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?
There are many reasons why your Calla Lilies might not be blooming, however, I will provide a comprehensive explanation below to address this disconcerting issue.
1 – Nitrogen Requirements for Calla Lilies
Calla Lilies grown in your garden should bloom without much fuss. However, if they don’t bloom, it could be attributed to several reasons.
If you notice that the plant’s foliage is lush and grows quickly or spot brown leaf segments, then it is highly likely that excess nitrogen has stopped your flowers from blooming.
These lilies flourish in nutrient-rich garden soil, which means that they mostly don’t need organic fertilizers to produce flowers.
If nitrogen fertilizers are used before spring flowering time, it will only encourage the plant to produce more leaves, not flowers.
Regrettably, you will not be able to encourage the plant to produce flowers if a nitrogen-rich fertilizer is applied to the growing Lily. In that case, it would be prudent to stop fertilizing the plant until the next year.
If you suspect that your plant’s soil was depleted from nutrients during the following year, apply an all-purpose, balanced fertilizer with an increased amount of potassium following the flowering season to encourage its root and bloom growth.
Once the Lily has stopped flowering, it stores nutrients and the sun’s energy in its bulbs to produce flowers during the following year.
2 – Water and Drainage Requirements for Calla Lilies
Calla Lilies do not fare well during extended drought periods as they require moist slow draining soil to thrive.
A lack of water stunts their growth by drying their bulbs, resulting in yellowed, wilted leaves that prevent the plant from blooming.
There are numerous reasons for exceptionally dry soil. Chief among them is sandy soil that does not retain moisture, excess sun, or tree roots that absorb all the bulb’s moisture.
It might be wise to transplant your lilies if there is an area in your garden that will be better suited to their watering requirements; alternatively, water them more often.
Should you decide to transplant your lilies, do so early in the morning or later in the afternoon when the sun is less harsh.
Most importantly, add a mixture of good quality compost and leaf mulch to the planting area. Once your Lilies are settled in their new environment, water them thoroughly.
The organic additives will help your plants retain moisture and increase their ability to drain excess water, which will stop their bulbs from rotting and promote healthy growth.
It is also wise to apply the compost and mulch mixture to your plants in Spring to protect them from drought conditions and increase their ability to retain nutrients that will aid their development.
A great way to ascertain whether your transplanted Lilies require more water or not is to insert your finger in the plant’s surrounding soil. If the newly applied mulch retains enough moisture, you won’t have to water it again.
3 – The Calla Lilies Are Not Getting Enough Sun
Calla Lilies will not bloom if they do not get adequate levels of the sun during the day. Especially lilies planted in shady areas, with less light.
If that is the case, it might be prudent to transplant them to an area in your garden where they will receive at least six hours of sun.
However, should it not be possible to move them, reduce the surrounding foliage, or prune tree branches above the flower bed to provide additional light for your plants.
Alternatively, dig up the bulbs in Fall when the plant’s foliage has withered away and plant them in a sunnier area in which your lilies will produce numerous flowers if they are protected with mulch.
Avoid transplanting them in either Spring or Summer when they are still growing as it will result in a transplant shock.
4 – Container Calla Lilies Dormant Periods
While Calla Lilies that grow in garden soil all have the same requirements to bloom, so do lilies grown in containers.
However, unlike garden plants, they do not have a dormant period to prepare for the flowering season, like lilies grown in garden soil.
Creating an artificial dormant period is not a complicated process. Once the traditional flowering period is over, stop watering the plant and ensure that the plant-soil becomes bone dry.
Don’t panic – the foliage will wither away, and it will look like your beloved plant is only fit for the compost heap. Simply move it to a cool dark area for approximately two months.
Then move it to a light-filled area and continue watering it as usual, which will promote its’ growth, and as if by magic – result in a profusion of beautiful new flowers.
5 – Calla Lilies Require Cold Winters
Prolific Asiatic Lilies only bloom in spring if exposed to cold winter periods; this required winter rejuvenation process is known as a vernalization process.
It’s a critical component of their development as the bulbs have become accustomed to seasonal temperature changes. Therefore, the Lily bulbs realize when it’s their time to start growing to produce flowers in Spring.
Suppose you are growing your Asiatic lilies in a hot climate where the winter temperatures are mild. In that case, the vernalization process will not be initiated, which will prevent your lilies from flowering.
On a side note – the Easter Lily variant is more suited to warm climates, with mild winters, as they are not reliant on the vernalization process to produce blooms.
5 – Your Calla Lily Foliage Was Removed Too Soon
There is always a temptation to prune your Lily’s foliage after it has bloomed. However, it’s prudent to wait for the leaves to turn brown and wither away naturally during the Fall.
Cutting the plant’s foliage prevents it from storing adequate energy stores in its bulbs to flower in Spring.
Their leaves are still full of life after the plant has bloomed. It uses the remaining part of the summer and fall seasons to store nutrients and the sun’s energy to produce flowers in the following year.
6 – Deficient Calla Lily Bulbs
Another potential reason for Lilies that do not produce flowers is that their bulbs are too small or not mature enough.
