Calla Lily Planting Guide

Classy. That’s the first word that comes to mind when envisioning a calla flower. Elegant. Simple. Sophisticated. In recent years, the word “colorful” has been added. It used to be that callas were white. Now they bloom in a rainbow of shades and that rainbow can grace your patio, veranda, balcony or terrace. Choose your favorite color and go classy.

Choosing a Planting Site

Choosing a site with optimum sunlight for callas depends on the region in the country where you garden. In places with cooler summers, look for a site that receives 3/4 day sun. In regions where summers are hot, your callas will appreciate partial or dappled shade in the afternoons. Moderate humidity is good and encourages lush foliage. White aethiopica callas prefer more sun than the brightly colored varieties.

Soil Prep

If you are planting in the ground, look for a site that drains well. Callas prefer lightly moist soil but bulb rot is a risk in soggy soil. A pelleted, slow release fertilizer provides nutrients throughout the growing season. Pelleted Osmocote is a good fertilizer. If your callas will live in a patio pot, choose porous, well drained soil. White the large white calla aethiopica can thrive in very moist soil, colored callas need good drainage to thrive. 

When to Plant Callas

Plant outdoors in spring when frost danger has past and soil has warmed. These plants come from bloodlines native to South Africa and don’t handle frost well. Roots and sprouts both grow faster and stronger in warm soil.

If you live in a region where the ground doesn't freeze, callas may be planted in the fall and relied on for year round beauty.

Feed callas an all purpose fertilizer such as a 20-10-20 mix when you plant them. 

How to Plant Calla Bulbs

Dig holes 4” deep and add a handful or two of compost to the soil you removed. Add a little loose, amended soil back in the hole. Examine your bulb and find the knobby side with bumps. That’s the top where the new sprout will appear. The bottom of the bulb is generally smoother and rounded. Place the bulb in the hole with the knobby side facing upwards. Try to position the bulb so ther is about 1.5-2" of soil on top of it. These bulbs sprout roots along the top, as well as from the botto of the bulb, so make sure the top is covered with some soil. Refill the hole with soil, pat to eliminate air pockets and water well to settle the soil around the bulb. Plant bulbs 8-10” apart.

Callas also thrive in containers. One large 16/18cm or 2" bulb, the large size we offer, fills a 5" to 6" pot nicely. Or feel free to add 2-3l bulbs to a 10-12" container.

During the Growing Season

Callas need about 1” of water a week from rain, irrigation or a combination of the two. After summer flowering has finished, trim off spent blossoms and enjoy the wide tropical foliage.

At Season's End

In zones 9-10, simply leave your callas in the garden; they’ll overwinter successfully. 

In colder regions, there are three choices. First, you can treat your callas like annuals and replace in the spring. Second, you can wait until the foliage yellows, lift the bulbs, trim off the leaves but not the roots, and store in in very slightly damp peat in a cool (45-55 degrees), dark place. Or, you can bring potted callas indoors when the weather cools, place next to a sunny window and enjoy as a houseplant.

Insider Tips

  1. Callas, aka Zantedeschia, are members of the arum family and cousins to purple and green striped Jack-in-the-Pulpit plants.
  2. Callas grow and flower best in moderate temperatures; 70-75 degree days and 60-65 degree nights.
  3. Cut calla flowers when they are open and well colored. They don’t develop much further after cutting.
  4. Hungry deer and/or rabbits in your area? Callas aren't likely to be nibbled.
  5. Note: don't plant callas where children, dogs or cats may chew. These plants contain oxalic acid in their stesm, leaves and flowers.
shop calla lilies
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Success Snapshot

Light: Full to partial shade depending on region

Soil: Average, well drained

Depth: Cover bulb with 4" of soil

Water: Average moisture

Uses: Beds, pots, borders & houseplants

Tip: Choose big, multi-eyed bulbs for fuller plants

GUIDE: Calla Lily Planting Guide

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