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Calla lilies and freezing temperatures do not go well together, in as much as they are considered hardy plants they are really tropical plants so do need some help to survive cold winters which usually means lifting them from the ground.
First thing first, if you live in the UK, you will need to dig them up for winter. If you live in the USA and are within zone 8 or higher in the USDA plant hardiness map, you can leave them in the ground and just mulch over the top of them, simply cut them back after the first frost and add a couple of inches of mulch. If you live in zone 8 of lower, follow my guide below.
Being bulbous plants, the lilies store food in winter to support new growth in the coming season. To prevent the cold from affecting the bulbs, most people store them indoors to plant them in spring when the weather is favourable. Discover how to keep your calla lily bulbs over winter using the information below.
If you grow them in pots I find they so well left in the pots and just kept in a cool dry place over winter such as a shed or garage.
if you grow them in the ground, here is what you need to do:
- After the foliage begins to recede after the first frost, it is time to cut back the foliage to the ground, leaving about 3-inches.
- Once you cut back the plant, use a trowel or small shovel to lift the rhizome from the soil. As you are digging out the rhizome, ensure the circumference of the hole is not too close to the base of the plant. You must have enough room to dig out the plant without damaging the rhizome.
- Now that you have the calla lily rhizome, remove any excess soil and the remaining dead leaves.
- Some people wash the rhizomes, but most prefer not to because it lessens the risk of rot. If you choose to wash the rhizomes, it is better to leave them to dry before storage. Any damaged or diseased rhizomes should be disposed of because they will not be productive once replanted.
- The rhizomes once dried for several days will manifest a tougher skin. This curing process is essential and cannot be overlooked because if the rhizomes don’t cure properly, rot and dampness will set in.
- Place individual bulbs in separate paper bags or wrap them in old newspapers to prevent them from touching.
- Occasionally check on the bulbs. If you find rotting rhizomes, cut off the moulding sections with a sterilised knife and change the storage bag to prevent re-infection.
It is vital to note that storing the rhizome in the refrigerator can cause the bulbs to die. The point is to help the bulbs hibernate, but very low temperatures will cause the bulbs to die. Storing them in a dark area between 60-66 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal.
Read next: Have wilting calla lilies? Learn what causes wilting calla lilies here and what you need to do
When you successfully keep your calla lily bulbs over winter, ensure to plant them at the right time. Planting the bulbs in early spring when ground temperatures are not yet warm may result in the plants failing. Wait until the weather is warmer and the risk of frost damage is low, which is usually from mid-spring.