Did you know that calla lilies are false lilies (not true lilies) but are gorgeous nonetheless.
This blooming perennial grows from rhizomes, which makes it extremely easy to grow.
It’s commonly used for container planting, borders, or indoor houseplants!
Gardeners often grow calla lilies because of their gorgeous color availability.
Let’s dive in and learn how to grow and care for callas.
Quick care guide: Calla lilies
|Flowering herbaceous or semi-evergreen perennial
|Calla, arum lily, callas, arums
|Organic, rich, loose, well draining, wet, damp, moist
|Full sun in lower zones, partial shade in higher zones
|Late spring to summer
|Orange, pink, yellow, rose, lavender, maroon, green, purple, hybrids
|Low temperature tolerance
|High temperature tolerance
|Ideal temperature range
|High (80% or higher)
|Keep soil damp at all times; don't let it dry out; water weekly or more if hot or drought-like conditions exist
|Fertilize monthly when it's actively growing in the spring to summer
|Plant food NPK
|10-10-10, 5-10-10, 3-5-3
|Days until germination
|Days until harvest
|Not harvestable, but can be cut then stored up to 2 weeks in a vase
|2-3 months after germination
|Speed of growth
|USDA hardiness zones 7-11
|From seeds: 0.5 inches
From rhizome: 4 inches
|12 inches for non-hybrids, 18 inches for hybrids
|Don't plant with
|Plants that have opposing husbandry requirements
|Rhizome, from seeds
|Squirrels, voles, deer, rodents, caterpillars, scales, mealybugs, beetles, spider mites
|Pythium rot, powdery mildew, southern blight, botrytis, rust, leaf spot, root rot, soft rot, rhizome rot, and other issues usually cause by high humidity.
|Grown in container
|Minimal to none (easy)
|Border plant, edge plant, decorative piece
Calla lilies are known to contain calcium oxalate, which can cause burning or swelling when consumed.
Never handle it without protection and always wash your hands thoroughly after contact (or any other body part that touches it).
Keep pets and people away from calla lilies to prevent adverse reactions.
Types of calla lilies
There are many varieties of this plant.
Choose according to your hardiness zone, climate, and preferences.
Here are some of the most popular types of calla lilies:
- Zantedeschia aethiopica (Common white calla lily, 4 feet tall, blooms well)
- Edge of Night (30 inches tall, 3 black lines)
- Zantedeschia elliottiana (g=Golden calla, 3 feet, yellow lily flowers)
- Purple Sensation (Purple lily, 18 inches tall, 5 inch spathes, pink-purple)
- Zantedeschia rehmannii (Red or pink calla lily, 1.5 feet tall, pink spathes 3 to 4 inches in diameter)
- Zantedeschia Picasso (Purple, pink, white, bi-colored flower)
- Captain Safari lily (24 inches tall, orange flowers, gold with arching blue foliage)
How to propagate calla lilies
In zones 8-11, callas are hardy so they can be divided and then replanted in the fall. The rhizomes can be cut in half and then planted as described later in this guide.
Starting from seed is also possible. Soak the seeds for 24 hours then sow them 0.5 inches deep in a damp seed starter.
Keep the ambient temperatures warm, at least above 68F.
Germination time varies depending on the temperature, but you should expect them to sprout in one week, but may take up to 3 months to do so. Seedlings will need at least 2 years to bloom.
When to plant
Calla lilies are usually planted in the spring after all frost has passed. The soil needs to be warm enough so the rhizome can sustain itself. If it’s still cold, the rhizome won’t root.
The ideal time to plant depends on whether you’re growing them in the north or south. In most zones (zone 8 or higher), they’ll be hardy right away in the garden.
Plant 30 days before the last average frost. In lower zones, plant callas in the springtime after all frost has opposed.
Soil temperatures should be at least 65F or higher. If you have a short season, start the rhizomes in containers indoors first. Give them 30 days before you move them to the garden.
It’s possible to force calla hybrids for a winter bloom. Give them 3 months for them to flower. Grow them in a container, but plan ahead.
How to grow calla lilies
Calla lilies are extremely easy to grow. They’re a perfect beginner plant because they don’t require too much work to make them flourish.
