By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist
The elegant calla lily is one of the most recognized flowers in cultivation. There are many colors of calla lily, but the white is one of the most used and part of wedding celebrations and funerals alike. The long lasting flowers are a florist’s dream and potted miniature plants decorate homes across the world. There are few calla flower problems, but a common occurrence is the appearance of green flowers. This may be due to cultivation problems, lighting or the age of the blooms.
Calla Lilies with Green Blooms
Unless you are growing the ‘Green Goddess’ variety of calla, you might be surprised by green calla lily flowers. Calla lilies are not true lilies. They are in the same family as the Jack-in-the-pulpit. The flowers are not what they seem either. The flower’s petals are called the spathe. The spathes are modified leaf structures, which fold around the spadix. The spadix bears the tiny true flowers.
Green spathes are often the result of low light situations. Calla flower problems can also arise from excess nitrogen. Flowering plants need balanced fertilizers or ones that are slightly higher in phosphorus. High levels of nitrogen can retard the formation of blooms and cause green calla lily flowers.
Green Calla Lily Flowers in Young Plants
It is completely normal to have green spathes on some varieties of young calla plants. The buds start out green or streaked with green and turn color as they open and mature. This natural occurrence is not considered among the calla flower problems, as it will fix itself in time.
Plant callas in bright sunlight where soils are well drained. Plants in dim light may have difficulty coloring and stay greenish.
Provide supplemental irrigation during flowering periods to promote healthy plants. Callas are originally from Africa and require hot temperatures to promote flowering. They bloom the most in temperatures from 75-80 F. (24-27 C.). In proper conditions, calla lilies will bloom all summer long, with flowers lasting for up to a month on the plant.
Why are Calla Flowers Turning Green?
The reversion of already colored calla flowers leads the gardener to wonder, “Why are calla flowers turning green?” The plant is perennial in many zones and enters a dormancy period when fall approaches. This causes the long-lived blooms to change color, often to green and then brown. Calla lilies with green blooms are a normal part of the mature plant’s life cycle.
The plant begins to focus energy on its leaves, which are gathering energy to fuel the next season’s bloom. When the flowers are limp and green, cut them off so the plant can use all its resources on fueling the rhizomes. Dig up the rhizomes in cold zones and store them in a vented bag nestled in peat or sphagnum moss. Replant the rhizomes in early spring when soils are workable.
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Top 10 Questions About Canna Lily Plants
Here at Gardening Know How we get lots of questions, and our goal is to provide answers to those inquiries to the best of our knowledge. The stunning canna lily is fairly low maintenance but even so can have a gardener scratching his or her head. The following information includes the 10 most commonly asked questions about canna lilies.
Cannas need it to be quite warm or they won’t bloom. Also, it takes quite a bit of energy to produce such an impressive blossom. My cannas took so long to bloom last year I had almost despaired. I had gorgeous foliage for months but not a hint of blossom. There were probably a couple of reasons for this. My cannas were in pots so may have needed more water or fertilizer than I provided. Cannas should be fed a fertilizer each month that is higher in phosphate, and they should be kept quite moist.
Although canna plants like the heat, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. If you live in a very warm region and they are in full sun, they may be getting sunscald. Try shading them or, if they are potted, move them out of the hot afternoon sun. Another reason for brown leaves may be a lack of irrigation but that would likely be accompanied by general wilting. Also, if your cannas are potted, they may have become root bound and unable to uptake enough nutrients and water which may make the edges of the leaves brown. Lastly, the leaves may be turning brown signaling the natural end of the growing season.
Absolutely! That said, however, be sure to provide them with a large enough container to sustain root growth. If the pot is too small, the plant won’t be able to take in enough nutrients or water and it will falter. Also, the larger the pot, the more bulbs can be planted which will make the container “pop” with color and texture. Be sure that container grown cannas have drainage holes in the bottom. Add a layer of pebbles or small rocks to the bottom of the pot to facilitate drainage as well. Fill the pots almost to the top and plant the canna tubers 4-5 inches (10-13 cm.) deep. Water them in well and continue to provide consistent irrigation. Fertilize each month with a food that is high in phosphate.
Cannas need a lot of food to produce those truly impressive blooms. They need a plant food that is high in phosphorus to encourage blooming. To give them a jump start, at planting, incorporate compost into the top 8 inches (20 cm.) of soil. Prior to setting the canna bulb, sprinkle 1/3 cup (40 g.) of a 12-4-8 fertilizer into the planting hole. Thereafter, fertilize each month with 2 lbs. of a 5-1-5 fertilizer per 100 square feet of garden. Work the fertilizer into the soil between the plants but avoid getting it on the leaves. In late summer, cease fertilizing, which will encourage tender new growth that can be damaged by upcoming cold temps.
Absolutely, and it’s fun and fascinating. Although many of the plants with stunning blooms are hybrids which won’t stay true to seed, pretty much anything you get from propagating canna lily seeds will be amazing. Once the canna is done blooming, it will produce a green pod that contains 1-3 seeds. When the pod is dry, the seeds will pop right out. Because the outer seed is so tough, it needs to be soaked in lukewarm water for a minimum of 24 hours or scarified with a nail file to scrape off the seed coat prior to planting. It can then be planted in your medium, watered, and covered in plastic wrap. Keep the seed at a constant temp of 70-75 F. (21-24 C.). Germination takes 1-2 weeks at best or even up to a month.
