Growing Calla Lilies: Tips On Calla Lily Plant Care [HOW TO]

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Calla lilies, also known as Zantedeschia aethiopica (pronounced zan-te-des’-ki-ah), belongs to the family of Araceae, a native to South Africa, Lesotho, and Swaziland.

This beautiful trumpet-shaped flower is easy to grow with just a few important planting tips to keep in mind.

beautiful white calla lily flowersPin

It’s true! Care for calla lilies is rather easy for both growing and flowering.

Tip: The more leaves a plant has, the greater the number of flowers to be expected.

Also known as trumpet lilies, calla lilies are mostly known for their waxy white flowers that twist and curl gracefully, ending in a delicate point.

However, Calla lilies come in a variety of colors. Some of them are:

  • Black
  • Purple
  • Red
  • White

You can grow calla lilies in pots – indoors or outdoors in your garden. They also grow well in planters, flower beds, and container gardens. 

Calla lilies also make beautiful bouquets, flower arrangements, and cut flowers. So they should be on everyone’s summer flowering bulbs list.

In cooler climates, grow calla lilies as an annual or simply dig the bulbs or rhizomes up in the fall and replant them the following year.

Given reasonably good care, each bulb will produce up to six blossoms during the flowering season.

In areas where the temperature is warm, you can grow them perennially all year long.

Calla Lily Quick Care Tips

  • Botanical Name: Zantedeschia aethiopica
  • Common Name(s): Calla Lily, Arum Lily
  • Synonyms: Calla aethiopica, Richardia africana
  • Family & Origin: Araceae family, native to southern Africa
  • Growability: Easy to grow
  • Grow Zone: USDA zones 8-10
  • Size: Grows up to 4′ feet tall and 1′ foot wide
  • Flowering: Blooms in late spring to early summer
  • Light: Prefers bright, indirect light
  • Humidity: Tolerates low humidity, but prefers higher humidity levels
  • Temperature: Thrives in temperatures between 60-75°F
  • Soil: Well-draining soil with organic matter
  • Water: Keep soil moist, but not waterlogged
  • Fertilizer: Feed with a balanced fertilizer every 2-3 weeks during growing season
  • Pests & Diseases: Susceptible to spider mites, aphids, and root rot
  • Propagation: Propagated through division or by seed
  • Plant Uses: Used as a cut flower, in floral arrangements, and as a houseplant or outdoor plant in warmer climates.

NOTE: Calla lilies are not true lilies.

How To Care For Calla Lily Bulbs in Pots

Here’s everything you need to know for the proper calla lily care.

Although you can start growing from calla lilies seeds, the seeds take a very long to germinate.

In addition, seedlings of calla lilies have a very low germination rate. It’s best to begin growing calla lilies using bulbs.

When growing potted Calla lily, use deep pots and plant one bulb in a five or six-inch pot. In eight-inch or larger containers, plant two or three calla lily flower bulbs.

If you want to grow your Calla Lilies in pots, they look best when the dormant tubers are started in larger pots.

When potting, calla lilies allow the tops of the tubers to stick out above the soil barely.

Although the roots of the Calla lilies do not spread out much, using large pots will help the soil stay moist and allow enough space for the tubers to spread and make additional plants.

Close-up of a purple calla lily with green leaves.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @hjs_garden

You’ll find all kinds of elaborate recommended soil mixes for calla lilies, but all need well-drained soil.

I’ve been successful using a simple mixture of 1 part garden loam (learn more) and 1 part peat moss.

Some people swear the best results come from using cow manure in growing their callas.

I’ve seen great results by using biweekly feedings of liquid fish emulsion fertilizer.

If you live in areas with high temperatures or where the frost has already passed, plant the tubers directly in the garden.

For the best results, bury the tubers three to 4″ inches below the surface of the soil.

Tips On Watering Calla Lilies

Water Calla lilies well and place them in a bright location until growth begins.

Cow lilies need plenty of water all during their growth cycle. At maturity, they can almost stand in water.

