Optimizing Fertilization for Arum Lilies and Calla Lilies: A Detailed Guide

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Arum lilies (Zantedeschia aethiopica) and Calla lilies (Zantedeschia spp.) are celebrated for their elegant and striking blooms. Ensuring these plants receive the correct nutrients through proper fertilization is essential for their health and vibrant growth. This comprehensive guide delves into the best practices for fertilizing Arum and Calla lilies, incorporating expert advice from various sources.

Understanding Nutrient Requirements

Arum and Calla lilies have specific nutrient needs that change throughout their growth cycles. Providing the correct balance of nutrients is crucial for their development.

  • Nitrogen (N): Promotes vigorous leaf and stem growth. High nitrogen fertilizers should be applied during the active growth phase.
  • Phosphorus (P): Supports root development and flower production. Adequate phosphorus is necessary during the early stages of growth.
  • Potassium (K): Enhances overall plant health and resistance to diseases. High potassium fertilizers are beneficial after flowering.

Fertilization Schedule

Active Growth Phase

During the active growth phase, Arum and Calla lilies require regular feeding to support their rapid development.

  • High Nitrogen Fertilizer: Apply a high nitrogen fertilizer every two weeks to promote lush, green foliage and robust growth. According to several sources, nitrogen is crucial during the early stages of plant growth, but it should be reduced as the plant matures to prevent excessive foliage at the expense of blooms.
  • Slow-Release Fertilizer: Use a slow-release fertilizer with a balanced NPK ratio, such as 3:1:5, in spring and again in summer to provide a steady supply of nutrients over time. This approach ensures that the plants receive a consistent supply of nutrients without the risk of over-fertilization.

Flowering Phase

During the flowering phase, the nutrient requirements shift to support bloom development and overall plant health.

  • Withholding Nitrogen: Stop applying high nitrogen fertilizers during flowering to avoid excessive foliage growth at the expense of flowers. Instead, focus on supporting the bloom and overall plant health.
  • High Potassium Fertilizer: Apply a high potassium fertilizer once a week after flowering begins to support flower longevity and improve plant health. Potassium helps in enhancing flower color and durability.

Specific Fertilization Practices

Using Slow-Release Fertilizers

Slow-release fertilizers are particularly beneficial for lilies, providing a consistent supply of nutrients without the risk of over-fertilization. These fertilizers gradually release nutrients, ensuring that plants receive what they need over an extended period.

  • Application: Apply slow-release fertilizer in early spring as new growth begins. Repeat the application in mid-summer to sustain nutrient availability. This method supports steady growth and reduces the risk of nutrient burn.
  • NPK Ratio: Choose a fertilizer with a balanced NPK ratio, such as 3:1:5, to support all stages of growth. This ratio ensures that the plants receive adequate nitrogen for early growth, phosphorus for root and bloom development, and potassium for overall health and disease resistance.

Potential Issues and Solutions


Over-fertilizing can harm Arum and Calla lilies, leading to nutrient imbalances and reduced plant health.

  • Symptoms: Signs of over-fertilization include yellowing leaves, stunted growth, and salt buildup in the soil. It’s crucial to monitor plants regularly for these symptoms.
  • Prevention: Follow recommended application rates and avoid frequent use of high nitrogen fertilizers during the flowering phase. Using slow-release fertilizers can also help prevent over-fertilization by providing a controlled nutrient release.

Soil Testing

Regular soil testing helps determine nutrient levels and pH, ensuring that lilies receive the right balance of nutrients.

  • Testing Frequency: Conduct soil tests at least once a year, preferably in early spring before the growing season begins. Soil tests provide valuable insights into nutrient deficiencies or excesses.
  • Adjusting Fertilizer: Use soil test results to adjust fertilizer applications, addressing any nutrient deficiencies or imbalances. Tailoring fertilization based on soil test results can enhance plant health and bloom quality.

Expert Insights

  1. Fertilizer Application: High nitrogen fertilizers should be applied fortnightly during active growth but withheld during flowering. After flowering, switch to high potassium fertilizers weekly.
  2. Balanced Fertilizers: Slow-release fertilizers with an NPK ratio of 3:1:5 are ideal for Arum and Calla lilies, applied in spring and summer to support growth and flowering.
  3. Soil Preparation: Enrich the soil with well-decomposed compost to improve nutrient availability and moisture retention.
  4. Nutrient Management: Regularly monitor plant health and adjust fertilizer applications based on plant responses and soil test results.


Fertilizing Arum and Calla lilies requires a balanced approach, with attention to the specific nutrient needs at different stages of growth. By following these guidelines and incorporating insights from expert sources, you can ensure your lilies receive optimal nutrition for vibrant and healthy blooms. Proper fertilization, combined with regular soil testing and careful observation of plant health, will help you cultivate stunning Arum and Calla lilies in your garden.

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