How to Plant and Care for Calla Lilies
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Calla lily, also known as Arum lily, is a classic beauty due to its lush green leaves and exotic-looking flowers (spathes) that bloom from early to late summer. This beautiful plant belongs to the genus Zantedeschia, named after an Italian botanist, Giovanni Zantedeschia, and the name Calla is derived from the Greek word meaning beautiful.
The arum lily is perfect for landscapes with its beautiful blooms, available in various shades of pink, orange, yellow, purple, rose, marron, and white. Moreover, calla lilies can be grown in containers for use on the porch, patios, decks, and cut flowers in floral arrangements.
In Victorian flower traditions, the Calla lily symbolizes rebirth, devotion, and purity. Therefore, brides carry these symbolic flowers in their bouquets and headpieces.
Callas is a perfect plant for beginners to grow and maintain indoors as houseplants and outdoors as annuals in garden flower beds. They need full sun and well-draining soils to produce large tubular blooms and arrow-shaped leaves.
Keep reading this article to learn more about calla lily, its propagation, and the care guide to growing these cultivated plants.
About Calla Lily
Arum lily (Zantedeschia aethiopica) is not a true lily but shares many characteristics with them. One of its best features is tubular-shaped flowers and solid green leaves that match the charm of lilies. That is why calla lilies deserve a spot in every garden and houseplant collection.
Calla lily flowers exude a spectacular effect through their vibrant colored flowers. These elegant flowers are made up of a spadix, or flower spike (which appears as a finger-like structure) in the center wrapped by a spathe (a modified leaf).
Calla lilies or Callas are native to South Africa and easy to grow and maintain. With little care and attention, Zantedeschia aethiopica will produce bright blooms and add a breathtaking charm to the garden in the summertime. These long-lasting spathes, primarily white Callas, are excellent for wedding bouquets and cut flowers in floral decorations. They perfectly pair with roses, orchids, and hydrangeas.
When selecting calla lilies for your garden flower beds in spring, pick the following cultivars:
Zantedeschia pentlandii— produces trumpet-shaped spathes in yellow color, and its widely used cultivars are ‘Black Star’ and ‘Picasso.’
Zantedeschia rehmannii—makes the most pretty spathes in pink, mauve, and purple colors, and its well-known cultivars are ‘Indian Summer,’ ‘Odessa,’ and ‘Lavender Gem.’
Zantedeschia aethiopica—creates creamy white spathes that appear on a single long stem and the most handsome ones when paired with pink roses. Its famous cultivars are ‘Sunshine,’ ‘Green Goddess,’ and ‘Crowborough.’
How do Calla Lilies differ from regular Lilies?
True lilies have six petals, but Calla lilies have only one petal wrapped around a spadix which can be white, pink, orange, purple, or maroon.
Calla Lily Care Guide
USDA hardiness zones
Desirable plant features
Where to buy
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What is the Difference between Calla Lily and Canna Lily?
Calla and Canna lilies are ornamental plants of tropical and subtropical regions that look similar at first glance, but they are neither true lilies nor the same plants.
Canna lilies (Canna x generalis) grow up to 8 feet tall and have large banana-like or paddle-shaped leaves. Their foliage comes in various shades of burgundy, purple, bright green, and dark green colors.
On the other hand, calla lilies grow only three feet tall and have arrow-shaped leaves in solid green or green with white marks.
Callas and Callas are both ideal choices for indoor houseplants and gardens. They will make dramatic statements through different flower colors and various leaf types.
Calla Lily Features
These tropical plants are semi-evergreen perennials that are very easy to grow. They are produced from bulb-like rhizomes in spring. Calla lily grows best in full sun to partial shade, healthy and well-draining soil.
White calla lilies are well known for their stunning pure creamy white flowers, but their bloom colors vary based on different hybrids and cultivars. Other varieties like Calla lily ‘Picasso’ produces dark purple trumpet-shaped flowers that steal the attention of other flowering ornamentals.
One of the best features of calla lilies is that gardeners can enjoy their blooms from spring to the first frost because they do not bloom simultaneously, as some cultivars are early season, midseason, and late season.
Uses for Calla Lily
Calla lilies are great for cutting gardens, mass plantings, flower beds, and border plants. Plant the calla lily in a decorative indoor pot as houseplants, and enjoy the stunning blooms through the summer.
Callas are terrific cut flowers are are easy to arrange with peonies, roses, orchids, hydrangeas, and lily of the valley for wedding bouquets and fresh floral arrangements.
Use Callas bloom and bouquets on Easter flower arrangements as a sign of resurrection and to express love on Mother’s and Father’s day.
How to Grow Calla Lily
Calla lilies are easy-to-grow perennials that perform best in moist, well-drained, and healthy soils. They are produced from rhizomes, blooms from late spring to mid-summer, and prefer full sun to partial shade (keep them in full sun in cool summer areas while in partial shade in warmer climates).
Callas are cold hardy in USDA hardiness zones 8 to 10 and prefer warmer temperatures to burst into colorful blooms.
