumps. Because of their singular and striking habit, true lilies are excellent as single specimens or in solid masses.



As horticulture educator, Rhonda Ferree inspired citizens in local communities to grow their own food and improve their home landscapes. She focused on high quality, impactful programs that taught homeowners how to create energy-efficient landscapes using sustainable practices that increase property values and help the environment.

After 30 years with University of Illinois Extension, Rhonda retired in 2018. She continues to share her passion for horticulture related topics as “Retro Rhonda” on social media.

ILRiverHort is a blog that helps people connect to nature and grow.