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Calla Lillies

The calla lily's exotic beauty belies its undemanding nature.
Calla lily image by Elzbieta Sekowska from Fotolia.com

How to Prune Calla Lillies

Calla lily, or Zantedeschia, isn’t really a lily at all. It‘s more closely related to caladiums and elephant ears, or taro and alum plants. The long-lasting cut blooms are perfect for any bouquet or arrangement, and are particularly breathtaking as single vase specimens complemented by a little greenery. These tender perennials are winter hardy only in USDA Planting Zones 10 and 11. As undemanding as they are lovely, your beauties will ask little of you in the way of maintenance.

Use clean, sharp scissors or shears to cut calla lilies for your indoor arrangements beginning in mid-summer.

Prune off spent bloom stems following flowering to keep your plants looking handsome and tidy.

Remove any dead, damaged or diseased leaves and stems as you see them.

Cut yellowed, withering and dying foliage off at ground level at the end of the blooming season. No other pruning is needed or desirable for calla lilies.

How to Take Care of Calla Lilies

How to Plant a Calla Lily

Select a location for your calla lilies. They enjoy bright morning sunlight and afternoon shade in an area of your garden that has good drainage. You can tell if an area drains well by checking it after a rain or by watering it heavily. If you still have standing water after five hours, the area does not drain well.

Dig holes for the bulbs 4 inches to 6 inches deep. You’ll also need to space the bulbs 1 feet to 2 feet apart.

Sprinkle a layer of organic matter into the hole before you place the calla lily bulb inside. You can place up to an inch of material to supplement your soil.

Place the bulb so that the side with the most eyes is facing up. The eyes on a calla lily bulb look similar to the eyes on a potato.

Cover the bulb with potting soil or other enriched garden soil. Water the bulbs well. Calla lilies prefer a moist environment.

How To Winterize Calla Lily Bulbs

Allow the foliage of the calla lily plant to die back naturally during the fall. Cut off all of the dead leaves and flowers, and discard them.

Dig up the calla lilies' rhizomes (nubby bulb-like root) from the soil. Shake off the loose dirt, and use your fingers to remove as much of the caked-on dirt as you can.

Leave the rhizomes in the open air, in direct sunlight, for three to five days. This will allow them to dry out completely in preparation for storage.

Fill an opaque plastic container half-way with peat moss. If you have a large number of rhizomes, use several containers or one large one.

Place the rhizomes on top of the peat, and cover with another layer of peat. Do not tamp down on the peat. The rhizomes need to breathe, and leaving the peat loose keeps pockets of air around them.

Store the containers in a cool, dark, dry area of your home. The temperature of the storage area should be between 50 and 60 degrees F. Basements and garages are ideal.

When to Plant Calla Lily

Depending on climate, Calla lillies can be a perennial or annual. These are one of the few bulbs that can be planted at any time. For best results, plant 4 to 6 inches deep and 1 to 2 feet apart.

The History of the Calla Lily


The calla lily originated between South Africa and Malawi. This area is tropical with stable temperatures, predictable rainy and dry seasons, and is warm enough so plants don't suffer from frosts and freezing temperatures.


The calla lily's common name is actually a vestige of incorrect historical naming. It is neither a member of the genus Calla nor a member of the lily family. The calla lily is, according to Callalilyguide.com, a member of the genus Zantedeschia.


The calla lily was cultivated in ancient Rome, and used as a flower of celebration. Calla lilies were enjoyed at weddings and held as a symbol of purity.


The calla lily appeared in a "Royal Garden of Paris" illustration in 1664. This indicates that the flower was grown in Europe before the date of the illustration.

The World

Over time, calla lily cultivation expanded worldwide, including as an indoor flowering plant in many colder climates. Today, calla lilies are often used as elegant decorative flowers, especially at weddings, just as in ancient Rome.