Using the right soil will prevent root rot.
For potted calla lilies, use peat-free and all-purpose compost to prevent root rot. Also, keep the soil consistently moist and feed them regularly during blooming.
When & How to Plant Calla Lily
The best time to plant calla lilies is between February and June, or after all the danger of frost has passed and the daytime temperature remains between 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Here is the process to plant Calla lilies in the ground or pots:
Select a sunny garden site and amend it with decaying organic matter before planting.
Plant the rhizomes 3 to 4 inches deep in the soil and 12 to 18 inches apart. Be sure the “eyes” or growth buds of the rhizomes face up.
Cover the rhizome with soil and water it.
Use leaf mulch to conserve soil moisture and avoid weeds growth.
Water it regularly to keep the soil uniformly moist until the rhizome establishes.
In the right growing conditions, it takes two weeks for the shoot to appear and about 13 weeks to start flowering.
When planting calla lilies in containers, select a tall and narrow pot because they can grow up to 2 to 4 feet tall. Fill the pot with a high-quality growing medium (perlite, peat moss, and sand) instead of garden soil to prevent root rot.
Pro Tip: Make sure your temperature is right when planting!
Plant calla lilies only when the soil temperature has warmed to at least 70 degrees Fahrenheit in colder regions.
What to Plant with Calla Lily (Companion Plants)?
Dahlias and gladiolus make the perfect companion plants for cutting gardens, while for containers, the annuals, such as petunias, dusty miller, and heliotrope, are best.
Other companion plants include ferns, creeping Jenny, impatiens, and New Guinea.
How to Care for Calla Lily?
Calla lilies are beautiful, winter-hardy tropical plants in USDA hardiness zones 8 to 10. They are the easiest to grow and maintain in garden soil and indoor containers as houseplants. Calla lilies grow from a rhizome, not from a bulb, and that’s why they are not true lilies.
To grow Calla lilies successfully indoors and outdoors, here are the excellent plant care basics for beginners and experts:
Calla lilies love water and bloom happily in moist soil. Water your Calla lily plant regularly at the early growth stages to support their vigorous growth. Once they are established, reduce the watering to once a week and ensure the soil is dry between each water application.
Be careful with overwatering which can lead to root rot. If you're seeing your leaves start to turn yellow, it's likely a sign of overwatering. A key to preventing root rot is ensuring that you plant your Calla Lily in well-draining soil and in a container with a drainage hole.
This tropical plant grows best in full sun to partial shade conditions. So, If you live in warmer regions, keep the Calla lily in partial shade to enjoy the beauty of this flowering plant. While in cooler regions, select a garden spot with full sun exposure for Callas.
If you're growing indoors, consider placing near a south-facing window that receives the most amount of light a day. You can also grow your Calla Lily near West or east-facing windows that get light for half of the day. We don't recommend growing near north-facing windows. You can always supplement with a grow light if your space is low light.
🌡️ Temperature and Humidity
The ideal temperature range for this tropical plant is between 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Calla lilies also prefer warm and humid conditions of around 65 to 75 percent to bloom throughout the growing season.
Once the temperature falls below 50 degrees, the Calla lily plant enters the dormant state. So, dig up the rhizome and store it indoors to avoid the danger of frost, while in the cold USDA hardiness zones, Callas are grown as annuals.
Overwintering Calla Lilies
Once the temperature falls below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, the Calla lilies overwinter by stopping their growth and development. To protect these overwintering perennials, cut back the foliage and stem to the ground, dig up the rhizomes and store them indoors in dry places.
🌱 Best Soil for Calla Lily
Calla lilies perform best in moist and well-draining soils rich in organic matter. When producing the Calla lily indoors or outdoors, plant them in excellent sandy soil for best results. Avoid clay soils as this type of soil will encourage root rot if you're not careful.
Good plant care for Callas includes regular fertilizer applications because it promotes bloom growth. When planting the Calla lily, amend the garden soil with all-purpose liquid fertilizer in a ratio of 5-10-5 (NPK ratio).
Calla lilies are hazardous to pets and humans. This plant causes severe pain and irritation in the eyes and skin if any part is ingested because it contains microscopic calcium oxalate crystals released during plant handling or biting. So, wear safety clothes and handle Callas carefully.
What to do with Calla Lilies after they bloom?
Once the calla lilies complete their blooming cycle, they recede into a dormant state, and trumpet-shaped flowers fade away. At this stage, these plants save their energies for the following year's blooms.
So, the best way to protect your calla lilies for next year involves digging up rhizomes and cutting off the foliage. Now, allow the rhizome to dry in a warm and aerated place for 4 to 7 days.
After the rhizomes have dried, place them in a box or wrap them in a newspaper. Store them in a dark and dry place (basement and garage are best) where the temperature stays between 50-60°F. Replant the stored rhizomes in the following year.
