You have seen them in Diego Rivera paintings. You have been given them as potted plants or in a bouquet. And now that you have grown completely enchanted, you want to look into the ins and outs of growing calla lilies. And who could blame you?
The most popular of these African natives come in white, yellow, and pink (with white callas being fragrant with a scent similar to that of freesia), and are among some of the most beautiful flowers found in nurseries, florist shops, and yes, in peoples backyard greenhouses and flowerbeds.
Callas Like It Warm & Wet
Hardy to Zone 8 in the United States, growing calla lilies outdoors in colder areas of the country must be restricted to a greenhouse. Otherwise, many people in warm regions of the country enjoy the satisfaction of growing their own callas right in their own yards.
Calla lilies, being indigenous to the tropical and subtropical climes of the southern and eastern regions of Africa, grow easily in those same types of areas in the United States and other parts of the world.
Finding a spot in the yard that is warm, wet, and shady is the basic rule of successfully growing calla lilies in the home landscape. These plants not only tolerate but thrive in soils wetter than most other plants can survive in. For instance, planting them in a drainage ditch or in or near a pond or other water-garden feature would be ideal. Planting in water depths of up to four inches provides exactly what callas need, lots of moisture.
Annual or Perennial
Depending on how severe or mild winters are, growing calla lilies as a perennial or as an annual may be a trial-and-error endeavor. A good rule of thumb: There farther south you live in the United States, the greater the chances calla lilies will perform as perennials.
This is not a plant that takes well to cold weather, so do not expect it to be perennial in areas much more north than the southernmost parts of Florida, Texas, or California, and this is only with the Z. aethiopica (florist calla) variety.
For the best results in growing calla lilies, purchase the largest rhizomes possible. These will produce the biggest and most flowers, and will also have bolder, more vibrant foliage. If necessary, you can store the rhizomes in the refrigerator at 40 degrees F. for up to three weeks or in water for one week. As mentioned, plant the rhizomes in a shady, wet area.
These plants are heavy feeders, so regular fertilization is required in order to reap the biggest benefit of their showy blossoms, or spathes, as they are technically referred to. Special commercial fertilizers are on the market just for calla lilies and can be easily found at most larger nurseries.
Despite what you may have heard, growing calla lilies is not that difficult. If you live in an area that is too cold to grow them outdoors, you can easily grow them indoors in pots. The main ingredients for success with callas include bright light with some shading, plenty of available water, and a high-nutrition diet of regular fertilizer. With those essentials, you cannot go too far wrong in growing some of the most beautiful flowers you have ever had the good fortune to see.
Photo by Thomas Quine, Creative Commons Attribution License