It’s likely you’ve never heard of Smith River, California, but odds are that’s where your Easter Lily was grown. This fertile land – located in the far northwest corner of California – is home to less than 900 residents, but produces about 95% of the world’s Easter lily bulbs – making it the Easter Lily Capital of the World.
With towering redwood trees to the east and the sparkling Pacific Ocean to the west, this gorgeous river valley – comprised of about 600 acres – is considered the most ideal spot on Earth for growing Easter lily bulbs due to its nearly perfect growing climate and soil condition.
In fact, only five Easter Lily bulb farms – owned by four families – produce up to 14 million bulbs each year. So how did this small strip of coastal land become such a dominant force in the production of Easter Lilies?
It all began in 1919 when a man named Louis Houghton introduced some hybrid lily bulbs to the south coast of Oregon and planted the seeds – so to speak – of what would become the Easter Lily Capital of the World. Prior to 1941, nearly all of the Easter lilies plants in North America were imported from Japan, but WWII changed that when Americans found themselves cut off from their beloved white lilies.
By 1945, Houghton’s crop had taken off and there were around 1,200 growers producing bulbs all along the Pacific Coast. That number would steadily drop as growers found the bulbs difficult to grow commercially.
It takes at least three years to grow the bulb to commercial size, and each year the bulbs must be dug up and sorted by hand – then either shipped to the greenhouse or replanted for another year.
Unlike other crops that are planted, left to grow, and harvested later, Easter Lily bulbs must be planted, harvested and shipped within a span of three months. That means in order to force the bulbs to bloom in time for Easter, they require 40 days of a forced artificial winter by refrigeration followed by a brief growing period in a high-temperature greenhouse.
The growing schedule is crucial since the value of the bulbs drops considerably even one day past Easter. To complicate matters, Easter doesn’t fall on the same day every year and can vary by as much as five weeks, so timing is everything.
With Easter only days away, this magnificent plant is available now. Give us a call or stop by and pick one out for your Easter celebration or check out our selection of Easter flowers.
Are you considering an Easter lily this year? Here are some tips to help you make the most out of your beautiful new plant.
- If your Easter lily came with a decorative plastic, foil or paper wrapper, remove that as soon as possible in order to prevent the lily from becoming waterlogged.
- When choosing a “home” for your lily makes sure to choose a location away from drafts and drying heat sources.
- Water your plant if the surface feels dry, but be careful not to over-water. Easter lilies require a medium moisture level and should never stand in water for any length of time.
- Potted Easter lilies kept indoors need bright, indirect natural light but, too much exposure to sunlight can cause burning issues.
- Remove the yellow anthers from the center of each flower to prolong the life of the blossoms.
- Easter lilies can be planted outside in a sunny location after the flowers have withered away.
- If you plant your Easter lily outside, cover the roots with mulch to help keep them shaded.
- Once planted outside, the lily should be watered freely during the active growth period and be kept moist during the winter.
Remember: Easter lily plants are highly toxic to cats.