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9 Reasons Why Your Calla Lilies Are Not Blooming

9 Reasons Why Your Calla Lilies Are Not Blooming

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To say that I love Calla Lilies is an absolute understatement – they give me such joy! Although, I was severely disappointed when they did not bloom this summer which prompted a search to find out why they did not flower and whether I could encourage them to bloom.

Calla Lilies are not blooming due to excess nitrogen in their soil, a lack of water/moisture, drainage, sunlight, inadequate dormant periods for Lilies in containers, mild winters, and foliage removed too early, small or immature bulbs, and incorrect planting methods.

It has become abundantly clear that I am not the only one whose Calla Lilies have not bloomed this year, especially gardeners like me who have container lilies. It takes a good amount of detective work to find out why your lilies are not flowering.

So, let’s solve this problem together – one clue at a time.

Why Are My Calla Lilies Not Blooming?

Calla lilies should bloom without much fuss. Around eight weeks after planting, you can expect flower stalks to start shooting up, treating you to delightful blooms for months.

However, it’s not entirely unheard of for calla lilies to miss a period (of blossoming!).

Well, the reasons behind this are as diverse as the blooms themselves. Let’s take a close look at the common culprits:

1 – Too Much Nitrogen in the Soil

Adding Fertilizer To Soil

Is your plant’s foliage unusually lush? Do you notice browning tips and leaf margins or leggy growth that droops?

If your answer is yes to either question, odds are excess nitrogen has stopped your flowers from showing up. Nitrogen overload can stimulate leaf growth by sacrificing the blooms. 

Calla lilies flourish in nutrient-rich garden soil, which means that they mostly don’t need fertilizers to bloom.

Applying nitrogen-based fertilizers before springtime will only encourage the plant to produce more leaves, not flowers. If you’re guilty of this misstep, you can stop feeding your plant until the following year.

But, if you think your plant’s soil might be running low on nutrients by then, go ahead and use a high-potash all-purpose fertilizer after the flowering season. Potassium is a calla lily essential that gives its roots and blooms a super-boost.

2 – Not Enough Sunlight

Yellow Calla Lily In The Sun

Calla lilies need sufficient sunlight for optimal blooming, especially when planted in shady areas with limited light. If you’re in a place where it gets unseasonably hot, provide some afternoon shade to protect your plants from getting scorched.

Keep this in mind: Calla lilies flourish in partial sun in warmer zones and full sun in cooler climates.

If your lilies aren’t getting enough sunlight, transplant them to a sunnier spot where they can bask in at least six hours of sun. However, you should wait until the foliage has withered in the fall before digging up the bulbs.

Find an ideal location for your lilies and enrich the soil with some compost. Then, spread a two- to three-inch layer of mulch around your plants to keep the soil moist. Mulching will also protect them against extreme temperatures.

If moving your lilies isn’t feasible, trim surrounding foliage or prune overhanging tree branches above the flower bed to allow more light to reach them.

Avoid transplanting them in the summer when they’re actively growing to prevent transplant shock.

3 – Insufficient Moisture

Calla Lily Covered In Water

Calla lilies require moist, slow-draining soil to thrive, so they don’t fare well during prolonged dry spells. 

When water is scarce, the bulbs dry up and shrivel. This can put a brake on your calla lily’s growth and roadblock its natural ability to bloom. Yellowed, wilted leaves are a silent cry for help; they could be a sign that your plant is slowly dying of dehydration.

The good news is that you hold the solution in your watering can. Give your thirsty calla lily a drink, and watch those leaves perk up almost instantly.

That said, it’s not just underwatering that leaves your calla lilies feeling parched. Your soil can still get bone-dry, even if you’re diligently watering. But how’s that possible?

Well, blame it on these moisture thieves:

  • Excessive heat
  • Too sandy soil that doesn’t retain moisture
  • Nearby roots stealing water from the bulbs

Now, let’s tackle these issues head-on:

Excessive Heat

I’m practically dripping when the temperature goes up just a few degrees. But guess what? Plants can sweat, too.

Well, the more accurate term is “transpire.” Transpiration occurs when your calla lily absorbs water from the soil and then releases water vapor through the tiny pores on its leaves, aka the stomata.

Calla lilies can lose a bit too much moisture when it’s crazy hot. So, shield your calla lilies from the scorching afternoon sun. Plant them where they can catch some shade during the hottest hours of the day to avoid heat stress.

Mulch can also protect your calla lilies from the intense sun, preventing the soil from drying out too quickly.

Apply a fresh dressing of organic mulch around your plants to help retain moisture and insulate the roots. Remember to pull the mulch back a few inches from the base of your lilies, so the roots get some breathing space.

