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The Greener View: Easter Lilies

Jeff Rugg on

Obviously, everyone knows about the economic hardships that the current virus situation has inflicted on many retail businesses. It is hard to have an entire store of shelves filled with inventory that can't be sold. I would like to remind everyone of the worst kind of inventory to have in this situation: live plants and animals.

Pet stores have a variety of small animals in aquariums and cages that must be kept alive. If well kept, most of the animals will still be in good condition when the economic situation lets up.

Your local garden centers and florists are filled with live plants that need to be taken care of. There are two problem areas for these stores. Many annuals and vegetables are sold in the spring in small pots and trays. If left too long, they will be root-bound, and they may not grow well in the garden. They need to be moved to bigger pots or planted in the ground. There is no available labor to repot them and no customers to plant them in the ground.

Spring is the make or break season for many garden centers. Spring has sprung in the southern states and is about ready to open up in the northern states. A missed spring selling season of perishable inventory could put some garden centers out of business.

The second inventory problem many garden centers are having is Easter lilies. They are the fourth largest potted plant crop in the country. The selling time for Easter lilies is just two weeks long. A lot of people buy Easter lilies for their homes, but huge orders go to churches. Churches that aren't going to be open on Easter don't need lilies, and they are canceling their orders, according to the garden center managers I have talked to. They also canceled orders of palm leaves for Palm Sunday.

Because of the virus, there are "shop local" campaigns for restaurants and other small businesses. If at all possible, don't forget your local garden center. Many big-box stores sell plants in the spring, but they also have a full inventory of nonperishable goods that will still be good for selling later on. Buy your plants from the local garden centers, greenhouses and florists. Your community needs these local businesses all year long -- and they need you now.

Your local garden center or florist may be open for curbside pickup, so you can still get an Easter lily while it is in bloom. Even if you have to wait until after Easter, buy an Easter lily for your garden. If you don't celebrate Easter, you can call it a spring lily.


We may only buy Easter lilies during a floating two-week window in the spring, but the bulbs have been growing for several years in preparation for this event. It is not just the local growers of the lilies we need to support by buying the lilies. Today, more than 95% of all Easter lily bulbs are produced on just 10 farms along the Pacific coast in a half-mile-wide and 12-mile-long strip of land on the California and Oregon border. They sell over 12 million bulbs each year to greenhouses all around the world. The greenhouses have been growing the lilies since the poinsettias left last fall. A lot of people depend on income from the sale of Easter lilies.

Keep the lilies in bright, indirect light until the outdoor nighttime temperatures stay above 50 degrees F. Plant them in a partially sunny site with well-drained soil about 6 inches deep, and add a few inches of mulch. Next year, they will bloom in midsummer. They make a nice display when planted in masses. Buy all of the ones they have left, even if they are no longer in bloom, and plant them outdoors.

In U.S. Department of Agriculture zones eight through 10, Easter lilies can be planted outside for the summer. In the fall, dig them up and plant them in potting soil in a pot 1 inch wider than the bulb. Refrigerate the whole pot for eight to 12 weeks, keeping the soil damp. Take them out and leave them in the pot, or replant in the ground.


Email questions to Jeff Rugg at To find out more about Jeff Rugg and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at



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