Easter falls on April 16 in 2017, a late Easter date. Just as in the late seasons of 2014 (April 20), the 2017 schedule provides plenty of time for proper bulb programming as well as some extra time that growers will need to factor into their spring production plans. Last year, Easter fell on a very early date (March 27th) and growers had to push hard all the way to the end to time the crop out properly. Pushing a crop hard to make an early Easter or pulling back hard to slow growth for a late Easter is not ideal and can diminish quality. Any added stress conditions tend to weaken plants, which creates an opening for root disease and insect problems to gain momentum. This year the danger is that lilies will come in too early unless the extra time is managed properly. Here are some scheduling tips and options to consider for the 2017 crop.
The ideal forcing schedule begins 23 weeks before Easter (Nov. 6th for Easter 2017) and includes six weeks for bulb cooling and 17 weeks for lily development in the pot. This season, bulbs shipped in mid-October may arrive 25 weeks before Easter (Oct. 23), adding as much as two extra weeks to the schedule. You have several options for using this time. You can bring the crop in early and hold the lilies in cold storage for up to two weeks. This may be a good option for at least a portion of the crop since it will free up greenhouse space during a critical spring production period and most growers ship a portion of the lily crop starting around week two (April 2ndin 2017). This option requires adequate cooler capacity and a heavy reliance on Fascination to prevent leaf yellowing. Also, cold storage for more than two weeks will reduce flower life and decrease plant quality. Since lily quality will diminish with prolonged storage times you’ll need to consider other options for the majority of the crop. One option is to ‘lose’ the extra time by dropping the temperature to 32-34F mid-way through the bulb-cooling period. This will delay vernalization and allow you to start greenhouse forcing later without adding more than 1000 hours to the bulb chilling process. Alternatively you can ‘make use’ of the extra time during bud initiation during the greenhouse forcing stage to increase secondary bud count.
Rich McAvoy, UConn Extension
See the complete 2017 Easter Lily Schedule, with comments and photos by Dr. Richard McAvoy, UConn Extension