Easter lilies represent renewal in the spiritual sense of Easter. These beautiful white flowers symbolize joy, hope and inspiration for many during Easter and well beyond. Do not discard Easter lilies after the flowers fade and Easter is over. They will come back with the right cultivation and care, in keeping with the Easter theme that they symbolize.
Easter lilies signify rebirth and new beginnings in the Christian tradition. In religious terms, they herald the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which is the central celebration of Easter.
In Leonardo da Vinci's "Annunciation," circa 1472 to 1475, the archangel Gabriel holds a lily, symbolizing purity, as he delivers the message that the Virgin Mary will be the mother of Jesus Christ.
Easter lilies are considered the ambassador of springtime, bringing forth new life and promise. They grow from bulbs into exquisite, trumpet-shaped flowers with long, white petals that curl outward. They bloom throughout the summer (see Resources).
Easter lilies are also called Bermuda lilies because they were grown widely in Bermuda during the 19th century. Their Latin name is lilium longiflorum. They are native to the Ryukyu Islands of southern Japan, but since World War II, they have been cultivated successfully in the United States.
The introduction of Easter lily cultivation to the United States is attributed to Louis Houghton, a World War I soldier who brought hybrid lily bulbs to Oregon in 1919 and distributed them widely. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 abruptly halted the importation of Easter lily bulbs from Japan. It spearheaded U.S. cultivation of Easter lilies.
With a two-week window for Easter sales, growers of Easter lilies harvest bulbs in the fall, then ship them to commercial greenhouses. They plant the bulbs in pots under controlled conditions. It is an exact science from the various bulb stages, which take about four years, through flowering.