Caring for Easter lilies is a breeze with these grower tips on how to pick a quality Easter Lily and make it last.
Chances are the Easter lilies filling many a church sanctuary with blossoms and fragrance this year got their start around Linda Crockett’s farm in Smith River, California.
The Crocketts are one of only four farm families who supply more than 10 million Easter lily bulbs shipped across North America every year. All are located within a sliver of land—12 miles long and a half-mile wide—where western California borders Oregon.
“Lilies love our dark, loamy clay soil, and the climate is perfect,” Linda says—neither too cold in winter nor too hot in summer. Until the 1940s, the U.S. imported most Easter lily bulbs from their native Japan. World War II stopped trade and transplanted the industry to America’s Pacific coast.
Linda and brother Don are third-generation farmers, carrying on what their grandparents started. “Easter lily plants naturally bloom in June and July, but it’s not the flowers we’re interested in,” Linda says. She and her crew pluck every last bud and bloom so nutrients go to the bulb.
“It takes three years to propagate bulbs large enough for the commercial market,” she explains. “It’s labor-intensive, since almost all the field work is done by hand.” Virtually all the work—planting, harvesting, packing and shipping—takes place from August through October, while the Crocketts simultaneously tend to their beef cattle operation.
Timing is everything in this business. “The bulbs must be cooled for six weeks before the greenhouses pot them up,” Linda says. The temperature is then gradually increased to trick the plants into flowering just in time to go to stores and florists for Easter Sunday.
The hard work seems worth it when Linda helps decorate her church with trumpet-shaped symbols of the sacred season. “Our family loves the farming way of life,” she says. “And it’s nice to see people enjoying what we grow.”
Linda’s tips to picking and caring for Easter lilies
▪ Look for a plant with both unopened buds and partially open flowers. The more buds, the more days you’ll have blooms.
▪ Select one that has a stem filled with dark green leaves from bottom to top.
▪ Remove the yellow anthers before the pollen starts to shed. This prolongs the life of the flowers.
▪ Keep the soil moderately moist and well-drained at temperatures around 60 to 65 degrees. Avoid drafts and excess heat, and water when the soil surface feels dry.
▪ Give the plant bright, indirect natural sunlight.
Photography by Jan’s Photography Studio, Fortuna, CA