These lilies only ask that you choose the right location when planting them so they get the proper sunlight requirements and the right soil type. Those are the two most important things to consider when planting calla lilies.
How to care for calla lilies
Place the rhizomes of Z. aethiopica 4 inches deep. Space them 12 inches apart. You can get away with half the spacing, but you may encourage competition between the plants.
For other hybrids, plant the rhizomes just 2 inches deep. Space 18 inches apart. The rhizome’s eyes should be facing towards the soil surface. Gently cover with loose, fertile soil.
Calla lilies do well in USDA hardiness zones 7-11. For warmer zones, you can keep them in partial shade with no mulch. For cooler zones, keep them in full sun with regular mulching during the wintertime.
This will help insulate the plant. Colorful callas will bloom in the late spring to early summer. Zones 8-11 can be grown without mulch. Zone 7 needs to be mulched.
When planted after the last spring frost, you can expect flowers in the summer.
Calla lilies require well-draining, loose soil. The soil should always be damp. You should never let it completely dry out between watering. The callas will grow as border plants or in the eye of gardens up to 12 inches of water.
Callas will flourish in slightly acidic soils
For colorful hybrids, ensure that the soil is loose enough for the roots to expand and be fertile with nutrients.
They can also do well in full sun in northern zones, but the sun needs to be limited to morning and afternoon shade in southern zones. Keep their pH slightly acidic between 5.5-6.5.
Use soil amendments to lower the pH or raise it.
Plant calla lilies about 4 inches deep. They require more soil depth than other plants. This will help them root and protect the rhizome from sudden temperature changes.
The soil is insulated from temperature swings.
Space each plant about 12 inches apart.
Don’t plant them too close or else they’ll compete for nutrients. You can put them closer if you want, but no less than 6” apart.
For hybrids, space them at least 18 inches apart. Give them adequate spacing or else they’ll grow smaller.
The area should be watered well. Calla lilies enjoy being moist, but you should never overwater. They hate wet feet. Use your finger to feel the top inch of soil. If it’s near dry, go ahead and water.
For hybrids, water them less than non-hybrid strains.
Callas enjoy damp to wet soil, such as those found at the edges of ponds. The soil should never be completely dry. Bright hybrids should be moist, but never soggy.
For container plants, allow the soil to slowly dry once the foliage dies back into dormancy. Use a soil moisture meter so you know when to water.
Calla lilies will benefit from a monthly dose of liquid fertilizer during the growing season. Use half the dosage at first if you get any adverse reactions from your callas.
If they’re good, then use the full dosage. Only use fertilizer during the summertime. Taper off during the fall to the winter.
Calla lilies don’t actively produce flowers in the winter, so they don’t need plant food. Feed calla rhizomes with an inorganic bulb fertilizer with an NPK of 3-5-3. Use as directed.
Fertilizers should be scattered over the soil beneath the rhizomes when they’re planted. Later on, apply plant food to the surface in the fall when they’ve finished blooming.
Keep weeds out of the same plant bed as your lilies. They’ll outcompete the callas for nutrients, which will lead to drooping or failed blooms.
You can use some mulch to help keep the weeds out. It also helps insulate the rhizome from temperature swings.
Calla lilies prefer to be planted in full sun for proper blooming.
If you’re in a warmer zone, you can plant in partial shade. This will prevent scorching. If you’re growing indoors, place them near a sunny window so they get the energy they need to produce those flowers.
Other things to note
As I mentioned earlier, calla lilies don’t need much care. This is why they’re a popular choice for those who want a gorgeous plant that’s easy to care for.
Other than regularly watering them when they go near dry and fertilize often.
Calla lilies can be grown in containers easily. Hybrid callas fare well in planters. For container planting, choose hybrid varieties.
Place them outside in the summer and indoors in the winter. They can be spaced closer when potted in containers compared to garden planting. An 8 inch potter can hold 2-3 smaller callas or 1 larger one. A 12 inch pot can hold 3 larger rhizomes.
Cover with 2 inches of soil. Use fertilizer regularly. Container plants will need more water than plants sown in the soil. You can expect blooms for at least 45 days.
