How to Grow Callas

calla close upcalla close up

Calla blooms are romantic blooms. Maybe it’s the soft, elegant lines of the tender half cones, or maybe it’s just because a bunch of these expensive flowers means somebody really cares about you; but there is no doubt that callas lend an air of exotic romance to the florist’s vase.

Gardeners are just as capable of adding that allure to their gardens if they pay attention to the native environment of Callas, which hail from the warmer, wetter regions of South Africa.

Protect them from frost, give them a constantly moist spot, and then dig and overwinter them if you’re in a growing zone north of Zone 8, and you too will be able to make your own romance in the garden in a range of colors from passionate red to purest white.

When & Where to Plant Callas

Plant rhizomes of callas in the late spring, when danger of frost is plant, covering with 1-2 inches of rich, humusy potting soil.

Select a part-shade spot in an area that benefits from constantly moist soil such as the edge of a pond, or in a container water feature. If planting in pots, use an organically-rich potting soil that drains well but retains moisture.

In zones where it can overwinter, such as in the Pacific Northwest, the white species type (Zantedeschia aethiopica) will not only spread but can be considered a bit of a pest. Unless dug in colder zones, it will perish when the temperatures plunge and must be brought inside. Growth is significantly lessened in this case.

Light: A partly-shaded spot is ideal, as too much direct sun on leaves and flowers can burn them. However, the plant needs light to bloom well, so deep shade is not a good option.

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Soil: Callas need organically-rich, heavily fertile soil that is on the moist side to thrive. Average moist soils will also be tolerated, but dry soils will not.

Spacing: Space rhizomes 4-6” apart when planting a clump together, and space 12-18” away from other plants. If planting in pots, plant 2-3 rhizomes per 10-inch pot, or one per 6 inch pot.

Planting: Plant in spring when all chance of frost is over and nights have warmed. If you have a greenhouse or warm, well-lit area in your home, you can start the rhizomes earlier to put out plants in full growth when nights are warm.

calla lily tuberscalla lily tubers
Calla Lily tubers will have two sides. The one here is the rounded side
calla tubercalla tuber
The other side of the Calla tuber will have "eyes" as is shown here. Plant tubers with "eyes" facing upwards
calla tuber in soilcalla tuber in soil
Plant Calla Lily tubers 1" to 2" below soil line

How to Grow Callas Throughout the Season

Growth Habit: Species Calla such as Z. aethiopica can grow as tall as 2-3 feet, with shiny, undulating leaves that resemble large arrows. The flower is an arum type bloom that consists of a spathe – usually in white - and a yellow spadix. Colorful cultivars in shades from yellow to almost black to deep red are usually shorter (from 12-18”) and less hardy, with variations in foliage stippling. In warm climates, Callas will spread into large clumps, in colder climates they must be treated like an annual or dug and overwintered indoors.

Staking: No staking is necessary.

Watering: Watering is crucial when it comes to Callas. Keep them moist from the time they are planted until after they bloom and start to die back, when you can gradually withhold water. In dormancy during the late fall/winter months they should be kept just damp to prevent desiccation.

Fertilizing: Fat, rich soil is preferred when it comes to Callas. Plant in a compost-rich soil and feed with a balanced slow release organic fertilizer during the growing season.

Mulching: Mulch can help retain moisture in the soil, and is therefore recommended. Keep mulch away from the crown of the plant to discourage rot.

  1. Ivory Art® Calla Lilies in bloom

    Ivory Art® Calla Lily is a tall, classic variety that exemplifies the elegance of this remarkable genus. A large container filled with Ivory Art® Callas is a joy to behold. Long-la...

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    Ivory Art® Calla Lily is a tall, classic variety that exemplifies the elegance of this remarkable genus. A large container filled with Ivory Art® Callas is a joy to behold. Long-lasting blooms continue for 6-8 weeks, adding romance and luxury to summer plantings. Pure white blooms against deep green foliage plays is a delight, and Ivory Art® can easily add softness and sophistication to containers, gardens, and cut flower arrangements. (Zantedeschia)
  2. Zantedeschia, Fantasia® Calla Lillies in bloom

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    Vases, containers, sunny garden beds – Fantasia® Calla Lily will fill them all with luscious rose-pink flowers. Deep green leaves will emerge first, creating a beautiful clump of white-flecked leaves which then produce eye-catching fluted blooms. A favorite with florists, Fantasia® Calla Lily adorns beautiful bouquets and spectacular container gardens. Long-lasting blooms continue for 6-8 weeks, adding romance and luxury to summer plantings. (Zantedeschia)
  3. Zantedeschia, Outback® Calla Lilies  in bloom

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    Outback® Calla Lily Outback® Calla Lily Zantedeschia
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    Outback® Calla Lily adds mystery and sophistication to garden beds with its striking, upright blooms. Softly fluted flowers with a regal tough bloom in a warm red-violet hue with a deep purple throat. In summer, flowers rise majestically from deep green foliage lightly flecked with white, blooming for 6-8 weeks. Good for sunny, moist sites, Callas are deer resistant and a great choice for containers and cut flowers. (Zantedeschia)
  4. Zantedeschia, Havana® Calla Lilies in bloom

    It’s the saturated, silky color that you notice first in Havana® Calla Lily. Sumptuous and seductive, the fluted blooms are deep orange suffused with a golden yellow glow. A m...

