Growing Calla Lilies from Bulbs
Growing Calla Lilies lily flower bulbs: a complete guide from start to after flowering. Calla lilies are beautiful exotic flowers and plants. Calla Lily flower bulbs are native to South Africa. Hybridizers have created the Summer to Fall re-blooming colored callas, sometimes called Mini Callas. Although they grow from 8 to 30 inches tall and the flower diameter can be from 1/2 to 3-1/2 inches. Callas come in almost every color: even a shade of blue!
Callas are grown in two different ways and it’s important to know what kind of calla you have so you know how to care for them. Test your growing medium yearly with our soil pH tester meter. Then adjust accordingly. pH level for all lilies (including Callas) should be at 5.5 to 6.5.
The Evergreen Calla Lilies
Evergreen Tuberspica Calla Lily flower bulbs (Aethiopica, Aethiopica Childsiana, Aethiopica Green Goddess) are bog plants, meaning they like a soggy soil, or an almost constantly wet area to grow in.
Growing Evergreen Calla Lilies
This Calla is grown as a rhizome and usually outdoors in the garden, and has sort of a fat long bulb looking like a sausage or a hot dog. Small bulb lets grow along the side. The rhizome should be grown vertically, with the growing points pointing upward. Check the bulb lets on the side- their pointed ends should point toward the sky.
Planting Evergreen Calla Lilies
Plant 3-4 inches deep in full sun to partial shade. Keep the roots cool by top-dressing with mulch. The white flowers appear most often in winter or spring, although they may appear any time.
Flowers can get up to 4 feet tall (rare) and up to 10 inches wide (rare). Usually the flowers are 2-3 feet tall and 4-6 inches wide.
Hybrid Calla Lilies
The colored hybrids are mostly Mini Callas because their flower bulbs or flowers are shorter than Aethiopica. This is something of a misnomer, however, because some blooms can be quite tall (up to 26 inches) and quite large (up to 5 inches).
In any case, these hybrids are summer growers- although they can be grown year around, especially indoors as a house plant and will bloom indoors during the winter months. If they are grown outdoors in the garden, they will bloom late Spring and continue blooming into early Fall (depending upon which region you live in).
Colored calla lily flower bulbs love a sandy, well drained soil pH level of 5.5 to 6.0. And full sun to partial shade. They can be grown equally well in pots or in the ground. Outdoors, plant the bulbs after it is warm, since the WORST THING for bulbs is cold + wet, they will ROT!
If you look at the bulb, one side should be wrinkly or smooth, and the other side should have some circles, with perhaps a tip poking out the middle of the circles. The circles are where the growing points come out. Some varieties have naturally large bulbs and some are small.
Planting the Colored Hybrids
Plant the Calla lily flower bulbs 2 to 3 inches deep and in colder zones (3 to 7) you will have to remove the bulbs before the first heavy freeze and place them at room temperature for a week or two, then plant them and leave indoors for winter blooming, with the growing point upwards. Even if you plant Callas upside down or on their sides, they should sprout and grow just fine, so don’t worry too much. Callas like the sun, but they want their roots to be cool. Mulch the top of the soil if possible to keep the roots cool.
Once you plant the bulbs, give them a little water and then WAIT until you see a leaf start to poke out of the soil, and then you can give them a little more water. If you water them too much before they start growing, they will rot.
If you plant the Calla lily flower bulbs in fresh potting soil, you can start fertilizing once all the leaves are open with our Spring Power Grow mix once a month until Fall then feed with our Power Grow Fall mix (see the section on fertilizing). Avoid ammonium based fertilizer, they can lead to reduction in quality. Calcium and micronutrients will give you good healthy plants.
If you grow colored Calla lily flower bulbs outdoors but get no flowers, you will have test your soil. Look for your nearest Extension service or ask a local garden center for help. The other option for non-blooming Calla lily flower bulbs is to remove the tuber/bulb and store it in a cool, dark area until next Spring. This will give the flower bulb a “rest period” and should bloom again.
Calla lily flower bulbs thrive in acidic soil. Therefore your soil should be a pH of 5.5 to 6.5. Test your growing medium yearly with our soil pH tester meter. Then adjust accordingly. Too high a growing temperature can also lead to a lack of flowers, and heat stress can occur at 75 degrees. Plants grow best at 65 degrees day and 55 degrees at night. Remember, these are optimal growing conditions. Warmer conditions require a bit of shade to keep the soil cooler. Remember, mulch helps keep the roots cool.
