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Calla lilies add color and elegance to any space, whether you're planting a cutting garden in your backyard or brightening up your indoor plant collection. These low-maintenance perennial plants are easy to care for, look beautiful in bouquets, and come back year after year with a little maintenance. Here's how to grow calla lilies indoors or outdoors.
- Botanical Name: Zantedeschia aethiopica
- Common Name: Calla lily, zantedeschia, arum lily
- Plant Type: Rhizomatous herbaceous perennial
- Mature Size: Two to three feet tall
- Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
- Soil Type: Rich, loose, well-drained soil
- Soil pH: 5.6 - 6.5
- Toxicity: Toxic to dogs, cats, and humans
Calla lilies are not true lilies, like tulips, because they grow from a rhizome rather than a bulb, but they're just as easy to care for.
Plant calla lily rhizomes outdoors after danger of frost has passed and soil temperatures are at least 65 degrees. They can be planted in the ground three to four inches deep and six inches apart. Make sure to plant calla rhizomes with the "eye," or growth point, facing up.
You can also plant callas in a container that's at least 12 inches across. Use a well-draining potting mix. Plant rhizomes four inches apart in containers to create a fuller look.
After planting, water calla lily rhizomes minimally so that they're less likely to rot. Once the plants have sprouted a few leaves, water enough to keep the soil consistently moist but not soggy. Once plants are established, feed them with a balanced fertilizer once per month according to package directions.
Best Growing Conditions for Calla Lilies
Calla lilies grow best in full sun, but they can also do well in dappled light or part shade. Plant them in rich, loose soil with good drainage. In cool regions, they'll grow better in a sunnier spot. Calla lilies like moist environments near rivers and streams, but overly soggy soil can cause rot.
Calla lilies can overwinter outdoors in warmer climates (growing zones 8 to 11), but in colder areas, gardeners should plan to dig up calla corms in fall and replant them outdoors the following spring. You can also plant calla lilies in containers to make it easier to bring them indoors for the winter.
Types of Calla Lilies
The many different types of calla lilies have pointed, swordlike leaves and attractive spathe-and-spadix flower structures. The main differences you'll find are in color.
Calla lilies are available in shades of red, pink, orange, yellow, and purple, including variegated shades, in addition to the classic creamy white. 'Sunshine' is a rich, sunny yellow, 'Fire Dancer' offers a striking bright red, and 'Night Cap' grows deep burgundy-purple blooms.
How to Propagate Calla Lilies
The easiest way to propagate calla lilies is by dividing clumps of mature plants. This should be done every three to five years when clumps start to fade; dividing more often will inhibit growth.
In zone 8 or warmer, you can wait until after the last frost date in the late winter or early spring to divide calla lilies. In colder climates, divide calla lilies in the fall once foliage has begun to die back.
Use a shovel to dig under the calla lily rhizomes and gently lift them up. Remove foliage and any excess soil with your fingers (do not spray with a hose). Gently twist the rhizomes apart, ensuring that each piece has a growth point. Remove any rotten or damaged rhizomes. If you're in a warm climate and dividing callas in spring, you can replant the rhizomes at the new site.
When dividing callas in fall, let rhizomes sit in a shady, sheltered spot for two to three days to callus over. Remove any dried soil, then place them in a paper bag with bulb dust and shake the bag, which will coat the rhizomes and protect them from rot. Label and store rhizomes in a cool, dry place for the winter, then replant in spring.
Common Problems With Calla Lilies
The biggest issues with calla lilies tend to be caused by the plant getting too much or too little water. If the plant is too dry, stems and leaves may droop or look wilted; give the plant more water and ensure the soil is consistently moist. Keeping the soil very wet or soggy, however, can lead to root rot.
Other factors can cause issues with calla lilies. Soil without enough nutrients can cause leaves to go yellow. Too much nitrogen fertilizer can cause stems to droop.
How to Get Calla Lilies to Bloom
Calla lilies typically bloom in late spring or early summer, and blooming should last for several weeks. Ensure that your calla lilies have the proper soil and light conditions and are receiving plenty of water, as they prefer consistently moist soil. Issues with too much nitrogen in the soil or with not enough light could also keep callas from blooming.
If a potted indoor calla lily isn't flowering, it's possible that the plant has not been able to go through the necessary period of dormancy. Let your potted calla lily go dormant in the fall by letting it go dry and die back, then keep it in a cool, dark place around 55 degrees.
When spring comes, give your potted calla lily the proper light, warmth, and water and feed it with organic houseplant fertilizer according to package directions. The plant will go into active growth and should rebloom.
Are calla lilies easy to care for?
Yes, calla lilies are a pretty easygoing, low-maintenance plant once established.
How long can calla lilies live?
Calla lily plants can last for several years if they are overwintered properly.
Can calla lilies grow indoors?
Yes, calla lilies can be grown indoors.