Many of our holidays throughout the year are made special by plants of all sorts, such as the poinsettia and amaryllis at Christmas and the pumpkin, whose fruit is made into jack-o'-lanterns at Halloween.
On Valentine's Day, lovers give roses to that special someone and, if you want to have the luck of the Irish, you will give or hope to receive a shamrock (oxalis) for St. Patrick's Day. At Easter, which will be celebrated Sunday, there is the traditional Easter lily Lilium longiforum to mark the holiday.
Easter is an important religious holiday to many people and one that is widely celebrated in churches in our city. The Easter lily traditionally is used because it signifies the resurrection of Christ and new life. Many people also give these plants as gifts to each other to commemorate this sacred occasion.
The following is a bit of history about the Easter lily. If you are given one as a gift, I've included a few tips to keep it healthy and growing year after year — first in the container and then in the garden:
•The Easter lily is native to the Ryukyu Islands of southern Japan and was first introduced to friends and neighbors in the South coast of Oregon in 1919 out of a suitcase full of bulbs brought back from Japan by a World War I soldier, Louis Houghton.
Japan continued to be the main source of the bulbs for growers in this country until Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941 and the Japanese source for these flower bulbs was immediately cut off.
Due to the popularity of the flower, when war began, the value of the bulbs that were in our country skyrocketed. Those who had only thought of growing them as a hobby found themselves in possession of a gold mine — in fact, these bulbs were for a time called “white gold” and made many growers rich.
For more history about the Easter lily and the rest of this story go to www.lilyflowerstore.com/lily-facts/history-of-easter-lillies.html.
•When purchasing a lily, look for a potted plant that has dark green, shiny leaves and is not too tall and lanky or stunted looking. Make sure the plant has several buds that haven't opened yet — this will ensure a longer bloom time once you take it home or when you are giving it as a gift.
•When one bloom fades and droops, cut it off so the plant will continue to push for bloom.
•Do not overwater these plants — let the soil dry out a bit before watering again.
•Remove the plastic or aluminum sleeve around the plant as soon as possible. These are usually on them to protect the plant from damage when it is being transported, or just for looks.
•A good practice with any potted plant gift is to remove it from the sleeve, set it in the sink and wash the roots and soil thoroughly. Let it drain well. Then put the plant in a container that will allow the roots to breathe and set it in a bright location away from drafts and heat vents.
•Most of these plants have been potted with slow-release fertilizer in the soil, so they should not need additional fertilizer.
•After the plant has finished blooming and the stems and leaves are still green, pinch off the spent blooms and stems, and plant it in your garden. It will go dormant in the fall and come back year after year and bloom in summer.
Jane Ford is an Advanced Master Gardener. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. You also can read her What’s Bloomin’ blog at www.news-sentinel.com. This column is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of The News-Sentinel.