Easter lilies tend to grow best in USDA Hardiness Zones 4-8. They also grow well in Northern California (zone 9), and we have had great success with them. The bulbs require well-drained soil with regular moisture throughout the spring growing season. Lilies have a garden height of about three feet, and often the large flowers may flop over. You can use bamboo stakes as plant support to keep the lilies upright.
Plant the bulbs a few weeks before the first frost to allow root growth; when planting, bury the bulb at least twice the depth of the bulb. Proper planting will protect the bulb during the early spring freeze and thaw cycles. Placing the bulb deeper in the ground helps the plant use the soil to support the next season’s stem.
The potted lilies you see in the stores around Easter are “forced” in greenhouses. They bloom earlier in the greenhouse than they naturally would outdoors. The majority of lilies bloom during the summer. Look for plants that have one or two flowers open. The flower should have several closed buds on the stem and plenty of healthy green foliage. Each flower lasts a few days, so the more unopened buds you have, the longer the flower display will last, as each bloom opens over time.
Place your potted Easter lily indoors with plenty of bright light and keep the soil moist. Flowering will continue for a week or two, depending on the temperature in your home. To prolong your plant’s blooming period, avoid warm spots near heating vents or drafts. It is best to keep your Easter lily cool so you can extend the life of each flower by cutting off the anthers sticking out from the center of the petals as soon as a bud opens. Be careful since the orange-yellow pollen will stain everything it touches.
If you plan to keep your Easter lily past the blooming period, fertilize once a week with a half-dose liquid fertilizer to ensure the plant has the nutrients to prepare for the following year’s bloom cycle. As flowers begin to whiter, remove the spent blooms while leaving the green stems and foliage intact.
Once the lily has finished blooming, you can plant the lily in your garden. Cut the stems down to about an inch above the soil level. Allow the soil to dry out to prepare for replanting. Once the root ball has dried out, remove the bulb from the soil and plant it in your garden, or store it in a cool place, such as a basement, until fall.
Lilies are toxic to cats and dogs. Take care where you display your plants so your pets are safe.