Q. What do we do with the Easter lilies after Easter? We would like to grow them again.
-- D. L. of Collinsville
A. The original Easter lily was Lilium candidum. You may see it in artwork from the Middle Ages wince it was grown from the fifth century and was adopted by the Catholic Church for Easter celebrations. It's popular in paintings of the Annunciation and is symbolic of other paintings of Mary by various artists.
Today's white trumpet lily (Lilium longiflorum) is a "recent" introduction of a species of lily that originated in Japan and Korea in the 18th century. It can be forced into bloom for Easter. Unlike forcing the the poinsettia for Christmas, this forcing is a tedious task as the date for Easter changes every year. Greenhouse operators must change the air temperatures to speed up or slow down the growth, depending upon the weather conditions, to have the blooms formed just right for Easter. The culture also involves counting the numbers of leaves to make sure the lily plants are right on schedule. If the plants are not at the right number for the particular date, the greenhouse temperatures must be turned up a little higher.
The varieties used are Nellie White or White Queen. Just this year, there are about 30 million flowering buds on plants (four or five buds per plant) produced just in Holland for this holiday. The dormant bulbs are shipped worldwide.
Now answering your question, you need to plant them outside in a permanent location. Plant them the same depth as you find them in the flower pot. Add compost in the bottom of the hole. Make sure they are watered but do not overdo the watering as the bulb or scales will easily rot. Next year, they will flower normally in late May up to mid-June.
When you plant them, you may notice overlapping scales that form the bulb. Each one of these scales can produce another plant but it takes several years for them to grow large enough to flower, and they start out with just one flower in about four or five years.
When you grow them this way, you will notice that the flowers produce large yellow anthers (male parts of the flower). Usually these anthers are removed to keep the pollen from staining clothing or altar cloths. As a kid I usually got this job and referred to it as picking the lily's nose. I became yellow as the pollen dropped all over me.
Do not try to keep the bulbs in the container to try and force them into bloom for next year.
This is very tedious. More and more local greenhouse growers do not even try to do this themselves anymore. Just plant them outside and enjoy them staked from the spring winds.
Q. My crocus and daffodils have started flowering and have been hit with this late snow. What should I do?
-- B. F. of Freeburg
A. Don't worry about these spring flowering bulbs at all in snow or cold temperatures. These plants have a slimy sap that serves as an antifreeze so the flowers and stems are not hurt at all. You will notice this if you cut the flowers and put the stems in a clear vase of water and it drains out. They originated in mountainous areas and have this adaptation to survive these situations.
Do it now
FROSTS: Remember, they can occur even into May, and this year who knows?
MOLES: Be on the watch for mole activity as they are moving and doing a lot of damage in lawnS and other areas. Dig them out when they are active in early morning, noon and late afternoon.
FIRE BLIGHT: Check fruit trees, roses for fire blight (looking like sooty areas on branches and leaves). Prune it off and clean your pruners with rubbing alcohol after each cut to prevent spreading the disease.
Charles Giedeman is a local contributing writer. Send your gardening questions to Lifestyle Editor Pat Kuhl, Belleville News-Democrat, P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427.