Blooming calla lilies in a garden setting.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @lizkeepsitreal

Watering the lilies regularly will ensure the soil stays moist. Calla lilies need to be hydrated all the time.

Remember, plants grown in containers tend to dry out much quicker than those grown in the ground.

However, the soil should not be too wet since the lily bulb may start to rot.

One of the indicators that you may be over-watering the plants is the presence of dark leaf tips.

Tips On Calla Lily Fertilizer

When fertilizing calla lilies, you can use water-soluble all-purpose plant food as well as bulb fertilizer every month.

You should apply the fertilizer more regularly when you start noticing the development of flowers.

However, you should stop fertilizing when the plant has already bloomed.

If you notice some dark tips on the foliage, you may have added too much fertilizer.

Calla lilies do exceptionally well as floor plants. However, they need to be placed in areas with plenty of sunlight.

This may be near glass doors or near large windows.

You can also use the calla lilies grown in planters to enhance your patios, porches, garden, and decks.

What’s The Best Temperature Range For Growing Calla Lilies?

If you reside in areas where the temperatures are low such as the Pacific Northeast, you can try selected varieties that can tolerate cooler temperatures outside.

However, when the temperature is extremely cold, overwinter calla lilies in containers.

In conclusion, it is very important to provide good care for the Calla lilies by maintaining loose, well-drained soil and adding some used coffee grounds to the plant’s growing container to make it more acidic.

Calla lilies with a beach backdrop.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @discover_california_

Remember, although the plant can live year-round in the appropriate climate, 60°-75° degrees Fahrenheit, allow it to die (rest) for two to three months every year.

This allows the lily to rest and come back with better blooms the next season.

Calla Lily Bulb Storage Preparing Tubers For Winter

At the end of the growing period, stop feeding and watering the plants to allow them to go to dormancy.

Calla lilies kept in constant growth without a dormancy period will not flower well. They should be repotted into new soil every year.

Cut the plants to ground level and bring the pots inside if you live in areas that experience cool climate.

Store the pots in cool, dark places that do not get colder than 40° degrees Fahrenheit.

Vibrant calla lilies with lush green foliage.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @0301gm

Alternatively, you can dig the tubers or calla rhizomes out of the pot and store them in containers with peat moss for the winter.

Can Calla Lilies Bulbs Be Forced To Bloom?

Depending on when the bulbs are available and when they are planted, the flowers of calla lilies may be forced into bloom at almost any time as houseplants.

August and September are the time-honored months for planting the classic white calla lily flower, Zantedeschia aethiopica, and its fragrant flowers come during the winter and early spring.

Yellow and pink (or red) callas are usually planted in January for spring and early summer bloom.

If you are situated, as I was, so that yellow and pink calla bulbs arriving in January are likely to be frozen, ask that they not be delivered until April.

How To Grow Calla Lilies Outside

Choose an ideal spot for planting the bulbs.

Location Depending On Zones

Where to plant Calla Lilies?

If you reside in a hot climate, make sure you choose an outdoor spot that gets some partial shade and retains moisture.

If you live in a cooler region, select an area with full sun and moisture.

What Type Of Soil To Plant Calla Lilies Outside In The Garden?

After selecting, the ideal location for planting the calla lilies, makes sure the ground has been prepared well.

It is important to enrich the soil with compost and organic material, which helps retain moisture. This is very important, especially if you have sandy or rocky soil.

Also, a layer of mulch is a must to help control weeds and keep the soil moist.

Bright yellow calla lilies with green foliage.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @sachielili0319

Transplant the started bulbs and plants. It is not advisable to plant the tubers directly outdoors before taking care of them in the starter pots.

Once they have started your tubers, transplant the lilies into the garden.

You should do this once there is no threat of frost. The ideal spacing for these Lillie should be at least 12″ inches apart.

Remember, some Calla lilies can grow as tall as 4′ feet, with their leaves spreading to one foot or more.

