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Try Transplanting That Easter Lily!

The most glorious day in the church year is almost here! Easter has always been my favorite holiday. The great significance of the events during Holy Week culminating with the joyous celebration of the Resurrection is, to me, the most fantastic time of the year.

The minute I smell a fragrant Easter Lily, the aromatic perfume conjures up all kinds of great feelings, along with good memories of Easters past.

The Easter Lily (lilium longiflorum) is a fleeting treasure; we typically only see the plants for two weeks during the year and then they're gone. Lilies are said to have been found growing in the Garden of Gethsemane. Tradition has it that the beautiful white flowers sprung up where drops of Christ's sweat fell to the ground in his final hours of sorrow and deep distress. And of course we know that churches decorate alters and surround crosses with masses of Easter Lilies to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus Christ and hope of life everlasting.

These wonderful flowers are native to the Ryukyu Islands of southern Japan. When exports of bulbs from Japan were cut off following the advent of World War II, the United States began producing its own crop. Today over 95% of all bulbs grown for the potted Easter Lily market originate from just ten farms in a narrow, isolated coastal region straddling the California/Oregon border. This area, known as the Easter Lily Capital of the World, is uniquely suited for the production of superior quality bulbs:  year-round mild temperatures afforded by a protective bay, deep, rich, alluvial soils and abundant rainfall combine to produce a consistently high quality crop.

It can take anywhere from 3-4 years to cultivate bulbs. They start out as little "bulblets," growing underground on the stem of a mother plant. When the mature plant is harvested, the bulblet is removed and replanted in another field. The following year, it's dug up and replanted again in yet another field where it grows to the size necessary for it to be used commercially.

The bulbs are harvested in later September/early October and shipped to greenhouses where they're planted in pots and forced to bloom for Easter.  

Instead of discarding your plants after they have finished blooming, why not try transplanting them to your garden to see if you can get them to re-bloom? I've never attempted it so have no personal experience regarding the odds of success, but I think I may give it a whirl this year.

According to the experts, here's what to do: once you've cut the last flower away, place the potted plants in a bright location. Continue to water as needed. After the danger of frost has passed, you can transplant your lilies.

When looking for a spot in your garden, remember that Easter Lilies prefer full sun and require good drainage. (Their roots, however, like the shade, which means you'll need to mulch around the plants.) Plant the bulbs three inches below ground level and mound up an additional three inches of topsoil over the bulb.

Plant bulbs 12 to 18 inches apart, and water in immediately.

As the original plants die back, cut the stems back to the surface. Soon, new growth will emerge.

Be patient; it may take a year or two for your plants to build up enough resources to produce flower buds. Easter Lilies bloom naturally in June/July; if you're successful in coaxing them to rebloom, they'll be a beautiful addition to your summer garden.

Wishing you a joyous Easter. He is Risen Indeed!

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