The magnificent blooms of the Calla lily have made it a garden favorite, an important crop in the pot plant industry and a popular cut flower. Scientifically speaking, the plants are neither Callas nor lilies. The original plants from which the plethora of magnificent hybrids we see today are derived come from Southern Africa and belong to the genus Zantedeschia. And, unlike lilies, they are not true bulbs, but tubers.
How to grow Calla lilies
Since the tubers you buy will determine how well your plants flower, its important that you plant healthy, large tubers. The bigger your tubers are, the more blooms you will enjoy. It is especially important with calla lilies to Beware of ‘bargain’ tubers, they may not yet have reached flowering size. Choosing colors from amongst the jewel-like shades might prove trickier than you expect. In general, the darker colors are more effective in pots than in the garden, but if you combine dark colors like Calla ‘Black Star’ with contrasting bright colors such as a tried and tested favorite variety Calla ‘Flame’ (rich orange) or a newcomer for 2015, Calla ‘Gold Sovereign’ (golden yellow), the effect can be quite spectacular. 2015 is proving quite the year for new introductions for calla lily varieties. Calla Flirt, Morning Sun and Lady Marmalade are some of our favorites so far, but there's been some additional new callas promised in the pipeline, so we're looking forward to what this year's crop of Spring Bulbs will bring!
Plant your bulbs in well-drained soil or potting mix in spring as soon as the danger of hard frosts has passed. Although most calla lilies prefer well-drained soil there is one exception: the large white calla (Zantedeschia aethiopica) is a species type that naturally occurs along streams. As a result it will tolerate wetter soils than the other colors. The sight of the knobbly tubers might puzzle you at first: which way up should you plant them? Look at them closely and you will see ‘eyes’ similar to those you’d see on a potato. Choose the side with the most eyes and plant the bulb so that the eyes face upwards. When planting Callas in pots, plant more than one bulb per pot for a full appearance and lots of blooms per container. Outdoors, they can be spaced further apart. Calla lilies prefer a sunny position, but they will also thrive in light shade with sun for part of the day. Water the soil well after planting. You can expect to see the first shoots within a few weeks.
Despite their exotic appearance, Calla lilies are easy to grow and don’t require a lot of care. They like damp soil, but will rot in soggy conditions. Provided you’ve found a spot that drains well, your plants should thrive without additional care. Feel free to cut flowers for the vase. They last well, look magnificent and you’ll find that growing your own cut flowers is much more cost-effective than buying them at a florist. A single cut calla lily in a slender vase looks very elegant, but tight bouquets of blooms are also effective. If you live in a frost free area with relatively dry winters, you can leave your tubers in the ground, but in colder areas, you will have to lift and store your bulbs after the leaves have died down. Dust off the soil, trim the leaves back and let the bulbs air dry for a while before storing them in paper bags or in a box with peat moss for next spring’s planting.