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Propagate Calla Lily by Division
Calla lilies can be propagated through rhizome division, and it is the best way to have flowers sooner than seed-grown Callas. As the calla lily plant grows, it forms thick clusters that are easy to divide into new plants.
Pull up the Calla lily from the garden soil with the pitchfork, wash off the dirt from clustered roots, and examine for root rot. Remove the damaged brown roots and divide the rhizome into two parts with a sharp knife.
Make sure each division has growing tips with one or two healthy stems, and plant them in new containers with a high-quality potting mix. Water the freshly potted plants thoroughly and locate the container in a sunny indoor spot.
Rhizome division is best performed in early spring after the last frost or in late summer when the Calla lilies have finished blooming.
Common Calla Lily Problems
Calla lilies are easy to grow and maintain plants that prefer full sun to partial shade along with well-draining soils. These beautiful plants only need regular watering to thrive in healthy and moist soil. If these growths are not met carefully, the Calla lily foliage with the weaker stem turns yellow.
Calla Lily Has Yellow Leaves
Calla lilies are prone to overwatering and root rot, leading to yellowing of leaves due to chlorosis. The overly wet soil hinders nutrient absorptions and supply by Calla lily roots and impacts the lush green foliage. These conditions also encourage the bacterial lead root rot.
The best and easiest way to avoid yellow leaves and bacterial infections, reduce watering and plant them in well-draining soil. If the plant is not recovering, try to repot them in a new site with fresh soil.
Calla Lily is Drooping
Water stress, especially overwatering, causes drooping stem in Calla lilies. The other causal factors are overfertilization, rainfall, poor light, and drainage.
To discourage drooping branches, avoid overwatering and amend the soil with compost for good drainage. Also, apply a balanced houseplant fertilizer throughout the growing season to strengthen the plant vigor.
Common Calla Lily Pests
Calla lilies are tender perennials that produce chalice-shaped flowers and are sensitive to frost injury and overwatering. The constantly soggy garden soil conditions weaken the plant and encourage bacterial, fungal (Botrytis cinerea), and insect pest invasions.
Here are the most common pests of Calla lilies:
These are the most destructive pests of low-growing perennials and aggressively munch on their leaves.
Slugs feed on the arrow-shaped foliage of Calla lilies and make irregular holes in young and established plants. They appear in early spring when young seedlings and new growths are abundant.
To prevent the feeding damage of slugs, spread the eggshells or diatomaceous earth around the base of the plant. The sharp edges of eggshells will pierce the soft-bodied slugs and kills them through dehydration.
Pro Tip: Use eggshells for slug control.
Using eggshells as slug control will be a win-win situation for gardeners. They will not only control soil-dwelling pests but also add calcium and potassium to the soil.
Aphids are soft and pear-shaped pests of indoor and outdoor plants. They suck out plant nutrients through needle-like mouthparts.
The visible sign and symptoms of their feeding include excretions of sticky substances and yellow leaves with downward curling.
Use neem oil and soap water spray in spring to eliminate aphids on Calla lilies.
Like aphids, spider mites are sap feeders and lead to the development of pale yellow spots on both sides of Calla lilies leaves. High numbers of mites in warm and dry weather turn the foliage brown and premature falling.
Apply insecticidal soap and neem oil spray to deter these tinies creatures. Follow a biweekly application plan to enjoy the vigorous growth of lilies.
How to spot a spider mite infestation on my Calla Lily?
Spider mites infestations are easy to spot due to tiny pale yellow specs and fine webbing on the lower side of leaves. The discolorations appear because of chlorophyll damage and an early sign of attack.
Where to Buy Calla Lily?
Buy the spectacular Calla lilies with propagation and care guide from Neverland.
FAQs on Calla Lily
Do calla lilies come back every year?
Yes, calla lilies are perennial flowers and come back yearly with proper care and the growing conditions. They undergo a dormant state in winter and then return in spring for a spectacular color display.
Do calla lilies grow better in pots or on the ground?
Calla lilies in can grow well in pots or soil in the ground as long as you provide them with ideal growing conditions. They need full sun, organically rich, and well-draining soils.
How do you deadhead calla lily?
Deadheading a Calla Lily is relatively easy. All you need is a set of sterilized scissors and start clipping off the dead or spent blooms and weaker leaves. While cutting away the destroyed bits, remove all and leave the plant stem as a stub, just above the ground. It will allow the plant to bloom itself in the coming season.
Why do calla lilies cry?
Calla lilies cry or drip water during warm, humid days through a process called ‘guttation.’ This mechanism allows the plants to get rid of extra water or sap through their leaf openings called hydathodes. So, the best way to stop your calla lily crying, avoid overwatering on warm days.
How do I get my calla lily to flower again?
You need to provide a dormant period to make calla lily rebloom, which is easy. Stop watering your calla lily once it has stopped blooming. Due to water stress, calla lily will appear dead. Place the calla lily in a dark and cool area for two months. After a dormant period, bring the Callas back into the light and resume watering. The foliage will regrow on calla lily starts reblooming after dormancy.
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