Recycling Easter lilies

If you saved your poinsettias with plans of coercing them into bloom for next Christmas, then you’re probably going to save your Easter lilies. But for those of you who compost your holiday plants, you may want to make an exception with Easter lilies. They can be recycled by replanting them in the landscape. Unlike tender poinsettias which can be killed by temperatures below 50 degrees F, Easter lilies (Lilium longiflorum var. eximium) are hardy, garden-worthy bulbs that can be grown outdoors year-round,

Right now, continue to enjoy their pure white fragrant flowers indoors. They should be resting near a window that receives bright, indirect sunlight. Keep the potting medium moist. Water the plant thoroughly when the soil surface feels dry, but avoid overwatering. If the pot is wrapped in decorative foil, be careful not to let the plant sit in trapped, standing water. Remove the plant from decorative pots or covers and water until it seeps out of the pot’s drain holes. Repeat this several times. Allow the plant to drain for a few minutes before putting it back into its decorative cover.

When a mature flower starts to fade and wither, cut it off to keep the plant looking attractive.

After the last flower of your Easter lily has withered and has been cut away, plant it in the garden. Follow these simple steps:

  1. Prepare a well-drained garden bed in a sunny location amended with organic matter such as compost. Good drainage is the key for success with lilies. To ensure adequate drainage, create a raised garden bed by moving soil to the top a few inches higher than the surrounding soil level. Also, adjust the soil pH to 6.5 to 7.0.
  2. Plant the potted Easter lily bulbs 12 to 18 inches apart. Water them in immediately after planting.
  3. Lilies like their “feet in the shade and their heads in the sun.” Mulch with a 2-inch layer of compost, pine straw, or shredded leaves. This helps conserve moisture in between waterings, suppresses weed growth, keeps the soil cool, and provides nutrients as it decays.

Easter lily in bloom on June 22, 2014 in Easley, SC.

As the leaves and stems of the original plants begin to turn brown and die back, cut them back just above a healthy leaf on the stem. Wait until the leaves and stems have turned brown before removing them. New growth will soon emerge.

In the fall when the lily stalks have matured and turned yellow, you can cut them back to soil level. When they are completely dry, the stalks can be pulled out easily.

During the winter months, maintain a generous layer of mulch. Carefully remove the mulch in the spring to allow new shoots to come up. Fertilize with a complete fast-release fertilizer such as 8-8-8 when the new shoots emerge and monthly until flowering. Conversely, a slow-release fertilizer can be applied just once during the growing season when new shoots emerge in the spring. Apply the fertilizer to the soil around each plant about 2 inches from the stem and water it in.

Easter lilies, which were forced to flower under controlled greenhouse conditions on Easter, a holiday that can fall on any Sunday from March 22 to April 25, will flower naturally in late May and June and will reach a height of 3 feet or more.

Although your recycled Easter lilies will not bloom on time, you can still enjoy their elegant flowers and take credit for their spectacular display.

Bob Polomski (c) 2015


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