Small bulbs cannot store enough energy to produce flowers in their first year after being planted. They redirect their limited energy to growing their 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 once they have grown sufficiently.
Mature Lily bulbs that are larger are more likely to bloom in Spring due to their increased capacity to store enough energy.
Therefore, if you find yourself shopping for new flowering plant bulbs in your local garden center – select the largest healthy-looking bulb they have on offer.
7 – Overcrowded Calla Lily Bulbs
It is also possible that your Lily bulbs might not have enough space to grow.
When spring foliage emerges, overcrowded bulbs will compete for nutrients, sunlight, space, and moisture.
If that is the case, it is advisable to dig them up in the Fall and transplant them to an area of your garden with adequate space.
This spread-out planting method will ensure that they have enough access to their required resources to produce a bountiful display of flowers in Spring.
8 – The Depth of Your Planted Calla Lily Bulbs
There is also a possibility that your bulbs were not planted at the correct depth.
If they were not planted deep enough, they would have frost damage which prevents them from flowering.
Lily bulbs planted too deep in the ground may not flower or only produce blooms in another spring season.
Calla Lily Bulb Transplanting Tips
If you realize that your Calla Lilies are overcrowded or not planted at the correct depth, dig up their bulbs once their foliage has died back in Fall.
Like most plants, the ideal time to transplant the bulbs is in Spring. However, you could start the growing process indoors, approximately a month before the expected frost period. Alternatively, they can be planted in your garden if there is no prospect of frost.
If you have lilies that tend to flower during the Easter period, rather plant them in December.
A word of warning is advised – rather, delay planting if your soil temperature is too cold. Your garden soil’s temperature should ideally be 32°F, or warmer.
Start the planting process by measuring planting holes approximately 12 inches apart, loosen the soil and apply a good quality compost. Now plant the bulbs with their growing tips pointing upwards about 4 inches deep.
Once the bulbs have been planted, water them well and cover them with mulch to conserve the soil’s moisture and prevent weeds from growing.
It will take approximately two weeks before you see new shoots and between 13-16 weeks for their flowers to bloom. However, the flowering season depends on the cultivar and when the bulbs were planted.
Lily bulbs planted in spring will typically bloom for three to eight weeks from the midsummer period until fall. However, their ability to flower depends on their variety, including the amount of sun or light it receives.
If your lilies are perennial due to the climate it inhabits, they will normally bloom late in Spring or at the beginning of Summer.
Calla Lilies Aftercare
It is imperative to care for your transplanted Lilies during their fragile growing spurts if you want an abundance of blooms in Spring or Summer.
Most importantly, keep your plants well hydrated and do not let their soil dry to such an extent that they will not flower.
Then nourish your plant with a well-balanced fertilizer every 14 days until the flowering season is over.
Apply mulch mixed with manure or organic compost on an annual basis during Fall to prepare them for the winter season and remove any remaining flower stems once the flowers have faded.
Calla Lilies may also be propagated if you have small bulbs kept in sheltered pots during the winter season. Simply divide the small buds by cutting them into smaller parts with visible growth nodes.
Larger bulbs that are overwintered in your garden may be removed from their soil before they start to develop and split into smaller parts with a spade that cuts through their route system.
During the next flowering season, harvest your Lilies when they are fully open, and their stamens are visible by pulling them away from the plant and not cutting them as that extraction method might harm their tubers
The ideal time to collect them is during cooler periods like early in the morning or later in the evening.
On a side note – Calla Lilies are a great addition to your home as their vase life is up to 2 weeks long, which makes them even more worthy of all the time and effort you had to invest in taking care of them.
How to Overwinter Your Calla Lilies
Calla Lilies grown in warm climates ranging from zones 8 to 10 are resilient during the cold winter months and maybe left where they are.
However, if you reside in a colder growing zone, it would be prudent to safeguard your Lilies before frost damages your plants. Just dig up their bulbs to store them during the winter months, and plant them in Spring.
Likewise, if temperatures start to drop below the freezing point and your plant’s foliage begins to brown, prune the stems and foliage to approximately 1 to 2 inches in height. Then remove the bulbs to overwinter in a sheltered area.
Should you cultivate several Calla Lily varieties, label your retrieved bulbs that need to be replanted in the Spring.
Once they have been retrieved, wash them, and dry the tubers for approximately 2 to 3 days in a dry and warm area (65°F to 75°F).
Following which they need to be transferred to a container with peat moss that is slightly damp and stored in a dark area with a temperature ranging from 50-60°F.
There are several reasons why your beloved Calla Lilies are not blooming. However, it’s most likely due to excessive nitrogen in your garden soil or a lack of water, drainage, and sunlight.
Alternatively, their bulbs might be too immature, or they were not planted correctly.
So, it’s worth investigating the potential reasons for their failure to bloom if you want to enjoy a magnificent display of Calla Lilies this summer. Happy gardening!
Growing up with a mom who filled her home (inside and out) with all sorts of plants, Lisa got her start in gardening at a young age. Living now on her own with a home and yard full of plants (including an indoor greenhouse), she shares all the gardening tips she’s gained over the years.
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: https://thepracticalplanter.com/how-long-do-calla-lilies-bloom/
Happy Planting! Lisa