How to Grow: Calla Lily

Sun Requirements
Full sun in cold areas to part shade in warm areas.

Bloom Period and Seasonal Color
Blooms from summer to fall

Mature Height x Spread
12 to 24 inches tall

Calla lilies (Zantedeschia) are a subtropical bulb (rhizome) that is hardy in USDA zone 8 to 10. In those areas it will overwinter in well-drained soil to flower annually in summer. In colder areas, the bulbs need to be dug and stored in a cool basement for winter. Calla lily bulbs produce whirled, cup-like flowers in a broad range of colors and sword-like, dark green leaves. Flowers are produced from summer until fall.

Calla lilies can be grown as a perennial in warm climates, or as an annual in cold climates. The plants look great paired with other flowers in the garden, grown in a cutting garden for indoor use or grown in containers.

When, Where and How to Plant
Plant calla lily bulbs or plants in spring on well-drained soil. Heavy soil that stays wet in winter can lead to bulb rot in areas where the bulbs are left in the soil year round. Plant in a full sun, protected location in cool summer areas and in part shade in hot areas. Plant bulbs in groups of 3, 5 or 7 in holes dug 2 to 4 inches deep. Space bulbs 6 inches apart in the hole. Wait until the soil warms to 60F in cool summer areas before planting. In warm areas, plant after danger of frost has passed. Spring planted bulbs will bloom mid to late summer. Bulbs overwintered in the soil bloom in early summer.

Plant bulbs in containers after all danger of frost has passed in a pot filled with a moistened potting soil. Keep the container protected from cool spring weather.

Growing Tips
Calla lilies need well-drained soil, especially in spring, to grow best and to avoid bulb rot. In the ground or containers apply a monthly dose of an organic fertilizer during the growing season. Keep container bulbs well watered for best growth. Harvest flowers in the cutting garden as they color up and open for indoor arrangements.

Deer, rabbits and other animals seem to avoid calla lilies and the bulbs have few insect pests other than slugs and snails in shady spots.

Plant Care
Once calla lilies have stopped flowering and the foliage begins to die back in fall, dig up and store the bulbs in cold climates. Even if growing calla lily bulbs in a warm climate, every few years dig up, divide and replant the bulbs to stimulate better growth and more flowering. Bring containers of calla lilies indoors in fall in cold climates to overwinter in a cool, dark basement.

In cold areas, after flowering, cut back spent blooms to prevent them from setting seed. Let the foliage naturally yellow and start to die. Then dig up the bulbs. Remove the foliage and cure the bulbs in a warm room for a few weeks. After curing, store the bulbs in a 50F to 60F basement or room in a box or perforated bag filled with slightly moistened peat moss. Check monthly in winter for rotting bulbs and discard.

Companion Planting and Design
Plant calla lilies in a flowerbed with other similar sized perennial flowers such as salvia, sedum, and lilies. They make nice front of the border plants. Even when not in bloom, the dark green leaves are speckled in white making them attractive as foliage plants. Avoid planting calla lilies near plants that will spread or they will be overrun by mid summer. Plant in containers with annuals such as geraniums, calibrachoa, and lantana for a hot, summery look.

Varieties
Calla lilies come a wide range of colorful flowers. Try ‘Flame’ (red), ‘Picasso’ (purple), ‘Florist’ (white) and ‘Regal’ (pink).

 

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