Calla Lily Care

Calla Lily Care

Calla Lilies (Zantedeschia) are prized for their vibrant flowers and foliage. Native to Africa, these tropical flowering plants can be grown in cutting gardens, garden borders, containers, and indoors to lend a pop of color to any home or garden. Calla Lilies produce flowers in a range of colors, including white, pink, red, purple, yellow, and black.

Calla Lily flowers are especially popular in celebratory bouquets because they can last up to two weeks—longer than most other cut flowers—and because of their rich symbolic meaning. When associated with funerals and Easter celebrations, they symbolize rebirth and resurrection, and when displayed at weddings, they symbolize devotion and bliss. Each color has a unique meaning:

  • White Flowers for purity
  • Yellow Flowers for gratitude
  • Red Flowers for beauty
  • Pink Flowers for admiration
  • Purple Flowers for passion
  • Black Flowers for elegance

These easy-care perennials can be grown outdoors year-round in USDA Hardiness Zones 8–10 or as annuals in Zone 7 and below. Alternatively, they can be grown in containers and kept indoors year-round in any region. Note: These hardy plants are considered invasive in some parts of California and Australia; if this is a concern where you live, grow your Calla Lilies indoors or in containers.

Calla Lily Outdoor Care

PLANTING: Calla Lilies thrive in moist soil along marshes and ponds. When planting them, use soil that is rich and moist but well-draining.

  • Gardens: Plant Calla Lilies outdoors in early spring, after the last frost has passed and the soil is at least 65ºF. Plant the rhizomes 6” apart, about 4” deep with the growing tip facing up, or plant seedlings at the same depth as their nursery containers, and allow at least 12” between plants. Cover the soil with a thin layer of mulch to help the area retain moisture and suppress weeds around the plants.
  • Containers: Plant Calla Lilies in containers in spring, arranging no more than 3 plants per 12” pot. Place the rhizomes 3” deep with the growing tip facing up. Cover the rhizomes with a balanced potting soil, and then place a thin layer of mulch over the top to help the soil retain moisture. Calla Lilies can be combined with other annuals but are happiest on their own.

LIGHT: Calla Lilies require ample sunlight, though exact requirements vary by region. In areas with moderate summer temperatures, they require full sun in order to thrive. But in hotter climates, Calla Lilies benefit from a location with partial shade.

WATERING: Once they’re established, water your Calla Lilies regularly to keep the soil evenly moist. Feel the soil in the pot. If the soil is moist, the plant does not need more water; if the plant feels dry, add water. As long as they have adequate drainage, it is difficult to over-water these moisture-loving plants.

FERTILIZING: Fertilize your Calla Lilies regularly during their active growth periods to help generate vibrant blooms. In the spring and early summer, apply a balanced liquid fertilizer or our All-Bloom Fertilizer monthly until the blooms have faded. Once the blooms have faded, do not fertilize and allow the plant to “rest.”

CUTTING FOR BOUQUETS: To use Calla Lilies in bouquets, cut the flower stalks as close to the base as possible using sharp, clean garden shears. To extend the life of the bouquet, cut the flowers from the plant as soon as they bloom—before their pollen begins to drop.

PRUNING: Prune the blooms on the Calla Lily when they begin to die back, using sharp, clean shears to cut the base of the stalk. Prune dead or yellowing leaves as needed.

OVERWINTERING: In Zones 8–10, Calla Lily rhizomes can be left in the ground or in containers outdoors to bloom again in the spring. Cut off all foliage to the soil level at the end of the growing season. Wear gloves to protect your hands from the sap which can cause skin irritation.

In cooler climates, move potted Calla Lilies to a dark garage, basement, shed, or other location where the temperature remains between 40 and 50ºF. Check the moisture level and water lightly if necessary to keep the soil from drying out completely. In early spring, move the plant outdoors and resume regular care as outlined above.

