Classy and always dressed to impress, calla lilies (Zantedeschia aethiopica) are popular for a reason. They are easy to grow, needing only a healthy rhizome to start. They also require moderate attention and available in numerous colors. Thus, you can find calla lilies in the gardens and homes of both novice and experienced gardeners despite not being a true lily. So, it’s often alarming when these attractive plants start wilting or drooping, especially when it's their tall and bright blooms.
In this article, we’ll look at the reasons why calla lilies end up drooping. We’ll also consider whether these problems can still be addressed or if it’s already too late.
Why are My Calla Lilies Drooping?
Saving smaller plants is not that different from saving a large tree. There are several reasons why your calla lilies may be drooping, and, thankfully, the three most common reasons are easy to address. Let’s start with these three:
Like most plants, drooping foliage or blooms are indicative of moisture issues. In this case, your calla lily may not be getting enough water.
Check your calla lily’s soil. If the soil is dry down to two inches deep, then your drooping calla may simply need a proper watering for it to perk up again.
Now, to thoroughly address underwatering issues, you need to determine its possible causes. Is your local climate hot with low humidity where moist soil would quickly dry up? If so, you may need to water your callas more often to keep it properly hydrated. Consider growing them under partial shade, especially when the sun is at its highest.
Alternatively, if your calla is potted, consider inspecting its soil to see if it has good water retention or if it drains too quickly. If the soil is too sandy, make sure to check our article on improving sandy garden soil.
Natural Growth Cycles
Calla lilies typically go through a dormant period after they bloom come fall or winter. If your experiencing wilting and drying leaves during these seasons, inspect your calla’s bulb or rhizome. If it’s not plagued by root rot (more of this later), then it may simply be going into dormancy. During this stage, keep its soil dry and cut back the spent leaves and blooms. Come spring, those healthy rhizomes will once again sprout.
If your calla lily does not exhibit signs of dormancy yet its blooms are drooping, then you might simply be lucky! Why? Your calla is blooming flowers so large and healthy that its stems can no longer support their weight! In this case, you can either let them naturally hang low, or attach them to a support structure.
Apart from changing seasons, sudden temperature changes can also contribute to drooping calla lilies. In most cases, this involves moving a potted plant indoors or outdoors. The change in ambient temperature may stress your calla and cause it to droop or wilt. In this case, avoid returning your calla to its original location, which may stress it even more. The plant only needs to get used to its new environment, and it should eventually bounce back.
Hopefully, your callas are drooping due to the above reasons. However, if you find that the following reasons cause the drooping, then you may have to throw out your calla and start again.
Again, like most other plants, watering your callas too often or too much can eventually drown it. Drooping foliage can be a sign of an overwatered plant. If your callas are sitting on constantly soaked or soggy soil, the plant will suffocate, and root rot can set in.
Check your calla’s bulb or its stems close to the ground. If they have become soft and mushy, root rot has started and sadly, it'll only be a matter of time until the rest of the plant turns to mush. In this case, it would be best to discard the plant and its soil and just start anew. Yes, the soil too since reusing soil that has had root rot can spread the disease to the other plants that you end up planting in it.
If addressing watering issues, don’t perk up your calla lilies, then you may be facing a pest or fungal problem. Check your calla’s leaves and around its base. Do you see any unusual spots, streaks, or any signs of mold or fungal growth?
If you see spots or streaks, you may have a pest or insect problem. These pests, commonly thrips or aphids, can infect your precious calla lilies with viruses that cause white or yellow spots and streaks. If you see signs of any pests, check out our article for helpful tips on ridding your garden of harmful pests. If your callas are infected, you’ll have to discard them and their soil as well.
Bacterial and Fungal growth
On the other hand, fungi and some bacteria can also cause plant rot, which in turn affects your calla’s foliage and blooms. Examples of these fungal invaders are gray mold, powdery mildew, and blight. Depending on the pathogen, your plant may either suffer from soft rot, root rot, pythium rot, or crown rot. However, all rot cases are most common in cases where the soil is warm and often soaked.
Soft rot, for example, is a disease brought on by bacteria that enters the plant through an injured section. Soft rot typically leads to a mushy rhizome. Another condition that targets the roots is Pythium rot. This pathogen slowly eats away at your plant’s roots until it withers and eventually dies.
Similar to pest issues, fungal diseases can also lead to yellowing leaves, which is indicative of crown rot. When you spot any of these signs on your calla lily, act quickly! Discard the infected calla and its soil. If it was growing close to any other plant, thoroughly check if the infection has spread. You might still be able to save neighboring plants if the problems are addressed early.
We can only hope that your drooping calla lilies are simply signs of a healthy and thriving plant. If not, then at least you’re now equipped to address any wilting or drooping caused by underwatering, or sudden temperature changes. If your calla has gone dormant, then you only need to keep it dry and tidy until it wakes back up in spring!
Sadly, if the last three reasons cause the drooping foliage, then you may have to start again. Don’t be too sad though. Remember that calla lilies can quickly grow back from even a thumb-sized rhizome!
UC Pest Management Guidelines: Calla (Zantedeschia spp.)