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    Havana® Calla Lily Havana® Calla Lily Zantedeschia
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    It’s the saturated, silky color that you notice first in Havana® Calla Lily. Sumptuous and seductive, the fluted blooms are deep orange suffused with a golden yellow glow. A must-have for the sunny summer garden, flowers emerge through spotted, glossy foliage. Long-lasting blooms continue for 6-8 weeks, adding romance and luxury to summer plantings. Good for sunny, moist sites, Callas are deer resistant and a great choice for containers and cut flowers. (Zantedeschia)
  5. White Florist Calla Lily, Zantedeschia aethiopica, Florist Calla Lily

    ‚White Florist‚ Calla Lily is the original Calla from South Africa, where it made its home in the wet soils of stream banks. Here, it‚s famous for its pristine, whi...

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    White Florist Calla Lily White Florist Calla Lily Zantedeschia aethiopica
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    'White Florist' Calla Lily is the original Calla from South Africa, where it made its home in the wet soils of stream banks. Here, it's famous for its pristine, white blossoms that are taller than other callas, at up to 3'. The perfectly-fluted flowers are an essential addition to bouquets. Plant 'White Florist' in a big pot on your patio, give it plenty of water and stand back! (Zantedeschia aethiopica)
  6. Jewelbox Calla Collection

    Our Jewelbox Calla Collection combines glittering hues of garnet, emerald, ruby, and opal for a dazzling floral display. Elegant fluted Calla blooms last from summer to fall and make...

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    Jewelbox Calla Collection Jewelbox Calla Collection Zantedeschia
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    Our Jewelbox Calla Collection combines glittering hues of garnet, emerald, ruby, and opal for a dazzling floral display. Elegant fluted Calla blooms last from summer to fall and make excellent cut flowers. Broad foliage adds refinement and gorgeous upright structure in containers. These easy-to-grow beauties are deer and rabbit resistant. Native to South Africa, Callas like warm weather, full sun, and moist or wet soil – they’re a great option for growing near water features. Collection of 4 bulbs.
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    Our Calla Bouquet Collection features a selection of florist favorites with magnificent curved blooms in romantic white, pink, and pale purple. Callas are unmistakable, elegant, and ...

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    Calla Bouquet Collection Calla Bouquet Collection Zantedeschia
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    Our Calla Bouquet Collection features a selection of florist favorites with magnificent curved blooms in romantic white, pink, and pale purple. Callas are unmistakable, elegant, and beloved for flower bouquets. Grow in full sun to part shade and expect abundant flowering throughout the summer – an excellent choice for containers and locations where you can admire your Calla Lilies up close. Plant plenty of these deer resistant, rabbit resistant, and easy to grow flowers for a garden overflowing with classic beauty.
  8. Picasso® Calla Lily, Zantedeschia Picasso®

    A unique bicolor Calla Lily, ‚Picasso‚ is truly a delight to check in with, as the creamy white flowers open up to reveal stunning violet centers. Beautiful in bouquets, ...

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    Picasso® Calla Lily Picasso® Calla Lily Zantedeschia Picasso®
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    A unique bicolor Calla Lily, 'Picasso' is truly a delight to check in with, as the creamy white flowers open up to reveal stunning violet centers. Beautiful in bouquets, be sure to include a piece of its charming, spotted foliage. Easy to grow and deer resistant. (Zantedeschia)

Callas: End of Season Care

Generally, the white species Calla are hardy to Zone 8, and foliage will remain green after flowering, to die back as days get colder or soils get drier. Many of the colorful hybrids are not as hardy and enter a period of dormancy after flowering.

calla lily flamecalla lily flame
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If you live in a colder region, dig your Callas and bring them inside, storing somewhere where temperatures are above freezing.

Trimming & Pruning: Calla will not re-bloom if deadheaded (spent blooms trimmed off), but old blossoms will disfigure foliage as they die back, so removing them is recommended. Many of the colorful Calla cultivars will go dormant not long after flowering.

Dividing & Transplanting: If dividing larger clumps of Calla in warmer climates, dig the clumps and gently pull them apart. Use a sharp knife to divide them and replant. If dividing smaller, overwintered pots, look for offsets in the winter or early spring, cut them apart and let the cuts callus to prevent rot. Pot them up in rich soil in the spring so they can be monitored and set out in the garden when they get bigger.

Pests & Disease: Thrips can be an issue with Callas, as can several types of bacteria rot which will affect the rhizome and the crown of the plant. Infected plants must be discarded. Fresh, clean potting soil is recommended to prevent problems with disease, as is using clean, sharp knives to divide rhizomes and letting them callus over before replanting.

Additional Concerns: In warm climates (Zones 9-11) species Calla (white) will vigorously spread via seeds and rhizomes. All parts of Calla lilies are poisonous, and the sap can cause contact dermatitis in some people.


Callas: Extra Info

Design Advice: Callas make a wonderful accent for a pond garden, thriving in the marginal space between dry land and water, but can also be used within the pond itself, adding an exotic feel to water gardens.

Sink smaller pots of red callas into larger pots which contain the canna lily ‘Pretoria’ – setting off the deep red blooms of the Calla with the variegated yellow-green foliage of the canna. As the callas go dormant (after blooming), you can pull them, store them, and replace with shade-blooming annuals like begonias.

In warmer climates, use the taller species of Calla in unexpected places such as tucked into the corner of a wall or near a downspout where moisture is trapped and/or abundant. The background of the house or wall will set off the lovely, unusual foliage, and give them a boundary against which to grow.


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