The Easter season is a time of gloom-dispersing freshness, whether it comes in mid-March or mid-April, said a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator.
"What better symbol for all the promises of spring than the Easter lily in its splendor with beautiful, clear bell-like flowers and an entrancing fragrance," said David Robson
"In return for the pleasure the Easter lily provides, moderate light and simple care are all that are needed to enjoy it indoors for some time after the plant is received."
Even better, with a little care, you can plant it outdoors after flowering and it will bloom again the same year. Easter lilies will tolerate extremes that many other plants won't survive.
"However, you can enjoy the blossoms longer if you keep the plants out of direct sunlight or warm drafts," he said. "It's worthwhile to place the plant on an unheated but frost-free porch at night."
To keep the plant looking its best, remove the lily flowers as soon as they wither and clip any leaf ends that may brown.
After all the flowers have been removed, you can keep the plant in a sunny window for its pleasing foliage or remove it to a basement window until danger from frost is over.
"Should the plant begin to go into a rest period, the leaves will start to yellow and fall," he said. "The plant should then be kept on the dry side to discourage rots."
The lily can be planted in a sunny garden spot as soon as danger from frost is past. Remove the plant from the pot by inverting it and, while gently holding the top, tap the edge of the pot on a step or heavy board.
"Open the root ball by pulling upward and out from the center of the ball," he said. "A few torn roots are better than an undisturbed dense root mass that may not be able to establish new roots in the soil. Clumped and matted roots are more likely to die and even injure the bulb.
"Place the bulb a few inches deeper than it was in the pot; open the root as much as possible and work soil through them. Thoroughly water the plant."
One-half teaspoon of a 10-10-10 fertilizer per gallon helps promote new top and root growth. Soon after the old tops die, new shoots will start. These will flower later, usually in July or August, if given ordinary garden care. Be sure that trees, weeds, or other plants don't shade the lily.
"Although many people report good results, none of the lily varieties are reliably hardy," Robson said. "If the ground is well drained, you can cover plants with mulch during the cold winter months -- just as is done for roses. Mulches of straw, leaves, evergreen boughs, wood chips or ground corn cobs are satisfactory.
"Most of the lilies are killed by exposure to winter winds and sun. Mulches limit the heaving action of the soil and, thus, prevent bulb exposure."