Every holiday has its own traditions, and often plants and flowers are part of the beloved customs that are passed through generations. Among Easter traditions like eggs and baskets full of candies wrapped in colorful foil, the Easter lily stands as the flower representative of this season and holiday of renewal.
The Easter lily, Lilium longiflorum, can grow to 3 feet tall in the right conditions, but it is more common to see Easter lilies that are closer to 18 to 24 inches in height. The flowers of this plant are white and trumpet shaped, with many outward-facing blossoms on each stem. The fragrance of the Easter lily is strong and sweet. Strap-like leaves radiate from the length of the stem.
According to Texas A&M University, the Easter lily is native to the southern islands of Japan. Prior to 1941, the United States imported Easter lily bulbs from Japan, but shifted commercial production of the lily bulbs to U.S. soil as a result of its conflict with Japan during World War II. Since that time, over 95 percent of the Easter lily bulbs grown for the U.S. market are produced in a small area on the California-Oregon border. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Easter lily is the fourth largest crop in wholesale value the United States, and in 2005 boasted a wholesale value of $35 million. The variety of Easter lily that is most widely produced is "Nellie White," named after the wife of lily grower James White.
The symbolism of the Easter lily is very strong, embodying the spiritual nature of the Easter holiday. Purity, innocence, hope, virtue and new life are all symbolized by the pure white flowers of the Easter lily.
Legend has it that beautiful white lilies grew in the spots where drops of Christ's sweat fell during his time of sorrow in the garden of Gethsemane. Potted Easter lilies are commonly found adorning church altars during the Easter season to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus, according to AppleSeeds.org.
Many look forward to bringing potted Easter lilies into their home each spring not only as a religious symbol, but also as a signal of the turning seasons and renewed growth.
Like all plants, Easter lilies require proper care to retain their beauty. To extend the life of your Easter lily blossoms, remove the anther from the middle of the bloom before the pollen starts to shed. This helps keep blossoms more attractive. As flowers start to look old and wilted, remove them to keep your lily looking clean and attractive. Keep the soil moist, but never soggy, and place your lily in a cool spot in your home where it will receive bright, indirect sunlight.
In a Garden
To plant an Easter lily in your garden, choose a sunny spot with well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter. Plant the bulb 3 inches below the surface, and then mound another 3 inches of soil on top. Gently tamp the soil down around the bulb, and water thoroughly. According to Texas A&M University, you should cut the stems back as they begin to turn brown and wither. New growth will emerge, but the plant may not bloom again until the next summer.