Bye bye calla lilies

We have a row of calla lilies (Zantedeschia aethiopica) lining a narrow planting strip on the north side of the house. We planted them over 10 years ago from bulbs given to us by friends, and they have multiplied many times over since then. They go dormant in the summer and wake up again when cooler weather and rain return in the fall.

My favorite calla lily photo of the year, taken in April

This spring, we’ve had the weirdest weather in recent memory—temperatures as much as 20°F below normal, and rain much later than usual. Calla lilies love this kind of weather and they’ve stuck around longer than they usually do. However, in the last week ago their foliage has begun to droop and lean, and the last few flower spathes have started to turn brown.

Calla lilies getting a bit long in the tooth…
…becoming gangly and flopping forward

Taking advantage of a break in the rain, I decide to cut down the foliage earlier this morning. I felt a bit sad since I really enjoy the many flowers we get every year. It felt a bit like saying goodbye to a friend who is moving to another country for six months.

Now the planting strip is bare and looks bleak. I wonder if there’s anything I can plant for the next six months? Maybe some shade-tolerant annuals? This side of the house never gets direct sun, although our neighbor’s house acts like a giant reflector, bouncing the afternoon sun right into our side yard and bathing it in bright indirect light.

Planting strip after I cut down the foliage. Any ideas what I could plant there in the summer?
Bulbs (technically rhizomes) from plants that were growing behind one of the air conditioners.
Free to a good home!

Side notes: I just read that calla lilies, native to Southern Africa where they grow in marshy areas, are only deciduous when water becomes scarce. That’s certainly the case along the Central California coast where they have become naturalized; there they go dormant during the summer when there is little to no rain fall.

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    Impatiens might grow there!

  2. Is there a place impatiens won't grow? LOL. I'm looking for something taller and more impactful.

  3. Sad to see them go but change is good! What about Agapanthus or shrubby Euphorbias? They'd look great in that spot :)

  4. Mark, the callas will be back in the fall (I only removed the leaves, not the rhizomes) so I need something temporary for the summer. That's why I was thinking of an annual that would be finished by the time the callas return.

  5. I've got a bunch of these, as well. I didn't plant them; they came with the house when we bought it. This is my first season with them, so I'm learning the Ways of the Calla Lillies.

    Two questions I'm wondering about:

    1. Mine are starting to flop, too. If I cut them back, will they regrow next year?

    2. I have random Calla Lillies showing up as far away as 20 feet from the main bunches. Do they spread easily?

  6. David, yes, they will come back. In our arid climate, we consider them winter and spring plants--not much going on in the summer, just ratty foliage that will eventually dry up altogether.

    As for your 2nd question, I was going to say that I can't imagine that the ones coming up 20 ft from the others are from the same plant. In our backyard, they've been very well-behaved, like a clumping bamboo. However, I did a quick web search and it appears that callas can be invasive in areas that are consistently moist (like along the coast). In fact, according to this article they're in the California Invasive Plant Inventory with a Limited rating. I didn't know that.


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