How to Plant and Grow Calla Lily

Use these calla lily care tips to keep your plants blooming all summer long.

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

Calla lilies (Zantedeschia sp.) are simple yet stunning flowers. They're traditionally used in wedding bouquets, Easter arrangements, and 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 1 to 3 feet tall. They also make elegant houseplants.

Calla lilies come in white and shades of pink, yellow, orange, rose, and maroon. 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 in the garden and as houseplants.

Calla lilies are toxic to cats and dogs.

Where to Plant Calla Lily

Calla lilies are native to South Africa and are considered tender perennials since they don't tolerate freezing weather. They're only hardy in warmer areas in Zones 8–10.

How and When to Plant Calla Lily

Plant calla lilies in the spring after all danger of frost has passed or when the soil has warmed up to at least 65°F, in full sun or partial shade. Plant the rhizomes with the growing tips facing up. Bury them 4 inches deep and a foot apart, measuring from center to center, and water them in.

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.

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.

An important part of care is to let the plant rest and go dormant once it stops blooming. If you live where it freezes, you need to dig up the rhizomes to overwinter them.

Calla Lily Care Tips

Calla lilies are easy to grow. If you give them the right conditions, they don't usually require much attention.

Light

Calla lilies grow in the garden in areas with full sun to partial shade. Those grown indoors require a sunny window.

Soil and Water

They need moist but well-drained soil because 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.

While they're actively growing, keep your callas consistently moist and don't let them dry out. Mulch them to help control weeds and keep the soil moist. Water regularly, especially during dry periods, until the plants are established.

Fertilizer

Apply a balanced liquid fertilizer every two weeks while they're blooming or as directed on your product label.

deep red calla lilly
Marty Baldwin

Potting and Repotting

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 4 inches apart, measuring from center to center. Water lightly at first or until a few leaves appear within a couple of weeks, and 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.

Potted calla lilies, especially those 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.

Pests and Problems

Calla lilies are water-loving plants, which makes them attractive to many common garden pests, including aphids, spider mites, mealybugs, scale, and Japanese beetles. These pests are all easily spotted, identified, and controlled by the vigilant gardener.

How to Propagate Calla Lily

As with many plants that grow from rhizomes, calla lilies can be propagated by divisions. Use a sharp tool to separate a rhizome from the plant's root ball. Wait a week for the cut to cure, and then plant the rhizome in a well-draining soil mix.

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 temperature stays 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 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.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can I start calla lilies indoors to get a jump on the season?

    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.

  • How long do calla lily blooms last?

    Calla lilies are terrific cut flowers. They last up to two weeks in a vase with proper care. To harvest the blooms, don't cut them. Instead, carefully pull each flower stem from the plant. They last up to a month when left on the plants.

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