TTU's Douglas Airhart offers tips for planting Easter lilies

Do you still have your Easter lily? Mine has just lost its last flower, but its leaves are still healthy.

DON’T JUST THROW IT AWAY!

In Tennessee, the beautiful white lilies used to celebrate Easter are hardy perennials. With the proper treatment they can be planted in your garden to provide plants with beautiful flowers for years to come.

The lilies were forced in greenhouses to flower in time for Easter, however, so they will not bloom in your yard at Easter.

The bulbs we planted in the arboretum over the last three years are just now beginning to sprout above the ground, and they usually flower in mid to late May.

While indoors, treat your Easter lily as a potted plant.

Water it only when the potting mix becomes dry to about an inch down from the surface.

Take the pot out of the foil wrapper (if any), carry it to your sink or outside, and fill the pot to the brim with water. Let the water drain from the bottom of the pot before replacing it into the foil wrapper.

Over-watering or poor drainage may cause the stem or bulb to rot in the pot.

When one of the white flowers begins to fade, snap it off at the base to encourage the other flowers to develop fully. After all the flowers have faded, it is time to plant the bulb and stem outdoors.

Dig a hole one-and-a-half times the depth of the pot (usually 9 inches) and about the same width as the pot.

Remove the pot from the plant, and without disturbing the root mass, put the root mass into the hole (the stem and leaves of the plant will be partly under the ground level and partly above the ground level). Gently tamp the soil around the edges of the root mass to remove air gaps, and then water the loose soil to settle it into the hole.

You may remove the leaves from the stem up to the soil line and finish filling the hole now, or you may wait until the leaves and stem turn brown and dry to cut the stem and fill the hole.

When the stem does wither, do not pull the dead stem from the ground, but rather cut it off at the soil level. This will prevent the bulb from being damaged below the soil surface.

Put a label at the site where the lilies are planted to remind you to not to place other plants on top of them if they happen to be late in sprouting.

The first time I planted Easter lilies in my yard, they sprouted and flowered again in August, but this does not happen every time.

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