Beautiful, tropical, low-maintenance- these are all great ways to describe the calla lily. Capable of being grown both indoors and outdoors, calla lilies are a versatile plant that will soon become your new favorite plant. Read on for more in-depth information on how to care for a calla lily plant.
Native to South Africa and Swaziland, the Zantedeschia aethiopica, otherwise known as the calla lily, is a beautiful plant that can be grown inside or outside the home. This beautiful plant is identifiable by its signature bell-shaped flowers. These blooms can grow in a variety of vivid colors, ranging from white, pink, maroon – and even black and orange.
Calla lilies are relatively rapid growers. If you plant your calla lilies in the springtime, you can expect blooms to appear in the summertime. These gorgeous blooms can last well into the fall.
Despite having “lily” in their name, calla lilies are not truly considered lilies because they grow from a rhizome. A rhizome is a continuously growing underground stem. Rhizomes can be dug up in the winter and used to produce new calla lilies in the summer (see our section on overwintering for more information).
Calla lilies are classified as perennial and are winter hardy to USDA zones 8 to 10. Calla lilies can comfortably survive in lower hardiness zones, though keep in mind they will need human intervention to be overwintered when the temperatures get too low.
Calla lilies make great houseplants and the calla lily flowers are a favorite in wedding bouquets. The cut flowers are long-lasting and perfect for floral arrangements.
Unfortunately, the calla lily plant is toxic to both humans and pets. All gardeners with curious pets or children are advised to exercise caution when growing calla lilies.
How to care for your calla lily
Calla lilies should be planted in the late spring after all danger of frost has passed. In cold climates, it is best to wait until the soil has warmed to at least 65°F. To get a head start, plant the tubers in pots indoors about a month before planting them into the garden.
Sun & Light
The calla lily plant thrives when exposed to plenty of light. However, plant owners should take into consideration the type of climate they live in. If you live in an area with intense summer weather, it is best to keep your calla lilies In a location with partial shade. On the other side, plant owners living in temperate climates can safely expose their lilies to full sun.
The ideal soil type for a calla lily is soil that is loose, well-draining, and rich in organic matter. Calla lilies also enjoy soil with a pH level that is more acidic. You can help raise the acidity in your calla lilies’ soil by adding used coffee grounds to the potting mix.
Calla lilies prefer to live in soil that is consistently moist, so it is important to water them regularly to maintain an even level of moisture. An established calla lily plant should be watered weekly (water more often in hot conditions, or if your lilies are in a plant pot).
Calla lilies require fertilizer upon planting, as well as every spring (which marks the start of the growing season). Select a balanced fertilizer, and avoid anything that is heavy with nitrogen; too much nitrogen will reduce flowering.
Temperature & Humidity
Like many other tropical plants, the calla lily enjoys a warm climate; which is why it is important for gardeners to replicate those conditions. Ideally, your calla lilies should be in a location where the air temperature ranges from 60° to 80° F.
Calla lilies enter dormancy when the temperature dips below 50° F. If your lilies are grown outdoors, dig up your lilies’ rhizomes to overwinter before the winter freeze comes in.
In addition to warm temperatures, these lilies also enjoy humid air conditions. For best results, keep the air humid for your plants if you are growing indoors.
Overwintering Your Calla Lilies
As we’ve mentioned before, calla lilies need to be overwintered if you live in USDA hardiness zones 1 through 8. Overwintering your lilies helps ensure they can continue to live and produce new blooms in the next growing season.
Follow these steps to overwinter your calla lilies:
- Dig up your calla lily bulbs and brush off the excess dirt; do not wash them off with water.
- Prune the foliage from the top of the rhizomes.
- Place the rhizomes in a warm, well-ventilated area and allow them to dry out for 4 to 7 days.
- Place the dried rhizomes in a paper bag or peat moss. Store them in a location that is dry and cool; often a basement or garage is the ideal place for this. The temperature should steadily remain at 50° F.
Calla lily Pests
Examples of pests that might come for your calla lilies include aphids, slugs, and spider mites. All three of these pests are incredible nuisances to encounter in the garden. Luckily, there are simple solutions and these pests are easily treatable.
All three of these pests can be controlled with insecticidal soap. If you’re looking for a more “natural” approach, applying neem oil to your plants is another highly effective form of pest control.
Slugs are large enough to be picked off by hand and moved far away from the plants.
Aphids can easily be dislodged from your plant by spraying the plant with cold water. In addition, you can also dust your plants with all-purpose flour to constipate aphids.
The two primary diseases you may come up against when caring for calla lilies are root rot and botrytis. Botrytis is a fungal disease that manifests in a gray mold that grows on the calla lily’s stems, leaves, and flowers. Root rot is another fungal disease that rots the rhizome, causing your plants to turn yellow and begin to die.
- Botrytis is a fungal disease that manifests in a gray mold that grows on the calla lily’s stems, leaves, and flowers.
- Root rot is another fungal disease that rots the rhizome, causing your plants to turn yellow and begin to die.
Both diseases arise from improper care, and can easily be avoided.
- Be sure not to overwater your plants and make sure they have good drainage. While calla lilies do enjoy evenly moist soil, they do not like waterlogged soil. Always check your plant’s soil to make sure it is not too wet, or not too dry.
- Space your calla lily plants apart. Spacing your plants allows for better air circulation, preventing moisture from getting trapped. Trapped moisture can lead to mold growing later on.
You can enjoy gorgeous calla lilies at home – it’s easy!
Learning how to care for a calla lily plant is not difficult at all. In fact, calla lilies are an incredibly straightforward plant to care for. With these simple tips and tricks, you too can grow beautiful calla lilies year after year!
Aloi, Peg. “How to Grow and Care for Calla Lily.” The Spruce. https://www.thespruce.com/grow-calla-lily-indoors-1902501
“Calla Lily Care: How To Grow Calla Lilies (Updated).” Plant Care Today. https://plantcaretoday.com/growing-calla-lily-plant-bulbs.html
“Learn How to Plant, Care, and Grow Magnificent Calla Lillies.” Gardenia. https://www.gardenia.net/guide/learn-how-to-plant-and-care-for-your-calla-lilies
Smith, Barbara. “Calla Lily.” Clemson University. https://hgic.clemson.edu/calla-lily/