Tradition has us filling our homes with flowers at Easter, and who can complain about that? But whereas cut flowers are the thing on Valentine’s Day, it’s living, blooming potted plants are all the rage at Easter. Here are the most popular Easter plants and how to care for them.
Easter Lily (Lilium longiflorum)
It prefers cool temperatures, especially at night. Place it in a well lit spot during the day, but at night a cool window is better or even in an unheated garage or cold basement. Water well when the soil is nearly dry. In May, you can transplant it to your garden, but it won’t succeed everywhere, as it isn’t very hardy for a lily: usually zone 6.
Warning: lilies are toxic to cats!
Other lilies (Lilium spp.)
The lilies sold at Easter with flowers that are yellow, orange, pink, red, etc. tend to be quite hardy (zone 4, even 3 in some cases). Their culture while they remain in your home is identical to that of Easter lilies , but you can later transplant them into the garden in a sunny location and they will do well there in most climates. Again, keep them away from your cats!
Bigleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla)
With its huge globes of blue, pink, purple, red, purple or white flowers, the bigleaf hydrangea, also called hortensia or florist hydrangea, is very popular at Easter. The key to its success is to closely monitor its watering, because it dries at a phenomenal rate: it may be necessary, depending on conditions, to water it every two or three days! Average light and normal indoor temperatures will do, although it does appreciate cool nights. You can transplant it into the garden at the end of May in a protected location in partial shade or shade, but there is no guarantee of success, at least in northern climates, as it is only hardy to zone 6.
Chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum x morifolium)
As long as it remains inside your home, give your chrysanthemum normal indoor temperatures and moderate lighting, watering as needed so it doesn’t dry out. After it finishes flowering, cut it back harshly, to about 2 inches (5 cm) high. At the end of May, transplant it to a sunny location in the garden. It will probably bloom again in the fall, but there is no guarantee that it will survive the winter, because chrysanthemum hardiness varies widely, from zone 4 to 9 depending on the cultivar… and the varieties offered at Easter are rarely among the hardiest.
Tulips, daffodils, crocus, hyacinths, and grape hyacinths, alone or in mixed containers, are often offered as flowering plants at Easter. They do best under cool conditions: the cooler it is, the longer they last. If possible, give them cold nights: 50°F/10°C or less. Provide good lighting and water as soon as the soil starts to dry out. Cut off dead flowers as they occur, but keep watering the bulbs. In May, transplant them into the garden. All these bulbs are hardy (usually to zone 3) and should bloom again in the garden… but it may take a few years for them to recover sufficiently from the trauma of their stay in the house before they do bloom again!
Azalea (Rhododendron simsii)
This is not a garden azalea (unless you live in zone 9 or lower), but instead is the only true houseplant among the Easter plants. Give it moderate lighting and closely monitor its watering: when in bloom, especially, it loses a lot of water through evaporation, yet it is intolerant of dry soil, so you’ll have water as soon as the soil begins to dry out. It loves cool conditions and will probably do best if placed outside the summer in a cool, shady spot. Don’t bring it back indoors too quickly either: leave it outdoors until October or November, depending on your climate, as cold autumn nights stimulate flowering. It should bloom again indoors during the winter.
Primrose (Primula spp.)
Several primroses are sold at Easter. They all love cool growing conditions and require frequent watering (never let them dry out), but they do differ in their hardiness. Some can be transplanted into the garden in partial shade and moist soil where they will bloom again next spring. Others simply wither away after flowering and can’t be recuperated.