There are two camps as to whether to deadhead a canna lily. The point of deadheading is to remove the spent flower before it goes to seed. Going to seed takes up precious energy that could instead be used to produce additional blossoms. Some cannas produce big seed pods and others are sterile. If you know your plant is sterile, then there is no reason to remove spent blossoms. If the plant produces seed however, carefully pinch off the spent canna blooms. I say carefully because new buds form right up against the spent flowers and you’re liable to snip them off too. Not that that will hurt things, it will just take longer for the plant to flower again.
There are a number of factors that can result in a plant with yellowing leaves. The plant may be getting too much water or too little. It could just a signal of the end of the seasons growing cycle when yellowing leaves and drop off are a natural sign the growing season is coming to an end. If your cannas are in pots, they may have a nutrient deficiency or excess salt in the soil. The pH may be too high, resulting in leaf chlorosis use a pH meter to check. Lastly, a fungal disease called canna rust might be the culprit. This fungus causes orange, yellow and brown spots on the leaves and stems. If the infection is severe, the entire leaf will turn brown and yellow. Remove and destroy any infected leaves and severely infected plants.
Probably, yes. With gorgeous sword-like large leaves, it isn’t any wonder that canna lily pests like to sink their teeth into them. If the holes are at the base of the plant, it could be slugs or snails nibbling away. Otherwise, the most likely culprits would be caterpillars and their larvae. The larvae of Brazilian skippers, leaf rollers, can chew rows of holes through canna leaves, as can the corn earworm and woolly bear caterpillar. Not to worry, a few holes in the plant will not damage it. Luckily, these pests are large enough to see and remove by handpicking. Just pluck them from the leaves and drop them into a bucket of soapy water.
Wait until the first frost has killed the foliage and then lift the bulbs from the ground. It is likely that the bulbs multiplied over the summer so don’t be surprised if you are digging out more than you planted. Separate the canna bulbs and cut the foliage back to 2-3 inches (5-7.6 cm.). Gently rinse, don’t scrub, the dirt from the bulbs. Allow the canna bulbs to dry or cure by placing them in a dry area for a few days. Store the canna bulbs wrapped in newspaper or paper bags in a cool, dry place such as a garage, basement or closet.
Yes, you can divide and transplant canna lilies. In fact, the cannas will bloom more prolifically and healthily if they are divided every 3-5 years. Plan to divide the canna at the end of the summer to early fall when the plants are done blooming and the foliage begins to die back. Carefully dig up the plants and look for the joints where new rhizomes grow from older ones. Then either break them apart or cut them with a sharp knife. Make sure that each section has at least one eye and some roots. If you live in a warmer region, go ahead and replant the divided canna 6 inches (15 cm.) deep. If you live in cooler areas, USDA zone 7 or less, allow the rhizomes to cure or dry for a few days and then store them over the winter in newsprint or paper bags in a cool, dry area. Then when all danger of frost has passed for your region, plant the rhizomes in the garden or pot.
We all have questions now and then, whether long-time gardeners or those just starting out. So if you have a gardening question, get a gardening answer. We’re always here to help.
Q. Calla lilies
We live in western PA. We are wanting to grow our own black and golden colored lilies for a June 24, 2017 outdoor wedding. The wedding ceremony will be held at our home. Can we plan for these to be blooming for that wedding date, either by growing them in containers indoors or out? What is the best way to accomplish this successfully if at all? Is there a certain size and or age of a tuber that will be more likely to produce blooms? Any help with this would be greatly appreciated. Thank you, Lisa
I would recommend that if you are growing plants for a specific (and important) event like a wedding, that you have a backup plan.
If you are just now planting these and they are a new planting, it is unlikely that they will be able to bloom successfully for you. There is a chance, but the first year a plant is growing, you will often see fewer or even no blooms than when compared to an established plant.
A larger plant will be more likely to produce the flowers you need when you need them, but, again, if you are planting these new, larger plants are more likely to suffer from transplant shock and die.
Q. Drooping Calla Lilies
I received a potted calla lily as a gift and it was already drooping. The soil is not overly wet, just moist and I can't see any visible rotting happening within the leaves/ flowers. However the entire plant is extremely droopy, why is it like this and how can I help it spring back up??
I've read that calla can do well in bright indirect light as a houseplant so I wanted to correct my earlier answer. Most of the drooping in your plant is from the old flowers. So cut them down as far as possible, gently fertilize and it should rebloom sporadically in 3-4 weeks. Here is more info on drooping calla with lots of other related pages on calla care: https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/ornamental/bulbs/calla-lily/drooping-calla-lilies.htm
Calla like direct sunlight for 6+ hours/day. I would cut off the blooms that have turned green. Otherwise, the plant will direct energy into making seeds instead of more blooms. That's a lot of green leaf for the pot they are in. If your calla doesn't perk up soon, consider "potting up". That will give you the chance to examine the roots and rhizome (tuber). Fertilize gently until the plant recovers - use about half the recommended amount. They like more moisture than most plants so stick to your routine of keeping the soil moist.
Q. Calla Lily Strange Leaf
I bought a new calla lily and one of the leaves is correctly shaped, but has the colouring of the flower. Is this a leaf that didn't correctly become a leaf or a flower? I have one in yellow that has done this and one in pink. Thank You.
Calla lily is an interesting plant, biologically speaking. The "flowers" are really modified leaves that curl around the true, and inconspicuous, real flower. It sounds like a few leaves missed curling into the tubular flower. I don't know why that would occur but if it persists, you'll need to replace them because they are defective. Whether this is the result of herbicide damage or diseased tuber/rhizome, I don't know. Calla with solid-colored leaves like lots of moisture - almost boggy conditions. Those with speckled leaves like moist soil but not as wet as their cousins. I'd love to see a picture!