The Q&A Archives: How to grow Easter lily throughout summer

Question: Each year I receive a beautiful Easter lily plant. How do I grow it through the summer and get it to flower again the following Easter? Barbara Dedic New Underwood, SD

Answer: Easter lilies (Lilium longiflorum) naturally bloom in late summer, so commercial Easter lily producers have to force their bulbs to bloom for the holiday, says Bob Gibson, co owner of B D Lilies in Port Townsend, Washington. The Easter lily bulb loses about 70% of its volume when it's forced, so you probably can't get your Easter lily to store enough energy growing in a South Dakota summer to successfully force it again the following year. You can, however, plant your Easter lily outside in summer and grow it as a perennial lily in your garden, Gibson says. After flowering, place the lily in a brightly lit greenhouse or solarium (but out of the direct sunlight) until spring. Plant your Easter lily when you'd plant other lilies in the garden,adding a handful of fertilizer such as Bulb Booser to the planting hole, and keep it well watered. An Easter lily bulb will survive a South Dakota winter as long as you mulch it with a four inch layer of hay or straw, says Gibson. And be sure to wait until after the ground freezes. Most people mulch bulbs before the ground freezes, creating a perfect environment for voles and other animals to eat the bulbs. If the bulb grows well, it should flower the second year in the ground, he adds. If you really want to force Easter lily bulbs early indoors, in late September, dig up ones that have been in the garden two or three years, clean them and store them in slightly dampened vermiculite in a perforated plastic bag in the refrigertaor. About 76 daysbefore Easter, pot the bulbs in a soilles mix and place them in a sunny room with day temperatures in the 70s and night temperatures in the 50s, says Gibson. If your timing and growing conditions are right, you should have flowers by Easter.

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