Easter is a festive occasion that is marked by new beginnings and renewals. Despite sharing similarities with pagan rites, Easter has become associated with the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and is now celebrated by millions of Christians worldwide. Others enjoy this holiday in a more secular way, with the standard egg hunts, egg paintings, and Easter themed treats.
Whether celebrated commercially or religiously, there is something timeless about the fragrant elegance of spring-time blooms. Bring the beauty of Earth into the comfort of your own home with a lush bouquet of flowers. This Easter, visit your local garden center or take a stroll in your neighborhood and see whether these traditional Easter plants are available in your area. Many of those flowers are inexpensive and easy to grow. Even after Easter has ended, they can be transplanted into planters or raised garden beds for a second chance. This article explores a list of the best plants for decorating and gifting this Easter.
What is Easter?
For Christians, Easter is a holiday that commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In the New Testament of the Bible, the day is said to have occurred three days after Jesus was executed by the Romans in 30 A.D. The ‘Passion of Christ’ refers to a series of days beginning with Lent – comprising forty days of fasting, sacrifice, and patience – culminating in Holy Week, ending with Easter Sunday. Many of those days refer to pivotal biblical moments; Holy Thursday refers to Jesus’s Last Supper with the Twelve Apostles; Good Friday refers to the day of Jesus’s crucifixion.
The Origin and Etymology
Although Easter holds great importance in the Christian calendar, many customs actually date back to pre-Christian, pagan times. One theory states that the name Easter was derived from Eostre, a Saxon word referring to a pagan goddess associated with Spring Equinox festivals. Druids would bury eggs in fields to invite abundance. Other variations include the Norse Eostare and the Germanic Ostara, denoting the dawn or spring.
A later and more complex justification comes from the Christian claim that the early Latin name for the week of Easter was hebdomada alba or ‘white week’, while the Sunday after Easter day was called dominica in albis, in reference to the white robes of newly baptized individuals. In Latin, the word alba translates to both dawn and white. Speakers of Old High German mistakenly translated using the plural for the dawn, ostarun, rather than the plural of white. From ostarun, the German Ostern and the English word Easter is derived.
Known for their vibrant, exotic colors and diversity, orchids are long-lived houseplants that are popular during Easter, particularly in pastel shades. Once only found in the greenhouses of the rich, orchids have now become readily available. Phalaenopsis orchids will bloom for months, while others will only bloom once or twice a year. Orchids prefer bright, indirect light, high humidity, and adequate air circulation.
Commonly confused for the more popular Christmas cactus, the Easter cactus is a festive flower with star-shaped blooms ranging from magenta to peach to white. They are native to the rainforest, where they grow as epiphytes – a non-parasitic plant that grows on other plants. While Christmas cactus bloom during the winter, Easter cactus bloom during Easter season.
Though these plants are often thought of as seasonal, if properly tended, they can live for decades. Like many houseplants, Easter cactus prefer bright, indirect light, usually from a north or east facing window.
Easter lilies, which have become popular in traditional Easter decorations, are actually Japanese in origin. Brought to the US following WWI by a soldier, those flowers gained immense popularity. When the supply was cut off during Pearl Harbor, they gained the nickname “white gold.” Known as “white-robed apostles of hope,” lilies have figured prominently in the Bible, coming to symbolize Christ’s resurrection. The simple elegance of Easter lilies evokes a timeless atmosphere. Easter lilies are hardy in zones 7 and higher and can be planted outside in the garden as a perennial. If you have cats, beware – all parts of the Easter lily are poisonous and can cause kidney failure.
Available in pots or as fresh-cut flowers, the ubiquitous tulip adds a bold splash of color to your Easter décor. Keep in mind that tulips that are forced to bloom are unlikely to flower again, though you can try. Because tulip bulbs tend to attract rodents, keep your plants safe using a stainless steel gopher net, which is an effective, eco-friendly way to prevent gophers and other burrowing visitors from entering your garden beds. For those interested in harvesting tulips, remove the stems at an angle using a sharp knife to ensure that they last longer.
Irises are showy flowers that have been cultivated into a dazzling array of colors, from the elusive true blue to a velvet black. A regal plant derived from a Greek word that means rainbow, irises make a magical display. The most common type are bearded irises, named because of the fuzzy hairs on the downward-facing petals, or falls. Irises are perennial plants that grow through rhizomes or bulbs. Large varieties such as bearded types are produced through rhizomes. In most climates, irises grow well in full sun and well-drained soil.
Hyacinths are a fragrant flower that grows in spiky clusters of cotton candy shades. Though most people find their powerful scent appealing, it can overwhelm some. Considered unappealing to rodents, hyacinths are hardy and will appear year after year. Normally planted in pots, their compact size makes them ideal for container gardening or raised garden beds. They are also excellent plants to adorn English cottage gardens, lending a dreamy quality reminiscent of bygone days spent in an idyllic summer haze.
Azaleas are a classic Southern plant, their glossy evergreen shrubs overflowing with striking blooms of pink, white, and red. A sub-group of the Rhododendron family, their versatility makes them adaptable to gardens of any size. Azaleas prefer moist, well-drained soil. They will only tolerate temperate climates, as scorching temperatures above 80ºF will cause the flowers to wither and fall off. They can also be harmed by freezing weather. If your soil is heavy clay or you live in a cold climate, you may grow them in elevated rolling beds.
One of the first flowers of spring, the crocus is often regarded as a harbinger of spring. An extremely cold-hardy plant, crocuses have been naturalized in a variety of habitats, including woodlands and meadows. Crocuses are low maintenance plants that are easy to grow. Like tulips, rodents and deer will root for its bulbs, so make sure to use a net or some other protection to deter pests.
A colorful florist plant with unique butterfly-like blooms, cyclamen bring a cheerful springtime atmosphere to the house. Flower color ranges from saturated magentas to electric reds to pale pinks. Typically grown indoors, cyclamen can be grown outdoors as winter annuals in warm climates. For those seeking shade dwelling plants, cyclamen is a good option, as it prefers indirect light and cool temperatures. Cyclamen flower during winter or early spring and go dormant during the summer, when the weather is hot and dry.