Fundamental Facts

HARDINESS: Zones 8 to 11
PREFERRED SOIL pH: Slightly acid
PREFERRED LIGHT Partial shade to sun
ATTRIBUTES: Large, tropical-looking leaves and flowers; for pots, beds, cutting
FAVORITES: Z. aethiopica 'Green Goddess'; 'Black-eyed Beauty', 'Cameo', 'Flame'
QUIRKS: Thrives in wet soil
GOOD NEIGHBORS: Caladiums, ferns, hosta, impatiens, iris
WHERE IT GROWS BEST: Moist, fertile soil in partial shade
POTENTIAL PROBLEMS: Cold injury; spider mites
RENEWING PLANTS: Lives several years; divide large clumps by breaking tubers apart
PLANTING DEPTH: 4 in (10.2 cm)
SOURCE: Tubers, nursery plants
DIMENSIONS: 8-48 in (20.3-121.9 cm) tall, 14 in (35.6 cm) wide

Calla Lily in the Landscape

Famed for their elegant appearance, calla lilies can be a special indulgence in the summer garden. Shaped like softly rolled cornucopias, the flowers make a stunning accent when grown in either beds or containers.The large, deep green, arrow-shaped leaves are a graceful backdrop for a flower border. You can also accent a turning point in the garden by tucking a clump of calla lilies into the bend of a path. No matter where you grow them, these South African natives always make an impact. And, once they come into bloom in late summer, calla lilies also make superb cut flowers.

The traditional calla lily grows 3-4 ft (1-1.2 m) tall, with big creamy white flowers and large leaves that are often speckled with white. Modern hybrids are a more manageable size, with some reaching only 8-24 in (20.3-61 cm) in height, and blooming in soft yellow, peach, deep pink, or rose, often with a darker throat. Tuck a few into a shady border for a tropical look, use them in a pot, or, best of all, plant them in a damp place near a pond or stream, using them as a water-garden accent.

All in the Family

Zantedeschia aethiopica is the traditional calla lily, with 10 in (2 5.4 cm) long white flowers atop 4 ft (1.2m) long stems. Its cultivar 'Green Goddess' has white flowers marked in green. Z. albomaculata also bears white flowers but is a smaller plant and boasts white-spotted, dark green leaves. Z. rhemanii grows to 1 ft (0.3 m) and has small pink to rose flowers. Z. elliottiana is 2 ft (0.6 m) tall and has white-spotted leaves and yellow blossoms.

Among varieties, seek fiery red-flowered 'Flame', peach 'Cameo', and 'Black-eyed Beauty', which has cream flowers with maroon throats.

Growing Calla Lily

Calla lilies are perennial and can grow outdoors year-round in Zones 8 to 11. But they are frost sensitive, so in colder climates wait until the weather is warm to plant them in the garden. Choose a site with fertile soil in partial shade or sun and set the rhizomes about 4 in (10 cm) deep and 12 in (30 cm) apart. Or get a head start by planting dormant tubers indoors a month before your last spring frost date, planting one per 6 in (15.2 cm) pot. Put the pots on a sunny windowsill and keep the soil evenly moist until new growth appears and it's warm enough to plant them outside.

Calla lilies love moisture, so surround them with moisture-retentive organic mulch, and water as needed to keep the soil from drying out. Fertilize them once a month with a water soluble, all-purpose balanced plant food. When cold weather approaches, withhold water so that the soil dries out and dig the tubers before the first frost, trimming away the leaves. Allow the tubers to air-dry for a few days and then store them in a paper bag filled with dry peat moss at about 50-55°F (10-13°C). Before planting in spring, divide clumps by breaking them apart into individual tubers.

Should leaves look pale and exhibit faint webbing, red spider mites are the culprits. Knock them off the plants with a strong spray of cold water.

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