Too Sandy Soil

Sandy soil is coarse and gritty. But if you still can’t decide whether your soil is too sandy, try this simple hack: Moisten your soil, grab a handful, and roll it into a ball between your palms.

If it crumbles and you can see the individual grains separating, there’s no doubt—you’ve got sandy soil!

The problem with sandy soil is that it warms up quickly and lacks the nutrients your calla lily needs for producing flowers. Due to the loose particles, water and whatever scant nutrients are present in the soil wash away before your plant can absorb them.

The simplest solution is to add organic matter to your soil. Whether it’s compost, manure, or mulch, it becomes your plants’ slow-release snack. Over time, it even helps balance out the acidity of sandy soil.

Moisture Absorbed by Nearby Roots

Do neighboring trees or plants leave your calla lilies high and dry by hogging all the moisture from the ground?

Well, it’s time to find your calla lilies a better spot.

Consider transplanting your calla lilies in a container or a raised flower bed away from big trees. That way, they can have a drink without any competition.

4 – Lack of Dormant Periods for Potted Calla Lilies

Potted Calla Lilies

Potted calla lilies have the same needs as the ones grown in your backyard. However, unlike their green buddies, they don’t experience dormancy to gear up for the growing season. 

Now, creating an artificial dormant environment isn’t rocket science.

After the regular blooming time, cut off the water supply until the soil is Sahara-dry. Don’t fret when the leaves start looking sad; it’s just part of the process.

Next, stick the planter in a cool, dark place for about two months.

After nap time is over, bring your potted lily back into the light. Resume watering, and watch the magic unfold.

Before you know it, your lilies will burst into a profusion of stunning new flowers.

5 – Pests

Instead of blooming peacefully, your calla lilies might end up battling tiny invaders. And I understand the frustration of seeing your precious blooms under siege.

Among these troublemakers are aphids. These annoying critters extract sap from leaves and poop out a sticky substance called honeydew. A black fungus then grows on the honeydew-covered surface, causing sooty mold.

The early signs of aphid infestation are curled leaves, so look for their little farms underneath them.

Spider mites and thrips also pose a threat to your beautiful calla lilies. They inflict damage and stunt growth by nibbling on plant parts.

So how can you manage these pests?

For mild pest issues, use organic solutions like neem oil or insecticidal soap before jumping to harsh pesticides.

And if you spot heavily infested or diseased plant parts, get rid of them ASAP to stop further spread.

6 – Foliage Pruned Too Soon


You might feel the urge to trim your lily’s foliage right after it blooms. But, hold on! Let those leaves turn brown and wither away on their own during the fall.

Chopping them off too soon can mess up the plant’s ability to store energy in its bulbs. The leaves are still full of juice after the plant has bloomed.

Calla lilies use the remaining part of the summer and fall seasons to store nutrients and energy so they can produce flowers in the following year.

7 – Small or Immature Calla Lily Bulbs

Another potential reason for flowerless calla lilies is that their bulbs are too small or not mature enough.

Deficient bulbs cannot store enough energy to produce flowers within the first year of being planted. They redirect their limited supplies to growing other plant structures and settling into their new environment.

With the right conditions, these immature bulbs will grow enough to display flowers in the following year.

Large adult calla lilies are more likely to bloom in the spring due to their increased capacity to save energy. So, if you’re shopping for new lilies, select the biggest healthy-looking ones.

8 – Overcrowded Calla Lily Bulbs

Crowded Calla Lilies

Your calla lily may stop blooming if it’s too cramped.

When spring foliage emerges, crowded bulbs might vie for nutrients, sunlight, space, and moisture. 

If that’s the case, unearth your calla lily and relocate it to a more spacious area in your garden. There, they’re free to grow and spread out.

The necessary resources can reach all parts of the plant, getting them ready for a lavish floral showcase the next time around.

9 – The Depth of Calla Lily Bulbs Too Shallow or Too Deep

Don’t discount the possibility that your bulbs weren’t planted at the correct depth.

Calla lily bulbs that aren’t buried deep enough are susceptible to frost damage, which can prevent them from flowering.

Meanwhile, bulbs placed too deeply in the soil may not bloom or only produce flowers in the following spring.

How to Make Calla Lilies Bloom Sooner

Calla Lilies Up Close

Typically, growers plant calla lilies in the spring once all threats of frost are out of the picture. Then, you must wait for 2–3 months to see those beautiful blooms.

But here’s a hack to get them flowering sooner.

Plant the bulbs indoors in pots 6–8 weeks before the expected last frost. Stick them 3–4 inches deep with the eyes looking skyward.

Treat your plants to some TLC while playing the waiting game. After the last frost has passed, transplant your calla lilies outdoors, and voila!

