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Calla Lily

June 2005

Question Can you tell me the specific care for a potted Calla Lily? I received it as a gift and the blooms are now gone. The leaves are tall but still green and starting to droop. Should it be set outside and can I expect repeat blooms someday?

Answer Calla lilies can over winter fine in central and south Arkansas, and sporadically in the northern part of the state. Plant them in a well drained soil in morning sun or filtered sun. I would avoid direct afternoon sun. Don’t expect more blooms this season, but hopefully the foliage will linger all summer, and it is often as striking as the flowers. If your plant has really declined, the leaves may continue to die back, but I would not be surprised if new leaves appeared to carry you through the rest of summer. Make sure drainage is good in both summer and winter, since wet conditions in the cool months can spell disaster.

October 2008

Question I recently moved to a new house and the former owner had many beds with a wide variety of plants. I am cleaning the beds now. Do I cut the calla lilies down to the ground? How about the irises? I will be moving a lot of them to new locations. What is the best way to do that? I also have peonies that have many brown leaves; can I trim and/or move them?

Answer Calla lilies have beautiful foliage, even when the plants are not in bloom. If the foliage still is green and healthy looking, let it grow as it is adding interest to the garden. Once it begins its decline, or after a killing frost, cut the old foliage off. Bearded iris foliage is evergreen most winters, so leave it alone. Peonies can be cut back as soon as the foliage begins to brown. They start their growing season early, and often go dormant early in the fall. Dig and divide your peonies now if needed. Make sure you replant them shallowly. Iris are best dug and divided six to eight weeks after bloom. Doing so in the fall leaves them little time to re-establish their roots before it gets cold. Bearded iris rhizomes are planted with half of the rhizome or bulb in the ground and half above ground and if they lack a strong root system can get heaved out of the ground during the winter months. For calla lilies, leave them alone until them begin to emerge next spring. They are not reliably winter hardy in the northern tier of the state, so extra mulch is great for added winter hardiness.

October 2007

Question Last weekend I enjoyed the beautiful weather and weeded some long neglected flower beds. Where I had planted a dozen calla lily bulbs several years ago, Bermuda grass had taken over and smothered them. I was amazed to find about 36 bulbs under all the Bermuda grass! They weren't blooming, but they were reproducing. I plan to put my home on the market next spring, so I'm returning a dozen bulbs to the flower bed but would like to take the rest w/me. Should I winter the bulbs in a paper bag in the frig or go ahead and plant them in a container to take them with me when I move?

Answer You can easily store calla lily bulbs for the winter. If any are in still in the ground, let the foliage die back, then lift the bulbs and let them air dry for a few days. For all the bulbs, shake the excess soil off of them before storing and put them in a porous bag or box. To make it easy to move you could even use a cardboard box, putting the bulbs in shipping peanuts or dry peat moss. Store in a cool, dry place, then replant in the spring. Calla lilies are summer blooming bulbs and do not need winter chilling like the spring bloomers.

October 2006

Question I have a hibiscus and a calla lily that are being kept outside, but still in their pots. My question is what would be the best way for them to survive the winter? Should they be planted in the ground, left in the pots and outside or brought inside? Should I continue to water them (since they are still green)?

Answer Tropical hibiscus plants will not survive outdoors in Arkansas, whether they are planted in the ground or in a container. The Calla lily should survive outside, but would do better if planted in the ground, versus staying in a pot. Planted outdoors it will die to the ground after a killing frost. The hibiscus can either be brought indoors for the winter or treated as a houseplant--slightly less water than while outdoors, but do water and give it sunlight. Or it can be protected from freezing in a garage or storage building. In that case, water sparingly. It won't look perky when you move it back outdoors next spring, but cut it back, and it should bounce back and begin to bloom. If you are going to treat them as houseplants, they need to be inside now.

May 2006

Question  I listen to your show on KARN, and my mother always reads your newspaper column, and she wanted me to email you with a problem she is having with a flower, hoping for some help before it dies. This is a Flame Calla Lily that was planted in a pot about three weeks ago. It has been watered lightly about every 10 days. It turned over recently, and now the stem with the flower seems to be turning jelly-like where it goes into the dirt, so it won't support itself just lays over. Can you give any ideas what we can do to save it? It was a pretty expensive flower (for my Mom, anyway), and she's hoping to save it.

Answer Sounds to me like the Calla Lily has rotted at the soil line. This is usually a result of too much water or poor drainage. I can't imagine too much water with it only getting a small amount every 10 days--as hot as it has been, it should have needed water almost daily in a pot outdoors now. Take the plant and bulb out of the container and rinse off all of the soil from the roots and bulb. Look at them closely. If the roots and crown are all brown and slimy, your chances of saving it aren't great. If it just the stem at the soil line that is impacted and the roots are full and white, you have a chance. Try cutting out the soft parts, repot in fresh, sterile potting soil, water thoroughly and let it dry out slightly before watering again. Give it full morning sun and shade in the afternoon. Make sure the pot has a drainage hole, or better yet, plant it outside in a well drained spot in the garden and see what happens.

November 2005

Question November 2005 - Here in Fayetteville, my callas have almost ceased blooming, though the foliage is healthy. I think they have become too dense to bloom much. When is the best time to divide them? At this moment, due to the very late onset of frosts, the foliage is still healthy.

Answer Calla lilies are becoming more commonplace in our gardens, but I would consider them only moderately hardy in Fayetteville. For that reason, I would wait and divide them in the spring as they are emerging --or lift and store for the winter months before or immediately after the first frost. Dividing them now and replanting would leave them open to more winter damage. If you do leave them outdoors year-round, cut back the foliage after a frost and add an extra layer of mulch to give them a better chance of survival.

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