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Some plants have a connection to Easter

By Terry Rector

I recall two things about the relationship of gardening and Easter that were spoken as if fact when I was growing up. The first was the proper date for planting vegetables was Good Friday. The other was, “We always get an Easter cold snap.” The terminology was distinctly “cold” and not “freeze” so the prediction would be correct with any cool spell around Easter, freeze or no freeze.

The observance of Easter has provided us the common names of several ornamental plants.  Easter Lily is one of hundreds of lily species and it is certainly the most popular gifted plant at Easter. The reason we have to buy them as florists’ blooms or potted plants is because their natural bloom time is significantly later than Easter. So plants are forced into blooming early in greenhouses to be ready for Easter.

The blooms of the Easter Lily Vine are said to be prettier than those on the lily version. It is a vigorous vine, but not one to be grown outdoors here because it will not survive the winters. Hardiness Zone 1l in south Florida is its upper limit as a natural vine. Likely there is someone with space for a huge houseplant who has grown it this far north, but what a pruning chore that must be. To see one, head south or maybe to a botanical garden with glass galore.

The plant known as Easter Cactus is similar to its distant Christmas cousin in that it has red blooms and makes for an easy care houseplant here. It is a South America outdoor native. Like many houseplants grown here, it will do fine moved outdoors after cold weather is gone. Just don’t put it in hot, direct sunlight; not all cactus species are hot sun tolerant. The reason we don’t find Easter Cactus marketed as much as Easter Lily is the cactus takes a year to grow to sell time in greenhouses. People in the greenhouse business like plants with much shorter growing periods.

It is the thorns of an African native shrub that gives it the English common name of Crown of Thorns. Its woody, thorn-laden stems remind some people of Jesus’s crown of thorns. The colorful part is the red, pink or white bracts that surround the very small blooms, ala poinsettias. Like most way south natives, this one can only be grown indoors here since it insists on 50 degrees or higher. Also like many other plants, a couple hundred years of horticulture tinkering has yielded downsized versions useful as houseplants in the northern hemisphere.

Back in my even less learned days I assumed Resurrection Fern must have been so-named because of an Easter connotation. Nope; I had surmised wrong. The fern grows from the bark of large oak trees around here, getting its nutrition from the air like Spanish moss. During extremely dry, hot weather it turns brown, nearly dead brown. Then with the first shower, it’s back to a lush green fern. It has resurrected.