Sumo Gardener

Calla Lily – How to Grow and Care Guide

Even though calla lilies aren’t really lilies, they are still gorgeous flowers that deserve a special place in your garden. While the prototypical calla lily is white, there are actually many colors to choose from, including gold, pink, red, black, and orange.

Despite their delicate look, calla lily bulbs are actually fairly easy to plant and grow, and even once they bloom, they continue to be low maintenance.

But, if you’ve never grown calla lilies before, you may need some tips to be successful. This guide will help you plant and care for this incredibly beautiful flower.


Getting to Know Calla Lily 

Zantedeschia or calla lilies are perennial flowers

Calla lilies are perennial flowers, which means they’ll grow every year as long as the environmental conditions are right. These flowers prefer a warm, humid climate, and grow best in growing zones 8 through 10, which in the United States are mostly in the southeastern states such as Alabama, Georgia, Texas, Louisiana, South Carolina, Florida, and parts of North Carolina and Arkansas.

The West Coast close to the ocean also has the right climate to grow these pretty flowers. Calla lily hybrids are most comfortable in zone 9, which encompasses almost all of Florida, the southern tip of Texas, and the West Coast from Washington to Southern California.

Like many perennials, calla lilies first bloom in late spring and will continue to bloom throughout the summer. They can be grown in outside or inside gardens as long as they are planted in well-draining, constantly moist soil and get plenty of sunshine.

They will still grow in partial shade, but prefer full sun. If you plant them inside and maintain the right growth conditions, your calla lilies can bloom all year.

But, best practices dictate that you allow the plant to die for two months out of the year to encourage rest. This will cause the flowers to bloom even better during the next growing season.

How to Grow Calla lily

How to Grow Calla Lily

When planning your outdoor garden for calla lilies, you’ll want to make sure your soil is loose and has a good drainage system. You don’t want extremely dense soil like hard clay because the roots will sit too long in water, which deprives them of much-needed oxygen.

For the proper growth of calla lilies (and most other flowers), both water and oxygen are necessary, but if there’s too much water, there isn’t enough oxygen, which will lead to an early death. 

Your calla lilies should be planted in full sun or partial shade during the spring after the threat of a frost has passed. This will ensure the soil is sufficiently warm to incubate the bulbs.

You’ll want to plant the bulbs at least 10 centimeters from the surface, which is quite deep for bulbs, and they should be spaced about one foot apart.

Once your bulbs are planted, you’ll need to keep the soil moist (don’t allow the water to pool) and fertilize the garden monthly with a 8-8-8 or 10-10-10 fertilizer.

Calla Lily Care Guide

Caring for Zantedeschia Outdoors

Once your calla lilies are established in your outdoor garden, they’re actually very easy to take care of. You’ll just need to keep the soil moist by watering you calla lily whenever it starts to look slightly dry.

Again, do not allow the water to pool around the flowers because this will starve them of oxygen in the soil. Your bulbs will start blooming about eight weeks after being planted and will continue to bloom all summer long. 

When your calla lilies no longer bloom in a given season, which will typically occur in the fall, you can stop watering them and allow them to dry out.

If you live in an area that is not warm all year long, you might want to consider removing the bulbs from the ground over the winter to give them the best chance to survive.

Just after the first frost, cut back the withered plant to approximately three inches above the ground. Carefully dig up your bulbs and rinse off the soil in cool, running water.

Place the bulbs on a tray in a cool, dark place (like a shelf in a garage) until they have dried out for a few days. Wrap your bulbs separately in a paper sack or newspaper with a small amount of peat moss.

Avoid the bulbs from coming into contact with each other. The bulbs should stay dry over the winter, but they shouldn’t completely dry out. Check on them every so often and if they look shrunken or shriveled, mist them lightly to prevent them from drying out fully.

Calla Lily Care Guide

How to Care for Calla Lilies Indoors 

Indoor calla lily gardens are not much more difficult to care for than outdoor gardens, but since the soil in pots tend to dry out more quickly than outside soil, you’ll need to constantly ensure the soil is moist.

They need to be planted in pots that allow for adequate drainage because they should neve sit in standing water. You’ll also want to fertilize them, just as you would outside, since this provides extra nutrients to the flowers and makes them grow and bloom better.

There is a risk of aphids to indoor calla lilies, so keep an eye out for these pests. They will leave a sticky residue on the underside of the leaves that will attract ants.

You can usually control aphids by gently spraying the calla lilies with water or by removing them manually with a cotton swab. 

Troubleshooting Non-Blooming Calla Lilies

If your calla lilies aren’t blooming, it’s probably due to one of three problems. First, your soil may contain too much nitrogen. This will lead to very lush green plants, but no flowers. If this is your situation, replant your bulbs in soil that has a higher phosphorus content.

The second issue that could be causing your calla lilies to not bloom is a lack of water. This problem is easy to fix because you can control how much water your garden gets. You might just have to water it manually instead of relying on precipitation.

The final reason why your calla lilies aren’t blooming is a lack of sunlight. These plants love full sun and even though they can bloom in partial shade, they prefer a sunnier spot.

You may need to replant your calla lilies in a location that gets more sunlight or provide artificial light to give them what they need to bloom.

Wrapping Up Our Calla lily Growing Guide

Calla lilies are a stunning addition to any garden, and do especially well in the warmer southern states. Just be sure you give them the proper care when you’re planting the bulbs and during their months-long growing cycle and you’ll enjoy these wonderful flowers for many years to come.

About the Author Mabel Vasquez

Mabel has enjoyed a long career as a horticulturist, working in nurseries and greenhouses for many years. Although she loves all plants, Mabel has developed a particular passion over the years for herb gardens and indoor plants. Mabel has since retired from her horticulture career and loves sharing her many years of experience with our audience here at Sumo Gardener.

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