Other names for this plant are Lily of the Nile, Arum Lily and Varkoor which is an Afrikaans name meaning Pig’s Ear.
The Calla Lily is a beautiful plant whether grown outdoors in your garden or indoors in a decorative pot by a sunny window. This elegant plant, native to the marshes of South Africa, is not really a lily at all but a member of the Araceae family. The extraordinary funnel or trumpet shaped waxy flowers of a Calla Lily grow on tall thick stems and have a yellow spadix emerging from the center of the spath. Faint white or yellow spots may dot the long tapered green leaves. Today, thanks to the many new hybrids developed by breeders throughout the world, Calla Lilies can be found not only in white, but also pink, orange, fuchsia, red, yellow, and cream. The long-lasting flowers are especially popular in wedding bouquets where they are used as a symbol of purity and beauty.
Calla Lilies require at least six hours a day of very bright indirect light. Direct sun during the middle of the day may burn the leaves and flowers.
These plants like moist soil always. Calla Lilies are not drought resistant and should never be allowed to totally dry out; but will not do well if the soil is too soggy or they are allowed to sit in water.
Fertilize an indoor Calla Lily every two weeks when the plant is flowering with a liquid plant food low in Nitrogen. When the plant is producing only leaves and no flowers, fertilize monthly. Always dilute the plant food to ½ the recommended strength. If your Calla Lily is planted outside, use a granular plant food instead of a liquid fertilizer.
Calla Lilies do well in average humidity.
Room temperatures should be between 50-75°F, 10-24°C for optimal growth. Keep Calla Lilies away from heating and air conditioning vents. If planted outdoors, be sure to dig up the Calla Lily bulbs and bring them inside before temperatures dip below freezing.
Examine a Calla Lily frequently for signs of Scale or Aphids.
Calla Lilies are susceptible to various viruses and bacterial infections, especially rhizome rot and gray mold. These problems become evident when leaves and stems start to turn yellow before the plant is normally entering its dormant phase.
Use a good peat moss based potting soil that is well aerated and drains quickly. You can add builder’s sand or perlite if the soil seems too heavy and clay-like.
Bulbs can be removed from their pots and stored in a cool dark location. After 2-3 months of rest, plant the Calla Lily rhizomes (bulbs) in a clean pot with fresh rich soil. Use deep pots for Calla Lily bulbs, planting one bulb in a five-or six-inch pot, or two or three bulbs in an eight-inch pot. Plant the Calla Lily rhizomes (bulbs) deep enough so that they are covered by at least twice the height of the bulb. Calla Lilies usually bloom about 60 days after the bulbs are planted.
The flowers of a Calla Lily are really spaths that are like those of a Peace Lily but are much more impressive. The plant usually blooms for about six weeks during the late spring and early summer. Keeping the plant pot bound encourages more blooms. Calla Lilies may be forced into bloom at any time indoors; it all depends on when the bulbs become available and when they are planted. The long-lasting cut flowers are perfect in bouquets and flower arrangements.
Cut Calla Lily flowers are popular in bridal bouquets as a symbol of beauty and purity. In England and Ireland Calla Lilies are used as Easter Lilies.
Calla Lilies only need to be pruned when they are entering their dormant or resting phase.
Calla Lily, a bulb plant, becomes dormant once a year. After the plant has finished blooming, the leaves turn yellow and brown. Once this occurs prune the plant down to the soil level. Place the pot of bulbs in a cool dark area where the temperature is above freezing but no higher than 50 degrees for 2-3 months, this is usually during the late fall and winter. Keep the soil very dry, watering sparingly every few weeks to prevent the bulbs from drying out. The area where the plant is stored should be low in humidity or the bulbs get moldy and rot. After two to three months, return the Calla Lily to a bright warm spot and start watering. Allow the soil to dry out a little more than usual until green leaves start to appear. Once green leaves develop, use a bulb fertilizer at ½ the recommended strength to encourage the new growth. The plant should start to bloom again in 6-8 weeks.
Callas Lilies can be propagated by division and seeds. The easiest method is to simply divide the rhizomes in the early spring and plant a single rhizome (bulb) in a deep six-inch pot. Wait until the plant has started to produce new green leaves before going back to a regular fertilization program.
A Calla Lily has a #3 Toxicity Level. Please keep this plant away from small children and pets. Calla Lilies contain high levels of Calcium Oxalate and ingestion may cause severe burning and swelling of the mouth, throat, lips, and tongue. Stomach distress and diarrhea can also occur.
4 Frequently Asked Questions
1. My Calla Lily only gets leaves and never blooms. What can I do?
There are several reasons why a Calla Lily produces only leaves and no flowers:
Insufficient light: Callas need as much bright indirect light as you can provide. Morning and late afternoon light is best.
Wrong fertilizer: Use a fertilizer that is low in nitrogen.
Old bulbs: Tired bulbs: After several years of flower production, the bulbs may become tired and no longer able to produce flowers.
Lack of proper resting period: Calla Lily bulbs must be allowed to rest or go dormant for 2-3 months in order to bloom the following year.
2. Should I increase my fertilizer when Calla Lilies start to bloom?
Just the opposite, you should never feed a Calla Lily when it is in bloom. Good quality Calla Lily bulbs do not need much fertilizer so always err on the side of less food rather than more.
3. I want to plant the Calla Lily seeds to see if they’ll grow, but I don’t know where the seeds are?
After your Calla Lilies finish blooming, you will see a seed pod hanging just behind where the flower was. Let the seed pod remain on the plant until it turns yellow and becomes soft. Once you remove the pod, gently break it open and remove the seeds from the inner pulp. If you want to grow Calla Lilies from seed, you must be very patient. Calla Lilies usually take 3 or more years to produce flowers after the seeds are planted.
4. If I want to force my Calla bulbs to bloom for my wedding, how long before the wedding should I start?
Calla Lilies take about 12-14 weeks for the flowers to look their best. So I’d recommend planting the bulbs about 3 1/2 months before you plan to use the flowers. Be sure to have a back up flower plan in case the Calla Lilies have a problem and don’t produce the number of blooms you’re hoping for in time for your wedding.
Judy Feldstein is the founder of Foliage Unlimited, one of the largest interior plant design, sales, & maintenance companies in Arizona. Judy’s website HousePlant411.com helps plant enthusiasts identify, select, and care for houseplants.