Calla lilies are wonderful tender bulbed annuals that can quickly grow in the garden or even in containers. They do not require much attention in warmer climates. In colder zones, You can dig up the rhizomes in fall to plant again in spring. If you ever wondered how to plant calla lily bulbs and care for these beautiful flowers, we have the guide from planting to storing to get you started.
growing Calla lilies – the Basics
Calla lilies have beautiful flower blooms on waxy dark green stems. These plants are from tropical climates but do not look out of place in a shady border or in a porch container. They also live right at home in a cut flower garden.
- Common Name: Calla Lily, Arum Lily, Trumpet Lilies
- Botanical Name: Zantedeschia aethiopica
- Origin: Tropical plant from South Africa
- Blossoms: Funnel-shaped elegant-looking flowers with arrow-shaped leaves.
- Colors: Pink, coral, yellow or white flowers
- Hardiness: Perennial flowers hardy to USDA zones 8-10. Not sure which zone you live in? You can check on this handy map.
- Height & Spread: 1-5 feet tall – 1-2 feet wide.
- Growing Season: Plant in early spring for blooms in midsummer.
- Bloom Time: Early summer to midsummer for 3-8 weeks depending on conditions.
Invasive Plant Alert
What to plant with calla lilies
Calla lilies do well planted with other shade plants like ferns, astilbes, hostas, and impatiens. In a container, calla lilies look very good planted with dusty miller, alyssum (smells so good!), petunias, or heliotrope.
HOW TO PLANT Calla lily BULBS IN THE GARDEN
Planting calla bulbs is incredibly easy.
Once the danger of frost has passed in late spring, dig holes and plant the rhizome shallowly at 4 inches deep with the eyes of the calla lily rhizomes facing upwards. Barely cover the rhizome with soil and water thoroughly after planting.
Tip: It is a good idea to treat rhizomes with fungicide before planting outside.
How to plant calla lily bulbs in the container garden
You can also start them indoors in containers on a sunny window sill. Calla lilies make lovely container plants for the deck or porch.
Bring containers in for sheltering during the colder winter months. Even in warmer zones, container-planted calla lilies will need protection.
You can also plant the “Crowborough” variety of calla lily as an aquatic plant in a water basket. Retrieve the basket for winter storage. Keep sheltered and frost-free.
Related: Another wonderful bulb for container-growing is the amaryllis. Check out this full guide to amaryllis care!
Calla Lily Care
Care for calla lily flowers is relatively straightforward; if you provide them with the following conditions, your calla lilies should be relatively carefree:
Sun Requirements: For best results, plant your calla rhizomes in sun to part shade, in a sheltered location in warm climates. In cooler climates, calla lilies can tolerate full sun.
Soil Requirements: Well draining slightly acidic to acidic soil. Soil should be fertile and contain organic matter. Consistently moist soil is best for better blooms.
Water Requirements: Tubers must be kept moist during the growing season. Calla lilies require 1 inch of water a week, either through rain or manual watering.
Fertilizer Requirements: The best time to fertilize Calla lilies is at the time of planting. But to ensure good blooms, it’s also a good idea to fertilize throughout the growing season.
PESTS & DISEASES OF Calla Lilies
Pests: Japanese beetles love to munch away on calla lily plants. Calla lilies are also affected by spotted cucumber beetles, caterpillars, spider mites, and tiny insect pests like leaf rollers.
Fungal and Bacterial Diseases: Calla lilies can be affected by crown rot, root rot, bacterial soft rot, and pythium rot. Crown rot will present as yellowing on the leaves. Root rot will show up as yellowing around the left margins. Pythium rot can be identified by water-soaked lesions that appear on the leaves. Calla lilies are also susceptible to Armillaria rot, gray mold, blight, leaf spot, and powdery mildew.
Virus-like spotted wilt, and dasheen mosaic can also affect calla lilies. Viruses will present with a loss of growth in infected plants. Plants will also develop a mosaic-like pattern on the leaves. Remove all plants infected immediately and destroy the debris, do not compost.
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How to store Calla lily bulbs
You can dig up and overwinter the bulbs if you live in cold climates (USDA 7 and lower). In warmer temperatures, you can heavily mulch over your calla lilies in fall, and they will come back in spring.
Once the flowers and foliage die back in late summer before the first frost, you can dig up the bulbs gently with a garden fork. Be careful not to damage the rhizomes while lifting.
Once you dig up the bulb, brush off any remaining dirt and allow them to dry. Do not be tempted to rinse the bulbs off with water as that can cause rot while in storage.
Cut off any remaining foliage from the top of the bulb, leaving about 2 inches. Allow the bulbs to dry in a warm, well-circulated, dry place for a week.
After the bulbs have dried, please place them in a paper bag, or wrap them in kraft or newspaper. Store the calla lily bulbs overwinter in a cool dark area.
Calla lilies make lovely cut flowers
Callas make excellent cut flowers and should be included in any cut flower garden.
Cut unopened but developed flowers with well-formed leaves at a 45-degree angle. Stand flowers in deep water and immerse leaves for several hours to condition the flowers.
Be sure to change the water every 2-3 days and keep the vase away from bright sunlight and cold drafts.
Cut flowers will last 5-7 days.
Learn More: Flowers for The Cutting Garden
Start that Summer bulb garden aSAP!
Flowers like calla lilies, tulips, gladiolus, and dahlias are excellent additions to the spring and summer gardens because you can replant them again and again.
I hope you have a bright and colorful gardening season!
In warm zones (USDA zones 8-10) calla lilies will come back each year. In colder zones the rhizomes can be lifted in fall, dried, and stored indoors for winter protection. The rhizomes can then be planted back out in spring.
Canna lilies grow much taller than calla lilies, with some types growing as tall as 8 feet. In contrast, calla lilies grow 2-3 feet.
Yes! Calla lilies will do well in pots, so long as they aren’t left out in the cold, or the extreme heat.
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