Calla Lily Plant Profile and Growing Guide

Updated June 23, 2022
Beautiful fresh natural calla flower

Calla lily flowers (Zantedeschia sp.) are surprisingly easy to grow. They require little care and produce gorgeous blooms. If you're looking to add color to your summer garden, calla lilies are a great plant to consider. These colorful plants--which are not true lilies--grow to reach two to three feet tall with a roughly equivalent spread. Their flowers extend a few inches above the top of the plant. Calla lilies can bloom for up to 12 weeks, starting in early spring and continuing into summer.

Calla Lily Characteristics

Growing Calla Lily Flowers in Your Garden

Calla lilies are often referred to as arum lilies, but this is not accurate. Calla lilies are a hybrid form of arum lilies (Zantedeschia aethiopica), but they have different growing habits and needs. Arum lilies prefer to grow in damp, shady areas and can easily become invasive in these conditions. That is not the case with calla lilies. This article focuses specifically on calla lilies, which love the sun, cannot stay damp, and are not invasive.

Where to Plant Calla Lilies: Light and Soil Requirements

Calla lilies prefer warm weather, sunlight, and loose soil that drains well. Calla lily rhizomes should be planted in spring. It's important to wait until all danger of frost has passed before planting your calla lily rhizomes outdoors. If you want your plant to get a head start on the season, plant your calla lily rhizomes indoors in pots prior to the last frost. In a warm climate, calla lilies can grow in full sun or part shade. In a cool climate, they need full sun.

  1. Whether you are planting your calla lilies indoors or out, start by digging a hole for each rhizome about four inches deep.
  2. Work compost that is rich in both organic matter and nitrogen into the soil. This will improve the soil and feed your plants.
  3. Depending on the composition of your soil, you may also need to work bone meal into the soil to provide calcium to your plants.
  4. Space holes about six inches apart if planting in-ground. For container planting, you can reduce the space between calla lily rhizomes to around four inches.
  5. Once the holes have been dug and you are ready to plant, place each rhizome in a hole with the eyes facing upwards.
  6. Replace the dirt you dug out of the hole and cover up the rhizomes. Gently tamp the rhizomes in place.
  7. Lightly water the newly planted calla lily rhizomes. Do not use a lot of water; it's important to avoid drenching them.
  8. Add a loose layer of mulch over the planting area.

Watering and Fertilizing

Calla lilies need a dormant period in the soil before they put on leaves and flowers, so they will not need much water at all for the first few weeks. Once they put on shoots and form leaves, you can start watering them weekly. When it is especially hot and dry, you may need to water more often. Always avoid letting their roots get soggy. It's a good idea to feed calla lilies with a slow-release fertilizer annually, as well as to topdress them with compost each autumn. During the blooming season, you may want to give them a boost every other week with a liquid bulb fertilizer.

Pruning Calla Lilies

Calla lilies don't need to be pruned in the traditional sense, but you should remove their spent flowers. Once a flower rolls into a tube, it is done. These tubes will stay on the plant unless they are clipped away, which you can do quickly and easily with bypass pruners or garden shears. Removing the old flowers doesn't cause the lily to produce more blooms, but it does free up the plant to focus all of its energy on getting stronger for the following year instead of wasting energy on a spent bloom.

Calla Lily Pests and Diseases

Calla lilies can be impacted by several common garden pests and plant diseases.

  • Calla lilies can become infested by aphids, slugs, spider mites, thrips, and whiteflies, which can be treated with pest control methods and further addressed by attracting beneficial bugs that feed on them.
  • Root rot is the most significant disease affecting calla lilies, which is why it is so important to plant them in well-draining soil and to avoid saturating the roots.
  • Calla lilies can also develop common plant diseases such as powdery mildew and Botrytis (grey garden mold). These conditions can be overcome by removing and destroying affected leaves.

Propagating Calla Lilies

The best way to propagate calla lilies is to divide the plant's rhizomes, either in late winter or early spring, or during the fall. This is not something you should do every year, as it can interfere with optimal plant development. It's best to divide calla lily rhizomes no more than once every three years; it's fine to go longer without dividing. To divide your calla lilies, just use a shovel to dig up the roots, then break apart the rhizomes (or cut them apart). Be sure to leave at least one eye on each individual section. Let each divided rhizome dry overnight before replanting it.

Storing Calla Lilies for Winter

Calla lilies are winter hardy perennials in USDA Zones 8-10, but growing them doesn't have to be limited to these warm-weather zones. If you live in a cooler area, you can simply grow them as annuals and plant new rhizomes each year. Alternately, you can dig up the rhizomes before the ground freezes and store them indoors over the winter before replanting them in the spring. Calla lilies also do great in containers; if you grow them this way, you can simply take your potted plants indoors for the winter.

Beautiful Calla Lily Flowers to Grow in Your Garden

There are quite a few beautiful calla lily varieties in an array of colors. Consider the varieties below when you're looking to add this spectacular plant to your garden.

Ice Dancer

This lovely white calla lily has solid green leaves and a traditional appeal that's anything but boring. There's even a splash of black in the center for a dramatic impression.

Acapulco Gold

If bright yellow flowers make you smile, you'll take delight in seeing the Acapulco Gold calla lily in your garden. It's a gorgeous, happy-looking plant that will brighten up your landscape.

Coastal Flame Calla Lilies

If you're looking to add a pop of orange loveliness to your summer landscape, consider planting the strikingly beautiful coastal flame calla lily in your garden.

Callafornia Red

If you are looking for a compact calla lily that works particularly well when grown in a pot, you cannot go wrong with the lovely callafornia red variety.

Dark Eyes

If you'd like to add a bit of drama to your garden, plant this striking dark eyes variety. The flower is a lovely lavender color. It surrounds a dark center that provides eye-popping visual appeal.

Good Companions for Calla Lilies

Calla lilies make terrific companions for a wide variety of lovely garden plants that share their growing preferences. Excellent companion options for calla lily flowers include:

Grow Gorgeous Calla Lilies in Your Garden or Containers

Calla lillies are gorgeous in any garden, as well as pretty in pots indoors or outside. They also bloom profusely. Their flowers make long-lasting cut flowers, so there are usually plenty available to bring inside and enjoy in a large vase. Calla lilies are also a popular choice for floral arrangements and bridal bouquets. Go ahead and add some to your garden. You don't have to let everyone else know just how little effort it takes to grow these impressive plants with such incredibly beautiful blooms.

Calla Lily Plant Profile and Growing Guide