Care of the Calla Lily Flower Bulbs
The Calla lily flower bulbs flower lasts a very long time (up to one month), either on the plant or in a vase. Some varieties are better suited to be cut flowers, but they all can be used to some extent. It is very important to change the water every day. Using a preservative in the water is best: here is a home recipe I have developed over the years that works:
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon household bleach (kills the stagnation or slime in the water without harming the bloom)
2 teaspoons lemon or lime juice
1 quart lukewarm water
After Blooming Care
After your Calla lily flower bulbs blooms, the flower will start to close and turn darker and sometimes turn green on the outside. If you go out to your garden and see a tightly furled green bloom, you’ve probably missed the actual blooming. At this point you can cut off the flower or leave it on to form seeds. Enjoy the beautiful foliage for the rest of the summer, though! The leaves are quite lovely, and some of the spotted ones look almost like stained glass.
Cutting or pulling the dead flower off will allow the bulb to start building up for the next year. Make sure you leave the leaves, they provide the nutrients to let the bulb grow and reproduce. Forming seed takes a lot of energy from the plant, so if you want the biggest bulbs next year, cut the dying flowers off.
A Calla lily flower bulb has a set number of flowers it will put up, it isn’t like other plants you “dead-head” to have continuous blooms. Different varieties have different amount of blooms- some have only one or two, some will have six or more.
Fertilizing Calla Lilies
Fertilize the calla lily plant lightly every four weeks from late February through early November. A slow release fertlizer should be used to feed Callas.
Use our Power Grow Fall Fertilizer (specially blended for Calla Lilies and other lilies) blend incorporated into the soil or potting mix at the time of planting. Then follow with another small dose on top of the soil or potting mix two to three weeks later. Follow with our Spring Power Grow mix at the six week level and just before the plant begins building its’ bloom stems.
Be very careful when using liquid fertilizers, especially indoors. You can very easily burn the foliage. Never apply the fertilizer directly to the root system as this will cause root burn.
Bugs don’t really affect callas. Occasionally you may see some aphids on the leaves or near the blooms. These can easily be brushed off or treated with an insecticidal soap.
The worst disease Calla lily flower bulbs get is soft rot and Erwinia. Erwinia is a common organism in the soil, but it will rush in and attack if the calla starts to get rot. Therefore, Calla lily flower bulbs rot because 1) they have been over watered 2) they are over stressed due to their roots getting too hot. As a result rot occurs the bulb is useless in most cases.
Soft rot is terrible to see. So, you might have a group of lovely plants and flowers, then suddenly they turn mushy at the soil line and topple over. As a result the bulbs have a terrible odor, are soft and squishy too.
Our Callas are grown to be disease free. However, through-out their lifetime, they may develop some diseases. After digging and splitting your callas, I recommend discarding diseased bulbs so you don’t spread the disease. However, in a very few cases the bulb may be saved.
Dig the bulb and rinse it off. A hard spray from a garden hose will do. Likewise, the rotted areas will come off. First, cut away the rotted areas then dust it with a fungicide such as Captan. Second, dip the bulb in Cleary’s for no more than 5 minutes. Third, dry the bulb with all the exposed rot areas facing outwards. As a result, a callus will form to a firm feel.
If you still feel soft areas, cut them away and repeat the drying. As long as you still have a growing tip, you may be able to save the bulb. Once the bulb is completely dry and firm, you can replant and hope for the best. Again, don’t water until the leaves start to show. Close to fall, simply store the bulb until the next growing season or bring it inside for winter blooming.
Once rot attacks a garden area, it may wipe out the entire crop. So, If you are sure that rot has infected your bulbs, dig them at once and use the method described above.
Planting and Care: Lifting Bulbs or Leaving in the Ground?
To clarify, in USDA zones 8, 9,10 you can leave Callas (both hybrid and Aethiopica) in the ground year around. Do not let them freeze or get too wet. In cooler zones, they should be dug in the fall. For the colored callas, their leaves will start to turn yellow and die. Dig the bulbs and let them dry for a few days. Remove any foliage left and pull off the dry roots.
LABELS ARE FOUND INSIDE THE SHIPPING BOX INSIDE THE BAG THEY ARE SHIPPED IN.
Each variety is shipped in one bag with one label. The labels are plastic with a color picture and a short growing/care description. They are intended for short term marking. Therefore, should be replaced as the color and print will fade over time. Most importantly it is wise to mark each bulb planted with a permanent stake.