Q: I have a calla lily plant I received as a gift. It was blooming when I received it but has not flowered again in two years. Green leaves sprout ever year but it never blooms. A friend has had the same experience. Can you help solve this problem?
A: There are several kids of calla – some more hardy than others – but the most common garden calla is not always winter-hardy in Atlanta. If you have green leaves but no flowers, I suspect part of the problem is the plant not getting enough light. In October, dig the plants, gently shake off the soil on the tubers and let them dry on your porch or carport for a few days. The leaves will turn brown so you can clip them off with scissors. Store the tubers in a box filled with crumpled newspaper in a spot that stays cool – a dark basement is great.
Calla, as well as many other tropical plants, blooms when it gets crowded. Digging each fall “uncrowds” the plant. Try this: next spring, plant your tubers in a clay pot. Put it in the ground in a sunny spot that gets plenty of water. In fact, callas grow best in boggy soil – so if you have a sunny, wet area they should be quite happy. Fertilize with bulb food at planting and again four weeks later. You’ll see big leaves a few weeks after planting but blooms won’t come until June.
If the calla doesn’t bloom next summer, simply dig up the pot in fall and store it, with the tubers inside, indoors until the next spring. Over time, the crowding should finally stimulate the calla to flower.