How to Plant Calla Lily Bulbs

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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. 

violet Calla lilly flowers isolated on white background.

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. 

Learn More: Bulbs for Spring Planting and Beautiful Summer Blooms

Invasive Plant Alert

Calla lilies are considered invasive in many parts of the US. Check with your local extension office before planting.

Most counties within the United States have extension offices. Each extension office has agents who work closely with university-based Extension specialists to find and deliver answers to your questions about gardening, agriculture, and pest control.

Yellow calla lilies against a bright white background.

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.


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.

Toxic Alert!

Calla lilies are toxic to humans and pets, so be sure to keep pets and children away.

Bright pink calla lilies with bright green stems against a bright white background.  The image is intended to show what flowers can grow from planted calla lily bulbs.

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!

Ornamental Calla lily plant with white inflorescence showing the typical spathe and yellow spadix with glossy green leaves in a flowerpot isolated on white in side view.

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: 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.

A dense planting of white calla lilies growing in a garden.


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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 MoreFlowers for The Cutting Garden

Lovely cut calla lilies in a rustic old tea kettle against a rustic wooden fence.

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!

Will calla lilies come back each year?

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.

What’s the difference between calla lilies and canna lilies?

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.

Do calla lilies grow well in pots?

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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