You should get blooms 1–2 months earlier than if you had planted them directly in the ground.

How to Get Calla Lilies to Produce More Flowers

Calla Lily Bulbs Growing

Calla lilies have attractive foliage that’s pretty enough to look at. But those elegant, flute-shaped blooms are the real head-turners when they unfurl.

And of course, more flowers mean happier plant owners. Try these tips for pure bloom heaven:

1 – Divide Your Calla Lily

Here’s a surefire way to increase your flower count: plant more calla lilies!

A calla lily bulb is a tiny package of flower power, with all those bumps from which baby plants can pop out. Once your lilies grow out of control or show signs of decline, it’s time to divide and propagate them.

Here’s how:

  1. Use a shovel to dig up your cluster of calla lilies. For a potted lily, loosen up the soil before gently pulling out the clump. If the plant is too root-bound and refuses to budge, break the container instead.
  2. Shake loose soil and clear the roots to access the bulbs.
  3. Pluck the individual bulbs from the plant, ensuring each piece has a few eyes. You can also use a clean knife to separate them from the foliage.
  4. Brush off any remaining soil from the bulbs.
  5. Let them dry in the open air for a day or until the exposed surface hardens or forms a callus before transplanting them.
  6. For regions colder than USDA zones 8–10, store the bulbs and replant them in the spring. Wipe down the surface with a paper towel and air-dry the bulbs for 2–3 days.
  7. Tuck the bulbs in a paper bag filled with peat moss or vermiculite and store it in a cool, dry place.

2 – Give Your Calla Lilies the Best Care

Taking care of your transplanted lilies while they’re growing is super important if you want loads of blooms in the spring or summer. Make sure they’re well-hydrated so the soil doesn’t dry up and hinder their flowering.

Also, feed them with a well-balanced fertilizer every 14 days until the flowering season is done. Once fall rolls around, toss in a thick layer of mulch mixed with manure or compost to get them ready for winter. And get rid of any spent flower stems after the blooms fade.

3 – Deadhead Your Calla Lilies

As lovely as your calla lilies are, they lose their charm when they start fading and wilting. Deadheading is the remedy, as it involves removing these spent flowers.

Think of it as a little grooming session for your beloved plants. Your calla lilies will look tidy, and there’s room for a fresh wave of blooms.

Regular deadheading encourages your calla lilies to channel their energy into producing new flowers rather than seeds.

Final Thoughts

If you’re used to having those beautiful calla lily flowers brightening up your garden or sitting pretty in a vase, it’s a huge bummer when they decide not to show up.

Calla lilies won’t bloom for various reasons. To ensure you’ll have those coveted flowers next season, watch out for these red flags: excessive nitrogen, underwatering, poor drainage, and lack of sunlight.

The list is extensive, but feel free to revisit this article anytime as you investigate what’s going on with your plants.

Trust me, your careful attention will reward you with fabulous blooms!

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Nancy Weigandt

Friday 25th of November 2022

Hello from Detroit Michigan! We have a flower farm in a detroit neighborhood. I have been growing calla lilies there for the last 7 seasons. One of the things that have helped me to understand why they do not bloom is learning about Gibberellic acid (GA). I have typically bought wholesale rhizomes and learned they are pre-dipped in GA. The way I learned this was the second year I planted the Callas (after overwintering) I got hardly any blooms from a 16' bed. Researched me to the GA acid. I now soak the rhizomes in a GA 3 solution and have no problem with blooming. I am wondering if you do this as well or know about it? If yes where do you purchase your GA? Thank you. Nancy at Detroit Abloom


Thursday 24th of February 2022

Hi Lisa, what a treasure your research is for other gardeners! Thank you so very much! Do you have recommendations for forcing calla lilies indoors in large, south-facing windows (in apartment with no outdoor space) or an exceptional website to which you could refer me? Since that isn't complicated enough (lol), I'd like to force them so that I have blooms in early to mid December. In a nut shell, my sister's birthday is in mid December and we live almost 1800 miles apart. I can't afford fresh flowers and feel like I could ship overnight a really nice fresh arrangement more affordably. Also, there is so much focus on Christmas and other holiday flowers and colors I feel she is sort of cheated. I conspire to send her something with yellow, oranges and blues or purples. I would appreciate any help you or your other readers can give me. Thanks so very much! Marti


Friday 25th of February 2022

Hi Marti, That's so sweet that you want to do this for your sister's birthday! I think the key will be forcing a dormancy period indoors that will line up with your intended blooming time, followed by excellent care for the calla lilies to make sure that they get the right amount of light and water.

I would recommend reading another article I have for some additional info:

Happy Planting! Lisa