Chris's Weblog – City Chickens

Calla Lily Rhizomes

The calla lily grows from bulbs, more properly called rhizomes, and will, as most bulbs do, spread by producing even more bulbs. These bulbs can be divided and replanted in another location. The calla lily is a very hardy genus that will grow in more or less any soil as long as the climate is humid enough. In many of the countries where the calla lily originates it is thought of as a weed and is cut down to make way for agriculture. The calla lily can also be propagated through its seeds but it takes a little more time than just digging up the extra bulbs. I am sure that I shall try. I can’t resist seeds.

I unpacked these rhizomes today and was amazed at how big they were. I had thought that they were expensive at £3.95 for each bulb but having seen them I am filled with confidence of their success. The more I read about these fascinating plants the more I want to know. I had debated about whether to plant each bulb in a separate pot but decided in the end to put all three in a large 40cm patio pot. The directions on the pack say plant in rich potting soil and water sparingly until growth starts. Keep indoors until April and keep frost free. The three varieties that I have  planted are Auckland, a beautiful pink, Schwarzwalder, a deep almost black maroon and Albomaculata, white. I can see me buying more of these as they come in an amazing array of colours and are said to have a long flowering period. As with all bulbs grown in containers the soil needs to be changed either every year or every other year.

When grown in pots for keeping indoors the compost should be kept moist and plants should be given a weak solution of liquid plant food every three weeks while they are in growth. The best place to site them is in a west-facing window, where the air temperature does not rise much above 21°C. A south-facing window may be too hot when the sun is at its strongest in summer. Remove the flowers when they start to fade. When the plant has finished blooming, allow the leaves to turn brown, and reduce watering. Stop watering completely once all the foliage has died back.

Francis Masson, was born in Aberdeen, Scotland in 1741. In the 1760s, he went to work at Kew Gardens as an under-gardener, and was sent abroad to hunt for new plants. He sailed with James Cook on HMS Resolution to South Africa, landing in October 1772. Masson stayed there for three years, during which time he sent back to England more than 500 species of plant – including  Zantedeschia .  Information from Graham Clarke.

The red lily beetle, Lilioceris lilii,  loves the delicious lily foliage and will quickly decimate your plants. The only real answer is to seek them out and kill them. being a vivid scarlet red, they are easily spotted.  You should also look out for the eggs on the undersides of the leaves and the grubs.