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Past Articles Library | Flower Bulbs | How to Grow and Care for Calla Lilies


I have always loved the look of the Calla lily.  Its unique shape adds a touch of elegance to any landscape.  While they look hard to grow, they really are not.  They are easily grown in a container and in your landscape design but in very cold areas they will need to be brought in to overwinter.  Below are some guidelines by which you will need to follow to grow your own Calla lilies successfully.

As delicate as this lily looks, it is really very durable in any environment as long as it is wet enough.  In doing so, keep this idea in mind as we go through the planting process.

To begin this process, let’s take a look at how to plant the calla lily in a container.  Believe it or not, this process starts with selecting the bulbs first.  Calla lilies can grow up to 2 feet in height, which can be an issue if you are growing these in a container.  While this really does not have to be an issue, the key to growing the standard size is to choose a container large enough to hold such a tall plant.  If this is not a possibility, consider growing the miniature variety.

Once you have your bulbs, it is time to begin the planting process.  While Calla lilies will bloom 3 months after planting, it is always better to plant the bulbs in the fall.  When planting in a container, the first step is to choose the proper container.  The characteristics that you are looking for is one that is wide and has a drainage hole.  Yes, I know I said that the bulbs like it damp but they cannot stand in water.

After you have your container, the next step is to prepare the pot.  This is easily done by washing the container in a solution of soapy water and bleach.  Once it is clean, rinse it in clear water and allow to dry. 

Next, place drainage material in the bottom of the container and fill with a well-draining soil.  The next step of the process depends on the size of the bulb.  If you have a small bulb, plant the bulb at a 2 inch depth.  On the other hand, if you have a large bulb to deal with, plan on planting it at the 3 to 4-inch mark.  Once that is done, top off with planting medium until you reach that ½ to 1-inch mark from the top.  After that has been done, water the bulb in until you see moisture coming out of the bottom of the pot.

Place your potted Calla lily bulb in a location that is partially shady to slightly sunny.

As far as watering goes, never let the Calla lily dry out.  Prior to watering, poke finger down into the soil.  If it feels slightly dry, water.  While this sound easy, your Calla lily will tell you when it is receiving too much water.  In this case, if the leaf tips begin to turn dark then back off of the watering.

Feed your calla lily once a month while it is growing.  Once it stops blooming, stop the monthly fertilization.

Yes, having your Calla lily in a container is wonderful; there are times when you just want it in the garden.  When it comes to this process, it is not a difficult as you may think.

The first part of this process begins with site selection.  The first requirement you will need to meet is the soil moisture.  Calla lilies like to be planted in areas where the soil stays moist.  Second, the soil pH needs to be between 6 and 6.5.  Lastly, the area will need to be in an area that is in partial shade.

 After the location has been selected and the garden space has been prepared, the next step is to prepare the soil.  To do this, loosen up the soil and add a good amount of well-seasoned compost.  Once that is done, you are ready to plant your Calla lilies.

Calla lilies do their best when planted in the fall.  If you live in a warm environment, plant your bulbs 2 inches deep.  On the other hand, if you live in a cold environment, consider planting them 3 to 4- inches deep.  To aid in weed control and to keep the soil evenly moist, add a good layer of mulch on top of the planted area.

After planting, water the bulb in and follow the care directions described for container grown Calla Lilies. 

Once the plant has died back, you can then dig up the bulbs.  There are two reasons why you would do this.  One is if you live in a very cold environment.  While some bulbs will survive, bulbs in very cold environments typically will freeze.  The other reason is when you want to divide your Calla lily.

Regardless of which one you choose, you will need to make sure that you first dig out and away from the bulb.  If you are digging up the bulb for winter storage, make sure to place them in a cardboard box so that it can dry.  On the other hand, if you are digging simply to divide, make sure that you plant the bulb upright.  Which way is right?  Well, you will need to make sure that the foliage or leaf side is up.

As easy as this plant is to grow, there are a few problems that crop up.  Pests that the Calla lily can attract include thrips and aphids.  Be careful when it comes to these pests, which carry many different plant diseases.  To organically get rid of this, starts with a hard blast of water.  This strategy can dislodge the pest.  Another technique is to wash the plant with an insecticidal soap. The last technique is to invite beneficial insects to your environment.  This includes lady beetles, and minute pirate bugs.

While the pest problems are one issue, the hardest issue to control is the plant diseases that attack this plant.  These include gray mold, bacterial soft rot, and rhizome rot.  All of these are brought on by too damp conditions.   Yes, there are chemicals that can be applied to address these issues, you may find that it is just easier to throw the bulb away and start over.


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Planting Depth

As a general rule, most bulbs are planted at a depth that is equal to 3 times their diameter at their widest point.

Tulips like to be planted about 6 inches (15.2 cm) deep and 4-6 inches (10.2-15.2 cm) apart.

Always plant bulbs as soon as possible after purchase to prevent them from drying out.

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