The sweet, pungent fragrance of Easter Lilies along with colored eggs, chocolate bunnies, and baskets of goodies signal the season. If it is your tradition to include lilies in your holiday celebration, they are available in nearly every grocery, garden, floral, and gift shop, much like the poinsettia we see at Christmas.
The lily is a symbol of virtue, innocence, hope, life, and the resurrection of Jesus. It is called the milk of Hera in mythology and featured in early artwork of the Virgin Mary to signify the Annunciation and her purity.
The flower is sometimes referred to as the white-robed apostles of hope because it is said that lilies grew where drops of Jesus’ perspiration fell along the way to the cross. Another legend is that when the Virgin Mary’s tomb was opened three days after her burial, her body was not there but the tomb was filled with lilies.
The lily is mentioned in the Bible 15 times. Song of Solomon has 8 references. I particularly like the ones in Matthew and Luke because they are reminders not to worry about our daily needs if we are striving for the Kingdom.
Lilium longiflorum, which is the Latin name for the Easter Lily, is native to the Ryukyu Islands of southern Japan. Bulbs initially were brought into the United States in 1919 by a World War I soldier, Louis Houghton, but the Easter Lily bulbs sold here were imported from Japan until 1941. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, importing ceased and US production took off. The Oregon-California border is now known as the Easter Lily Capital of the World and produces nearly all of the bulbs used in Easter Lily pots.
Production is an exact and demanding science. The process begins with a small growth, called a bulblet, on a mother plant. The bulblet is removed and planted in another field. It is dug up the following year and replanted again in a new field and remains there for another year until the plant is harvested.
When purchasing a lily plant, look for flowers in various stages and an abundance of dark green foliage to signify a healthy, blossoming plant. Remove any paper, plastic or mesh sleeve and also the yellow anthers before pollen starts to shed for longer flower life.
Lilies prefer cooler room temperatures, preferably 60-65°F during the day and cooler at night. Avoid placing the plant near drafts or direct sunlight. Keep the soil moist but well-drained.
After the plant has ceased blooming, it may be cut down and planted outside in a well-drained garden bed. Plant the bulb about 3 inches below ground level and mound up with three inches of top soil. As with the indoor plant, keep the soil moist but not overly wet or dry.
“Consider the lilies, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the filed, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink and do not keep worrying. For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well (Luke 12:27-31).
©2014, Mary K. Doyle
(Some of the information for this post was taken from Aggie Horticulture, Texas AgriLife Extension Service, Texas A&M System.)