Calla lilies rely on birds to distribute their seeds and start new plants in the wild, but they are also easily bred in the home garden. Calla lilies (Zantedeschia aethiopica) are native to South African swampy environments. They thrive in garden conditions of full sun and mild climates with a minimum temperature of 50 degrees F. In hot summer months, the green stems, leaves and flowers of the calla lily wilt and the plant’s energy for reproduction goes into its rhizome. Smaller rhizomes grow from the main bulb, allowing new plants to breed.
things you’ll need:
- Hand trowel
- Dig up calla lily rhizomes in the autumn as the green plant tops wither. When the plant has died back completely, the rhizome is ready to reproduce. Rhizomes are planted 1 inch below the soil’s surface so they are easy to dig up. Gently remove the surrounding dirt and cut off the withered leaves 1 inch from the rhizome’s surface.
- Remove the small bulb-like protrusions from the main rhizome. They easily break off by hand. These are new rhizomes that produce new plants in the spring. They become identical cultivars of the parent plant.
- Allow the rhizome bulbs to dry out over winter. Store them in a 50- to 60-degree F environment such as a garden shed or garage. Wrap the bulbs loosely in newspaper or store in a covered cardboard box. In milder climates, new calla lily rhizomes are planted immediately. Allow 12 inches of space between newly planted rhizomes. Water thoroughly after planting.
- Divide calla lily rhizomes every two years. Each rhizome produces many small potato-like new rhizomes on each side of the bulb. The main rhizome continues to reproduce new bulbs and spread its growth yearly, becoming hardier and stronger each season. It is considered a weed in its native growing environments because of the strength of its reproductive capabilities.
Tips & Warnings
Calla lilies are also bred from the seed produced in the cupped, funnel-shaped spadix center of the flower. The seed may not produce true to the parental type, but will have qualities representing two or more varieties.
Calla lily cultivars exist in white, pink, yellow, burgundy and peach, with the white having fragrance.
Calla lily leaves, flowers and roots are mildly toxic. Do not allow children or pets to ingest calla lily. It produces oxalic acid, which produces burning mouth, swollen tongue and throat, red and swollen eyes and nausea. Contact local poison control center for additional advice.