Calla Lily Info
Calla lily can be grown in warm climates as perennials. However, they must be pulled and brought inside like gladiolas and dahlias.
Unlike its clunky botanical name, Zantedeschia, the calla lily is a graceful, elegant flower. The common tall creamy white calla (Z. aethiopica) grows to 2.5 meters and is no lily but a rhizomatous perennial.
The flower is a white or cream spathe shaped like a funnel. With a flattened open bloom, it is beautiful in a quirky way.
Native to southern Africa, it has found its esthetic home in Mexico, where it is used in abundance as a cut flower for funerals.
The new hybrids, commonly called mini calla lilies, are grown commercially for the cut flower market and have no historical reference to funerals. They are one of the top picks among brides for their bouquets.
Like a sensuous sketch of a nude, the calla lily is a celebration of line. At the dusk of the 19th century, the Art Nouveau movement, a decorative style embracing organic inspiration and images with flowing, curvilinear forms, celebrated the calla lily repeatedly in fashion and architecture.
The Mexican artist Diego Rivera and the American painter Georgia O’Keeffe each used the image of the calla lily in their works.
The traditional long white Callas, while stately and dramatic, have a concise vase life. They are imported from Costa Rica or Mexico and do not travel well. They tend to brown and dry out within a few days.
While smaller, the incredible new hybrid calla lilies are extremely long-lasting flowers with a vase life of more than two weeks.
Colors range from almost black, chocolate brown, plum, burgundy, and lavender to rust, apricot, lemon yellow, and bright gold. Like many other varieties of flowers, a blue is still elusive.
One of the calla lily’s most intriguing properties is the “bendability” of its stem. While naturally curved, it can be gently encouraged to bend so much when warmed up to room temperature that its stem can be tied into a knot.
If the stem ends are slit up to about an inch over a short period, the stems will curl up like dandelion stems. When examined through clean water in a glass container, this creates an exciting look.
Because calla stems are clean, linear forms, it makes sense to take advantage of them as a design element. I like to see curved or round containers used to echo the shape of the flower and stem.
Tips for Growing Calla Lilies
Calla lilies are easy to grow. These plants don’t require much attention. Calla lilies can be grown in a variety of locations. Calla lilies require that they are planted in well-drained, loose soil. In warmer climates, they prefer full sun to partial shade.
Calla lilies are usually planted in spring. Calla lilies should be planted after the danger of frost has passed and the soil has warmed enough. Calla lilies should not be planted deeper than 4 inches (10 cm).
Calla lilies should be planted at least 4 inches (10 cm) deep for best results. After planting, water the area well. Calla lilies love being kept moist and benefit from a monthly fertilizer dose throughout the growing season.
Calla Lily Care
Calla lilies require little care other than watering and fertilizing them like any other plant. A good mulch layer around the plants will keep them moist and free from weeds.
After flowering, calla lilies need to be dormant for some time. To allow the plant’s death, it is best to not water during this period.
Calla lilies that are grown in containers should be stopped watering. Once the foliage is gone, move it to a darker area. You can resume regular watering within two to three weeks.
Calla lilies can be started indoors immediately by purchasing rhizomes from your local garden center or a reputable supplier like Dutch Gardens or White Flower Farms.
I am very cautious about buying plant material from less well-known companies. The rhizomes should be planted at least 3 inches deep and then covered with potting mixture.
Because it is very adaptable to moist soil, this plant is excellent for those who over-water their plants. If you have over-wintered rosemary plants, it is a good idea to double the amount of water. They will die if they dry out.
You have two options: move your potted calla outside to dry out or transplant it to a sunny location that is warm and moist.
You will need to bring your calla inside in the fall, as temperatures around 20 degrees will kill it. Callas must go dormant during winter.
Calla lilies grow from rhizomes. Gardeners can pick traditional white- or yellow-flowered types or pink, orange or red hybrids. They usually are purchased as a small clusters of rhizomes ready for planting.
Plant them in the ground, but they do better in a container where the water can be controlled better.
Plant in a 6-inch or larger container filled with potting soil. Sink the rhizomes one or two inches in the soil. Then moisten until water runs from the bottom of the pot.
Place the pot in a saucer and allow the excess water to collect and be used by the plant. Part of the secret to calla care appears to be keeping the growing plants moist.
Here are a few more tips:
- You can grow the plants in the morning sun and afternoon shade or filtered sunlight all day.
- When the soil surface becomes dry, water it immediately.
- Every other week, apply a 20-20-20 fertilizer solution.
- Protect from winds that could damage the foliage and blooms.
- Control chewing insects as needed with natural treatments.
- Planting rhizomes of calla lilies usually bloom within eight to 10 weeks. It may take two years for some plants to produce their first flowers. By early summer, blooms and foliage have usually faded.
- Keep the rhizomes in their containers and dry until ready to grow again during fall and winter.