Calla lilies require a dormancy period in the winter to recharge. Think of it as a time for them to rest and regenerate for the next season.
If they don’t get time to rest, they may not produce the same volume of blooms next season. You can tell when they enter dormancy because they stop producing flowers.
Refrain from adding plant food or watering. The plant needs to die back during this time. It’s normal.
Don’t be scared. But there are some steps you need to take to protect your lily during the wintertime or else they’ll suffer.
Do NOT leave them outside in the cold during this time. For container grown calla lilies, cease watering then move the pot to a shaded place once the foliage has faded.
Continue watering within 3 months when temperatures get warm again. Plants will not bloom if they’re not given a period of dormancy.
How to winterize
Calla lilies will need to be dug up in the fall. The rhizomes should be removed from the soil through gentle uprooting after the first frost. Use a spade to dig it up, carefully.
Don’t cut the rhizome or the roots. Clean off any debris or soil that’s stuck to the rhizome. When you’ve removed the debris, store the calla lilies in some organic peat moss.
Keep them somewhere dry, cool, and dark. Keep them there throughout the cold season until warmer temperatures return in the spring.
You can keep them indoors. When the soil is warm again, bring them back outside in the spring. This is when you should propagate the calla lilies. Do it when they’re lifted or during the winter dormancy period.
If you live in a lower hardiness zone, you’ll need to keep their rhizomes dormant inside your house over the winter. Hybrids can’t stay outside during the winter.
They need to be brought inside. For Z. aethiopica, it doesn’t go dormant. So keep the entire plant inside as a houseplant during the winter time.
Bring calla lilies inside when the plant has died back on its own. Then dig up the rhizomes.
Bring the plant indoors before your first frost in the fall. Put it in a bright, cool location.
Temperatures should be between 55-65F for optimal production.
To protect them from cold damage, rhizomes need to be dug up and then stored in the winter. When the plant has died back, cut it off 2-3 inches from the soil.
Dig up the rhizomes. Clean off debris or dirt. Then put them in a dry, dark location for a couple weeks. Store them in a cardboard box with barely damp soil.
Use peat moss or vermiculite. Store at 60F. Check it a few times during the winter to ensure that it’s not too wet or else it can lead to shriveling.
Callas can become leggy during the summertime, especially if grown in the shade. You’ll need to cut back the foliage in the fall if you plan to take it inside for dormancy.
For Z. aethiopica, prune it back completely. For hybrids, they don’t require pruning unless you’re removing damaged foliage. Deadhead the faded foliage to keep them blooming or when they go dormant.
Some common plants that can be paired with calla lilies include:
- Creeping jennies
- Plantain lilies
- Crane’s bill
There are tons of partner plants that go well with callas. Combine various colors that are complementary for a gorgeous color flow.
Don’t plant with
Calla lilies shouldn’t be planted with plants that have opposing requirements or within the same genus. They’ll compete for nutrients.
Calla lilies don’t have pest issues, but some rodents are known to chew on the plant. Squirrels, voles, or deer are known to be an issue pest.
But they can be fenced off from your callas to protect them.
Other than rodents, you may encounter caterpillars, scales, mealybugs, beetles, spider mites, and other common insects.
They can be ridden using an insecticide. Use as directed.
Calla lilies are prone to Pythium rot, powdery mildew, southern blight, botrytis, rust, leaf spot, root rot, soft rot, rhizome rot, and other issues usually cause by high humidity.
It’s important to allow proper evaporation by regularly pruning. Use a well draining soil to help remove excess water.
Enjoy your calla lilies!
Calla lilies are one of the easiest perennials to care for if you have damp soil.
They go well with tons of other plants and pair well with shorter grasses. Perfect for borders or edges, these lilies stand out from the crowd.
What color do you plan to grow? Let me know in the comments!
I’ve always been interested in gardening, but I never took it seriously until I was forcefully gifted an orchid. This was what got me into the hobby and I’ve never looked back. I enjoy writing about it, but not nearly as much as getting into the dirt and sculpting the perfect decorative ornamental to enjoy for the times.