For Calla Lilies planted in the ground in Zones 7 and below, you must take special care to preserve the rhizome if you wish to regrow it the following spring. When temperatures drop and the foliage dies, cut it back to 1-2”. Dig up the rhizome, gently wipe off excess soil, and then allow it to sit in a warm, dry place for 2–3 days. Place the dry rhizome in a container with lightly dampened peat moss and store it at around 50-60°F in a garage or basement until spring. Periodically check the rhizome to make sure it’s not showing signs of rotting from too much moisture, or shriveling from being too dry. In the spring, follow the directions above for planting Calla Lilies in the garden.

Calla Lily Care Indoors

PLANTING: When planting Calla Lilies in containers, arrange no more than 3 plants per 12” pot. Fill the container about two-thirds with a high-quality potting mix with perlite for good drainage. Place the rhizomes 3” deep with the growing tips facing up, and gently cover them with potting mix. Place the plants in a warm room and water them thoroughly, keeping the soil evenly moist until shoots appear.

LIGHT: Calla Lilies require very bright, indirect light all day long. Place them near a sunny window—preferably one that faces south. In the summer, move the plant outdoors to a spot with full sun in cooler climates or with partial shade in warmer regions, being sure to bring the plant back inside before the first frost. Blooms usually appear 8–16 weeks after potting, depending on the amount of sunlight the Calla Lily receives.

WATERING: Calla Lilies thrive in slightly soggy soil, though excessive moisture can cause rot. To keep the soil adequately moist, place the container in a shallow saucer filled with water and refill it whenever it becomes dry.

FERTILIZING: In the spring, apply a balanced houseplant fertilizer or our All-Bloom Fertilizer monthly while the Calla Lily grows and blooms. Stop fertilizing it once the blooms have faded. Once the blooms have faded, do not fertilize and allow the plant to “rest.”

PRUNING: Prune spent blossoms using sharp, clean shears to cut the base of the stalk. Prune dead or yellowing leaves as needed.

REPOTTING: Depending on the rate of growth, Calla Lilies may need to be repotted 1–2 times during a single growing season. To repot your plant, gently remove it from its container and brush excess soil away from the roots. Fill a container about two-thirds with fresh potting mix, set the plant in it, and top it off with potting mix. Water the plant thoroughly, and then proceed with care as directed above.

DORMANCY: Calla Lilies are perennials that benefit from a period of dormancy in the winter. In the late fall, stop watering your plant and allow any remaining foliage to die back completely. Trim the foliage down to the soil level, and then place the plant in a dark garage, basement, shed, or other location where the temperature remains between 40 and 50ºF. Keep the plant dormant for 2–3 months, checking the moisture level and watering lightly if necessary to keep the soil from drying out completely.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Calla Lilies perennials?

Yes, Calla Lilies are perennial plants that bloom year after year in Zones 8–10. In cooler Zones, they require additional care to withstand winter frosts. For this reason, some gardeners choose to treat Calla Lilies like annuals and grow them for a single season before allowing them to die completely. But with proper care, these vibrant perennials can be enjoyed for multiple years in any climate.

Are Calla Lilies poisonous to cats and dogs?

Yes, Calla Lilies are considered toxic to cats, dogs, and humans. While symptoms are generally mild, accidental ingestion can cause burning, difficulty swallowing, and vomiting. It is best to keep these plants away from curious pets or children.

Can Calla Lilies be planted outside?

Yes, Calla Lilies can be planted outside in most regions, though they can withstand winter temperatures only in Zones 8–10. In Zones 7 and below, grow them as annuals or take special care to protect the rhizomes from the cold. Refer to the instructions above for more detail about planting Calla Lilies outdoors.

Do Calla Lilies spread?

Yes, Calla Lilies spread by creating additional growth buds on the rhizome, though the growth is considered relatively easy to control in most climates. You can allow your plants to spread naturally or dig up the rhizome by cutting it into sections making sure each has an “eye” or growing point and replant, or dispose of it as desired. In certain regions of California and Australia, Calla Lilies are considered invasive and should not be permitted to spread.

When do Calla Lilies bloom?

Most Calla Lilies bloom in the late spring or early summer and continue to produce blooms throughout the summer. Flowering is dependent upon light and temperature—warm temperatures are required along with full days of light.