Easter is a time of renewal and rebirth, traditionally celebrated by filling our homes with flowers, both cut flowers and potted flowering plants. Stores of all kinds, not just garden centers, but box stores, supermarkets and even corner stores, fill up with beautiful blooming plants as Easter approaches … and who can resist them!
So, fill up your home with flowering Easter plants … and now sit back and read about how to care for them.
Easter Lily (Lilium longiflorum)
The most popular Easter plant in most areas. with long, tubular, highly perfumed white flowers. 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 late spring, you can transplant it to your garden, but it won’t succeed everywhere, as it’s quite tender for a lily: only hardy to zone 7, maybe 6.
Warning: lilies are toxic to cats!
Other Lilies (Lilium spp.)
The other lilies sold at Easter with flowers that are yellow, orange, pink, red, etc. are usually Asiatic lilies. They are much hardier than Easter lilies, to zone 4 or even 3, so will grow outdoors in most gardens. While they remain in your home, they need the same care as the Easter lily, but you can later transplant them into the garden in a sunny location and they will do well there in most climates. Again, keep your cats away them away from them!
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 out 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, although full sun is fine where summers are cool. However, 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 spring, 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 zones 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. When you have time, 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 so!
Gerbera (Gerbera jamesonii)
This plant, with broad, toothed basal leaves and large daisy-shaped flowers in a wide range of colors, has become a popular Easter plant. For maximum bloom, give it plenty of light while avoiding hot sun and, if possible, moderate temperatures: less than 70 °F (21 ° C). Also, water carefully, without wetting the foliage, keeping the potting soil at least a bit moist at all times. Watch out for spider mites: they’re very fond of this plant when the air is dry. Remove the faded flowers.
The merchant sees the gerbera as an ephemeral plant, designed to be tossed after flowering, but in fact, it’s possible to recuperate it for use in the summer garden. Plant it in a generally sunny spot, but with some protection from the hot afternoon sun. Continue to remove the faded flowers to maintain bloom.
In most gardens, gerberas will be annuals, quickly killed by fall frost. Only in mild climates (hardiness zones 9 to 10, sometimes zone 8) might it come back as a perennial.
Florist’s Azalea (Rhododendron simsii)
The florist’s azalea is not a garden azalea (unless you live in hardiness zone 9 or 10), 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 to water as soon as the soil begins to dry out. It loves cool conditions and will do best if placed outside in the summer in a cool, shady spot. Don’t bring it back indoors too quickly either: leave it outdoors until late fall until frost threatens, as cold autumn nights stimulate bud formation. 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, like the fairy primrose (P. malacoides) and German primrose (P. obconica), lack the hardiness necessary for garden culture, except perhaps in cool areas of the tropics, as they need cool summers, yet don’t tolerate frost.