Use these calla lily care tips to keep your plants blooming all summer long. Find out how to overwinter the tender perennials until the next growing season, as well as tips for growing them as houseplants.

Calla lilies are simple yet stunning flowers. They're traditionally used in wedding bouquets, Easter arrangements, and at funeral services, where they symbolize purity, resurrection, and rebirth. These tender perennials with chalice-shaped flowers can be planted in beds, borders, and containers, where they'll grow about one to three feet tall. They also make elegant houseplants. Calla lilies come in white, as well as shades of pink, yellow, orange, rose, maroon, and even nearly black. Some also have pretty white speckles on their leaves, so they're attractive even when not in bloom. Here's how to grow and care for calla lilies, both in the garden and indoors.

two white Calla lilies growing in a garden
Credit: aimintang / Getty Images

Calla Lily Care in the Garden

Calla lilies (Zantedeschia sp.) are native to South Africa and are considered tender perennials, since they won't tolerate freezing weather. They're only hardy in warmer areas in Zones 8-10. They grow from bulb-like rhizomes, and big, firm rhizomes will give you big plants and lots of flowers. Smaller ones will also grow and bloom, but not as vigorously. Overall, calla flowers can last up to a month when left on the plants, or for a couple of weeks when cut for vases.

Plant calla lilies in full sun to part shade. They need moist but well-drained soil, since overly soggy soil may cause the rhizomes to rot. Before planting, enrich the soil with plenty of organic material, such as compost, which will help create the best conditions for growing.

Plant callas in the spring after all danger of frost has passed, or when the soil has warmed up to at least 65°F. For a head-start on blooms, plant the rhizomes indoors about a month before the average date of your last frost. Transplant them into the garden when the weather warms up.

Plant the rhizomes with the growing tips facing up. Bury them four inches deep and a foot apart, measuring from center to center, and water them in. Mulch them to help control weeds and keep the soil moist. Water regularly, especially during dry periods, until the plants are established. 

Callas grow quickly, so you should see shoots about two weeks after planting. Flowers will follow in 13 to 16 weeks, depending on the variety you're growing. You can grow a mix of early, mid, and late season varieties for a continuous flower show. Remove faded flowers as needed to keep the plant looking tidy and to encourage reblooming.

While they're actively growing, keep your callas consistently moist and don't let them dry out. Apply a balanced liquid fertilizer every two weeks while they're blooming, or as directed on your product label. An important part of care is to let the plant rest and go dormant once it stops blooming. Water it less as it naturally starts to die back. If you live where it freezes, you will need to dig up the rhizomes in order to overwinter them.

deep red calla lilly
Credit: Marty Baldwin

How to Care for Calla Lilies in Pots

Potted calla lilies, especially when grown for Easter, are often thrown out when they stop blooming, but you don't have to do this. Instead, let them go dormant and keep them in a cool, dark place without water for a couple of months. Then put them back in the light and start watering again. They should leaf out and start blooming.

You can also start rhizomes in containers to enjoy as houseplants. Use fresh container potting mix that drains easily. Plant them with their growing tips up and space them about four inches apart, measuring from center to center. Water lightly at first, or until a few leaves appear within a couple of weeks, then increase watering to ensure they don't dry out. Feed the plants monthly with a liquid fertilizer, according to label directions.

Before freezing weather arrives, bring potted calla lilies indoors, unless you live in Zones 8 to 10 (these tropical plants can overwinter outdoors in these zones, but will be damaged or killed in temperatures below 25°F.). Put the pots in a sunny window to continue growing, or dig up the rhizomes and store them indoors. If you like, repot the rhizomes in the spring.

How to Store Calla Lilies for the Winter

Gardeners in warm climates can leave calla rhizomes in the ground over the winter. Otherwise, remove the leaves from your plants and cut the stems to one to two inches tall before your first freeze. Dig up the rhizomes and put them in a warm, dry place where the temperatures stay between 65 and 75°F. Leave them there to cure for three days.

Once they've cured, pack the rhizomes in a box filled with some slightly moist peat moss or sawdust. Store the box in a dark place at 50 to 60°F. Check them from time to time to make sure they don't get too dry or start to rot from too much moisture.


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