Easter Lilly ; Symbolism, History and Planting guides

During the Easter season, homes and churches alike are adorned with the gorgeous, fragrant white blooms we know as Easter lilies. The plant’s scientific name is Lilium longiflorum, but along the way, it picked up the common name “Easter lily.” 

Easter Lily Symbolism

The flowers are often referred to as “white-robed apostles of hope,” and they symbolize the purity of Christ, who was free from sin.1 In many paintings, the angel Gabriel is depicted as handing Mary white lilies, which symbolizes her purity as well. The trumpet shape of the Easter lily represents a trumpet sounding the message that Jesus has risen, and the nature in which lilies grow is symbolic of the resurrection as well. From bulbs that grow underground for three years or longer, they become beautiful flowers. This process is reminiscent of Jesus’s brutal death and holy resurrection. Thus, lilies represent rebirth and hope, just as the resurrection does in the Christian faith.

Lilies are also mentioned or alluded to several times in the Bible. Some think that it was white lilies that sprouted in the Garden of Eden as Eve’s remorseful tears fell to the ground. There are also theories that Easter lilies grew where Jesus’s tears and blood fell from the cross, and lilies were supposedly found in the Garden of Gethsemane after the crucifixion. For example, in Matthew 6:25-29, Jesus says, “Therefore I say unto you, Be not anxious for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than the food, and the body than the raiment? Behold the birds of the heaven, that they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; and your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not ye of much more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit unto the measure of his life? And why are ye anxious concerning raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

Easter Lily History

Although Easter lilies are symbols of new life and purity, their history of getting to America is actually quite a long one. Easter lilies are native to several islands south of Japan. They were brought to England in 1777 and later made their way to Bermuda, where they were produced on a large scale and earned their first nickname, the Bermuda lily. After a virus wiped them from Bermuda, Japan was once again the only source of Easter lilies.

Following World War I, a solider named Louis Houghton brought a suitcase of lily bulbs from Japan back to the U.S., specifically to his home state of Oregon. Houghton gave the lily bulbs to his horticulturally-minded friends, and soon enough, the area along the California-Oregon border, which happened to have prime growing conditions for the flowers, became known as the Easter Lily Capital of the World. After Pearl Harbor, Japanese shipment of Easter lilies was cut off, which brought high demand to the Oregon and California growers, giving the flowers yet another nickname: white gold.

Planting Easter Lilly

“Churches and greenhouses all across the South are overflowing with Easter lilies (Lilium longiflorum) right now, but what should you do with the flowers after Easter? Plant them, of course. Unlike poinsettias, which are hardy only in the Tropical South (USDA Zones 10 through 11), Easter lilies are perennial in more places (USDA Zones 8 through 11).” Each selection grows a bit differently, but typically Easter lilies will grow between one to three feet tall and bloom in clusters of extremely fragrant, trumpet-shaped flowers, which can reach up to seven inches long.

It does not take much extra work to plant your Easter lily outside instead of throwing it away. With very little care these attractive plants will grow and multiply for years to come. Have you ever planted your Easter lilies outdoors?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.