Watering And Fertilizing Calla Lilies Outdoors

When watering, ensure that the soil remains moist throughout the growing season.

It is also very important to fertilize the lilies regularly using a water-soluble general plant fertilizer.

Remember to fertilize more than normal when you notice the flowers forming.

Stop feeding and watering the plant at the end of the growing season. This will allow the soil to dry and the lilies to die off.

Even if you live in a warm climate, the lilies need to go into a period of winter dormancy for them to bloom again the following year.

Digging And How To Store Bulbs of Calla Lilies

Dig the calla lilies out of the ground before the first frost. If you reside in areas where the climate is cool, remove the plant from the ground.

You’ll need to grab the plant close to the base and rock it back and forth until you loosen the soil at the base of the tuber, and then pull it carefully from the ground.

To pick all the tubers, sift through the soil with your hands or turn it carefully with a hand shovel.

This allows you to find any small tubers that may have formed underground but did not have time to grow a plant.

Burgundy calla lilies in bloom, green foliage background.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @tesselaarplants

To prepare the tubers for storage, cut all the remaining plant material from the plant and lay the tubers in the sun to dry for a few days.

Store them in dry peat moss or coco coir fiber inside a paper bag with a barely damp medium like vermiculite, peat moss, or sawdust. You should keep them at 50° to 55° degrees Fahrenheit.

Most of the tubers are in the form of clusters. Break them apart into single tubers before you plant them in the spring.

You may also like this lily: African Blood Lily – Haemanthus

Pest Control and Diseases On Callas

The white Calla Lilies’ worse enemy is spider mites which hide under leaves to avoid detection and feed on the lily’s juices turning the attractive leaves to a gray-yellow on the surface.

On indoor plants, take the plant outside and spray the leaves with water to knock the mites off.

This should help remove a large percentage of the spider mites and their eggs. However, this treatment will need to be repeated.

Predatory insects can also be used.

In case you find small insect pests on the lilies, usually plant lice (aka aphids), kill or get rid of aphids using the:

Bacteria can attack the lower part of the calla stem, causing stem rot. This difficult-to-control infection can spread down to the roots and kill the plant. Destroy affected plants.

The ring mosaic virus looks like yellow stripes and spots on stems and leaves, reducing the plant’s beauty and its ability to flower. Stop the spread of the virus to new plants by insects and destroy the affected plant.

You can also spray the respective pesticide to prevent diseases such as gray mold, rhizome rot as well as bacterial soft rot.

Close-up of purple calla lily flowerPin
Photo Credit: Instagram @pure_essence_nature

Calla Lilly Care: Questions and Answers

When To Plant Calla Bulbs For Bloom – Spring or Winter

Question: Are calla lilies properly planted in the Fall for Winter bloom or in the Spring for Summer flowering?

Answer: The wonderful thing about these lovely plants is they are versatile enough to flower during either period – whichever you prefer.

However, do not expect the same bulbs to reward you with flowers both times. So it’s best to plant them after the danger of frost is past.

When planted after the last spring frost, calla lilies will flower in late summer.

Separate bulbs must be used to allow for the needed rest. Winter is the natural blooming time.

Why Is The Color Fading On My Calla Lily?

Question: I have grown calla lilies for several years. The calla lily flowers on one plant have always been a deep yellow. 

This year the deep yellow disappeared, and the calla produced pale yellow, very light-colored flowers. What would cause the blooms to be so pale?

Answer: Genetics plays a significant role in flower pigment color in calla lily plants.

However, environmental factors also influence the flower color. The pale coloring on the flowers of calla lilies could be from:

  • The sun bleaching out the color
  • Dry soil during flower development
  • Imbalance of soil nutrients
  • Improper pH levels

I would start with a soil test to get a reading of the pH and to see if any soil nutrients are off.

Calla flowers like soil that is slightly acidic in the 5.6 to 6.5 pH. They use lots of energy growing and blooming,

Fertilize them regularly with a balanced mild liquid fertilizer every other week – try composted tea or fish emulsion fertilizer.

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