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Lifestyle

April 11, 2014

North Shore Gardener: Growing your own Easter lilies

Q: Can I grow my own Easter lilies? I understand it’s too late for this year, but how about next year? And can I put last year’s plants outside? I have some wonderful orientals, but I’d love to grow the fragrant white Easter lilies, as well.

A: Easter lilies are usually planted in November and December. Forcing bulbs usually takes 120 days depending on the variation. Controlling the temperature in your growing area can help speed or retard growth for Easter bloom. How does the grower get the bulbs to bloom at just the right time? The key to timing for Easter bloom is to count the leaves. When the leaves start to unfold from the infant plant, you can calculate how many have to unfold until the bud is visible. By counting the leaves that actually unfolded the previous days, you can determine if the crop is slow or fast. You can change the temperature accordingly. The lilies do not respond any faster to temperatures above 70 degrees.

Pots should provide a few inches for stem roots. Also, fertilize the bulbs after planting them. Easter lilies require medium to high light. Always keep the planting medium moist so it flowers uniformly. Water with tepid water.

From the first Sunday in Lent to Palm Sunday, the bulb is usually in the “puffy white stage.” This is when the bulb goes from visible buds to the appearance of the flower. The flowers should be in full bloom by Palm Sunday. Never let the plant sit in a saucer of water.

These bulbs are forced bulbs — they normally bloom in summer. There are several other pure white lilies that are grown as Easter lilies.

Beware: All parts of all lilies — not just Easter lilies — can be deadly if eaten by a pet. Cats are particularly susceptible. The poisoning occurs swiftly and fatally. If there is even a chance that your pet has eaten any part of any lily, get your pet to a vet immediately! Take a piece of the plant with you, if possible, so it can be identified.

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