Calla Lily Care and Growing Tips

Updated: May 30, 2023

Enjoy the elegant grace of calla lily blooms in your garden, and learn how to keep them flowering season after season.

Why You Should Grow Calla Lilies

248131630 1 Brent Barnes Bnbhc20Courtesy Brent Barnes
Female ruby-throated hummingbird on a red calla lily 

The unique and striking blooms of a calla lily are always showstoppers in the garden (even if they aren’t technically lilies). In warmer climates, calla lilies are easy to care for. Where winters are frigid, they’ll take some extra work, but their exquisite flowers make them worth the effort.

  • Botanical Name: Zantedeschia spp.
  • Growing Zone: 8 to 11 (or lower, if dug and stored indoors in winter)
  • Light Needs: Full sun to part shade
  • Soil: Well-drained
  • Use: Excellent cut flower
  • Backyard tip: All parts of the plant are toxic. Keep away from children and pets.

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Are Calla Lilies Perennials?

Photo Of Calla Lily Shot With Kodak Z10Courtesy Richard Smith
Calla lilies are not hardy in regions colder than zone 8 

Calla lilies are perennials of the tropics and sub-tropics. In growing zones 8 to 10, they thrive with little extra care once established. But gardeners in zones 7 and lower will need to treat calla lilies a bit differently. You can simply plant them as annuals to enjoy for a single season. Or, you can lift the bulbs each winter, storing them indoors to protect them from freezing.

When grown as perennials, calla lilies start flowering in late spring or early summer. There are many different varieties of calla lilies, and they can be broken into three bloom-time categories: early-season, mid-season, and late-season. Once a plant begins blooming, it usually continues for 6 to 12 weeks. By planting a mix of varieties, you can enjoy these special flowers all season long.

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Calla Lily Care

Bnbbyc17 Sara Frank 8Courtesy Sara Frank
Make sure your calla lilies get enough sunlight

Start by choosing varieties that suit your garden needs. Lower-growing varieties top out at around 12 inches, making them ideal in borders. Taller types can reach up to 2 to 3 feet, and may be better suited for the back of the garden. Ensure they’ll receive at least some sun every day. In cooler zones, these plants can handle full sun, while morning sun and afternoon shade is best in warmer areas.

Calla lilies grow from rhizomes. Start them outdoors in spring, after all danger of frost has passed and the soil has warmed to at least 65 degrees F. Plant the rhizome about 3 to 4 inches deep in well-drained soil, with the growing tips pointed up. Cover with soil and water them in, then water sparingly until the first shoots show above ground. Provide regular watering once leaves appear, along with a dose of liquid fertilizer once a month or so.

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Overwintering Calla Lilies

Pull out spent flower stems at the base so the plant redirects its energy into next year’s blooms, rather than setting seed. Allow the plant to die back naturally in the fall, when it will go dormant over the winter. In zones 8 to 10, simply cut back on watering and allow the plant to rest. You may trim any yellowed leaves or foliage if you like.

In cooler zones, trim off the leaves, leaving an inch or two of stem. Dig up the rhizomes and store them in slightly damp peat moss in a cool dark place. Re-plant in spring when soil has warmed again. Note that in subsequent years, you may see decreased flowering. Increase fertilization to once every two weeks to encourage blooms.

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Growing Calla Lilies Indoors

Yellow Calla Lily indoors with water dropletsCavan Images/Getty Images
You can grow calla lilies indoors as houseplants

Calla lilies are often sold as potted plants, and they can indeed be grown indoors. They’ll need more frequent fertilization when grown in containers, but otherwise their growth requirements are about the same. Consider moving them outdoors during the summer months to an area that receives about six hours of sunlight a day.

Water regularly to keep the soil consistently moist (but not soggy). In the winter, move pots into a cool place, reduce watering, and allow plants to go dormant.

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Selected Calla Lily Varieties

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Garnet Glow calla lily
  • Black Magic’: Brilliant yellow flowers with black throats. 26 to 30 inches tall, mid-season blooms.
  • ‘Black Star’: Speckled foliage, maroon-black flowers. 18 inches tall, early season blooms.
  • ‘Captain Safari’: Orange flowers streaked with yellow, white spotted leaves. 12 to 24 inches, late season blooms.
  • ‘Garnet Glow’: Deep pink low-growing flowers. 10 to 16 inches tall, mid-season blooms.
  • ‘Green Goddess’: White flowers with green throats, strong fragrance. 20 inches tall, mid-season blooms.

Next, learn how to grow and care for crinum lilies.