Colorful Calla Lily Varieties

Calla lilies come in a rainbow of colors beyond the white garden variety. The head grower at Stargazer Barn, a source of fresh-cut callas, shares tips about these beautiful blooms.
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Photo By: Courtesy Stargazer Barn

Photo By: Courtesy Stargazer Barn

Photo By: Courtesy Stargazer Barn

Photo By: Courtesy Stargazer Barn

Photo By: Courtesy Stargazer Barn

Photo By: Courtesy Stargazer Barn

Photo By: Courtesy Stargazer Barn

Photo By: Courtesy Stargazer Barn

Photo By: Courtesy Stargazer Barn

Photo By: Courtesy Stargazer Barn

Photo By: Courtesy Stargazer Barn

Photo By: Courtesy of Stargazer Barn

Photo By: Courtesy Stargazer Barn

Photo By: Courtesy Stargazer Barn

Calla Lilies in Vase

Single-stemmed callas make great cut flowers. While the white varieties are often used in weddings, these trumpet-shaped blooms pair beautifully with roses, hydrangeas, orchids and other flowers for all kinds of arrangements. They even look elegant and striking when they stand alone.

Calla Lily 'Acapulco Gold'

Easy to grow calla lilies aren't true lilies, explains Tim Crockenberg, head grower for Stargazer Barn, a source of stunning, fresh-cut flowers that include callas, tulips, stargazer lilies as well as other products, such as wines and confections. (The availability of the cut flowers varies by season.) These south African natives are Zantedeschias, and they grow from bulbs (a term, Tim adds, that encompasses rhizomes, corms and tubers). While most of us are familiar with the common garden variety of these plants, which is white, Stargazer Barn grows many different hybrids that bloom in brilliant gold, yellow, orange, red, purple and even near-black.

Yellow Calla Lilies

You can grow callas in your garden from bulbs. If your winters are mild, they should come back each spring if you protect them with straw or another mulch. If your winters are harsh, Stargazer Barn recommends digging the bulbs in the fall, brushing off the dirt and letting them dry. Then store them in a paper bag or some peat moss at about 50 degrees F. and keep them in a cool, dark place until you're ready to replant.

Calla Lily 'Flame'

Plant your calla lily bulbs in early spring, says Tim Crokenberg of Stargazer Barn. Just don't plant more than 2 or 3 inches deep, and then water them in. "We root our bulbs in a crates in a special rooting room, without light. It's roughly 50 degrees F., and we keep them there while their roots develop. When we bring the bulbs into the greenhouse, the plants are ready to start photosynthesizing and growing to their optimum potential." Giving them a good start helps them fight off pests and diseases later, he says.

Calla Lily 'Garnet Glow'

The rooting room at Stargazer Barn, where calla lilies get their start, simulates springtime conditions underground. "You can plant calla bulbs in your yard," Crockenberg says, "once all chance of frost has passed and the ground can be worked. Give them a spot that gets morning sun and shade the rest of the day."

Stargazer Barn Zantedeschia

Calla lilies have lush, tropical-looking leaves. "The more shade the plants get, the bigger and wider the leaves will get," says Crockenberg, "and the colors will be more vibrant." In full sun, the plants stay shorter, the leaves are smaller and the color of the blooms fades more quickly.

Pink Calla Lilies

Callas flower about 4 weeks after the leaves emerge from the bulbs, or 6 weeks after planting when the nighttime temperatures are around 50 degrees F. If the weather is colder, the blooms can take longer to appear. Warm weather usually means earlier flowers.

Cut Calla Lilies

Callas will keep blooming for 4 to 6 weeks, depending on the weather. In general, the hotter the weather, the faster these easy-to-grow plants will bloom. You can also grow callas in containers filled with a compost-based potting mix. Keep the growing medium moist and don't let it dry out completely.

Calla Lily

Erwinia is the main disease that affects calla lilies, causing the bulbs to rot and turn to mush, according to Crockenberg. Yellow, dying leaves are a sign of the problem. There's no cure, but you can help prevent erwinia by being careful not to overwater and not planting the bulbs too deeply.

White Calla Lily

While the white, garden-variety callas grow well with lots of water, Crockenberg warns against overwatering the colorful hybrid varieties. "Most like to be just moist enough to grow." The plants need well-drained soil and dislike clay soils. If needed, amend your soil to improve its drainage before you uplant. "Don't let your callas sit in water. We really manage our watering at Stargazer Barn." If you can stick your finger into the soil, and it feels dry, water your callas, he says. "Don't let them completely dry out, but give them a little water, more frequently, just enough to keep them moist. Don't saturate the ground."

Calla Lily 'Red Alert'

At Stargazer Barn, calla bulbs are planted with a little balanced, slow-release fertilizer, such as a 10-10-10. "A one-time application at the beginning of the growing season should hold you through the rest of the season," head grower Crockenberg says.

Sprouting Calla Lilies

Callas are nearly carefree, but they can be attacked by thrips, tiny, yellow pests. Look for them inside the cone-shaped flowers, and you don't see them, blow gently. The carbon dioxide in your breath will excite them into moving, says Crockenberg, so they're easier to spot. "They're fairly easy to control with Spinosad, available in most garden centers." Spinosad is a natural substance made by bacterium in the soil.

Calla Lily 'Black Star'

Occasionally, calla lilies are plagued by fungus gnats that develop in damp soil or potting mix. Gnatrol is a biodegradable control for these pests. "The larvae in the soil feed on plant roots," says Crockenberg, so if you see the gnats flying around, "drench the soil with Gnatrol. It can take a while to break the cycle." The flying adults, he adds, don't harm the plants, although they can be nuisance.

Calla Lily 'Captain Marrero'

Cut calla lilies, or Zantedeschias, have a vase life of about 2 weeks. For best results, cut the stems on a diagonal and put them in a clean container of fresh, tepid water mixed with flower food solution. Avoid putting the vase in direct sunlight or drafts. Refresh the water when needed, and re-cut the stems periodically.

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