Good to Grow: Lilies bring calm in the chaos of our lives and gardens

As published in the Charleston Gazette.

For the first time, this year I planted calla lilies in my front garden, and I’m so glad I did — they are gorgeous.

I knew of calla lilies as cut flowers used in arrangements and bouquets. My little cousin even carried them in her wedding (she will always be my little cousin; I remember when she was born). A few stems of white blooms tied with a simple ribbon, they were the perfect flower to accent a beautiful bride.

For my first adventure with callas, I chose the deep red, almost purple color. White is the most popular color, but hybrids come in pink, yellow and purple. I love shades of red and pink, plus I thought they might blend well with the pots of coleus I have nearby.

Although my plants were 4 to 6 inches tall when I got them, you can start them from a bulb. This can even be done inside, early in the year, to have plants ready to set out after any risk of frost. This bulb will produce tubers or rhizomes and, if planted in a container, they can be dug up after frost, dried out and saved for the next year.

If planting from a bulb, plant them deeply — 3 to 4 inches in the ground. Remember, this full-grown plant can be up to 3 feet tall, so it needs a solid foundation to hold it upright. Whether planting from bulbs or small plants, if placing them in the ground, keep in mind the mature plant can grow to about a foot in diameter, so space them accordingly. I have mine in individual containers where they can spread.

The hybrid colors can take the sun, but a little afternoon shade will make them happy. As with most plants, they like well-drained soil.

Expect to see the first green popping up in 2 to 3 weeks and then blooms appearing as quickly as eight weeks. The leaves are often described as arrows and can be 12 inches or more in length.

Sometimes the leaves will be spotted. Mine have what look like silver threads running through them and provide a solid base of this structured and elegant plant.

Once the bloom appears, usually mid-summer, you will be rewarded with its beauty for several weeks.

Sometimes called a trumpet lily, the calla lily originated in South Africa, so it likes the warm climate and is only year-round in Zones 8 to 10 (West Virginia is mostly Zone 6).

Calla lilies are the flower recommended for your sixth wedding anniversary, but they are good anytime in my mind. A quick Pinterest search and you will find pages of callas in arrangements — and why not? They are associated with magnificence and beauty.

It has been fun learning about callas this year and watching them produce such beautiful flowers. This is a flower I will have in my garden for years. I love their elegance against the randomness of my beds. After all, don’t we all need a spot of calm and grace in the chaos of our lives and gardens?