Easy to grow, bursting with color, and suitable for every occasion, lilies are a wonderful flower to welcome May’s spring. Although you’ve probably encountered the popular bloom at some point in your life, what you may not know is that the history of the lily is thousands of years old. An ancient Minoan fresco found on the Greek island of Crete depicts a prince wearing a crown of lilies. The approximate date the fresco was created? 1550 BCE!
The lily is a flower that is mentioned both in the Christian Bible and the Jewish Torah. For instance, in the commentary on the Song of Solomon, Jewish scholar Ibn Ezra describes the lily as, “a white flower of sweet but narcotic perfume, it has… in every case, six petals, within which are six long filaments.” The mystical Jewish Zohar text describes the thirteen leaves of the lily as corresponding to the thirteen attributes of God. In fact, it seems that the lily is considered “the chief of flowers” in the way it’s illustrated on ancient coins.
Descriptions of the lily also appear in the Christina Bible. In Matthew 6:28 lilies of the field are mentioned. Additionally, according to Learn The Bible, early paintings show the Angel Gabriel gifting an arrangement of white lilies to the Virgin Mary. Other paintings show saints bring offering lilies to Mary and baby Jesus. Lilies have been interpreted as representing the purity of Mary, while the golden centers are said to symbolize the holiness of her soul.
Even if you don’t subscribe to any religion, the mention of the lily in these ancient texts just goes to show that the beautiful flower has held significance for a number of years. Fast forwarding to more modern times, the lily was discovered by European explorers during the Victorian era. Different people found different types of lilies. For instance, Irish doctor Augustine Henry found the orange Lilium henryii, a lily that, as you can see, was named after him. Englishman E.H. discovered Lilium regale, the regal lily. The native Japanese Easter lily was first introduced to the United States in 1903, and remains a popular plant today.
Despite lilies existing for centuries, they were incredibly hard to grow before hybridization. The man who made the lily accessible as a garden plan was horticulturist Jan de Graaff. According to the New York Times, “Previously the plants were considered delicate and temperamental, requiring special conditions and exotic planting methods.” In 1938, however, de Graaff experimented with lily growth at his Oregon Bulb Farms property. His greatest success was Enchantment, a coral lily he created in 1941. Although Jan de Graaff died in 1989, his legacy as the “tamer of the wild lily” still rings true today.
In addition to their religious significance, according to Teleflora, lilies represent humility and devotion. Perhaps due to their delicate color, white lilies are also associated with sympathy and the restoration of innocence. All in all, lilies symbolize purity, be it religious or general.
Lilies are generally the flower that marks a 30th anniversary. Although this type of anniversary generally means a wedding anniversary, lilies can also mark thirty years of a business being successful, two life partners staying together, or a thirty-year friendship standing strong.
There is also Greek mythology behind the lily. The great Greek god Zeus wanted his mortal son Hercules to have the powers of a god. He drugged his goddess wife Hera so that she’d allow the boy to nurse from her. However, when Hera awoke out of her daze, she angrily pushed Hercules from her breast. In the chaos, a single drop of milk fell to the earth, creating the creamy lily.
Lilies come in a variety of colors. Each color makes for a wonderful gift on a specific occasion. Below is our lily color guide, which should help you choose the right color for your present.
For a romantic present…
Gift red, orange, or coral lilies. Lilies in these deep, vivid colors represent passion and excitement, ideal for impressing a romantic companion or showing your longtime partner that your heart still burns for them.
For a baby shower…
Gift pink lilies. Pale pink lilies represent innocence and purity, while the precious pink color is perfect for a baby celebration.
For a birthday party…
Gift yellow lilies. Yellow is a cheerful color typically associated with friendship. However, its brightness is also exciting, ideal for an occasion such as a birthday party. Give your friend the beautiful of yellow lilies as a birthday present.
For a somber occasion…
Gift white lilies. White lilies are appropriate sympathy flowers. For funerals and memorial services, white lilies are a thoughtful way to send sympathy.
Lily Bath Bowl
While simple lilies in a vase make for wonderful bouquets, for an extra special creation, make your own lily bath bowl!
Supplies: bowl (glass or ceramic), glass pebbles, one or two lilies
Simple fill the bowl with glass pebbles, trim one or two lily blooms from their stems and place them in the bowl. These decorative bowls are perfect for livening up a bathroom or placing in a living room.
Tip: These make for excellent table topper pieces, and can be used for virtually any occasion. Weddings, bridal and baby showers, and birthday parties in particular are great places for lily bath bowls.
Lily Floral Crowns
Floral crowns are whimsical, DIY headpieces you can make yourself with a little floral wire, floral tape, and fresh blooms. Lilies are the perfect flower to use for this accessory. If the ancient Minoans can wear lily crowns, so can we! They are truly fit for royalty.
Supplies: Floral wire, floral tape, lilies, and stemmed leaves
Tip: This is an excellent party activity! Offer several types of flowers and leaves for dynamic headbands.
Lilies are easy to care for and, if tended to properly, can last up to a few weeks. Under water, trim the stems of your lilies at a 45 degree angle under water. Snip away any leaves that may be submerged underwater when you places your lilies in a vase. Fill a clean vase with water, then mix the water with your BloomsyBox flower feed. When your lilies bloom, you can cut away the “antlers” (the reddish brown pollen pods in the center of the lilies). This pollen can stain. If you find any of it falling, simply brush it away.
Remember: change the water your lilies sit in every two days. You can also trim leaves and wilted blooms. Lilies do best when they’re kept out of direct sunlight, so a good spot for lilies won’t be right by a windowsill. However, lilies can go just about any other place in your home. One ideal place is in the kitchen. Enjoy your lilies, may they live long!