When to cut back calla lilies – 3 signs for healthier, longer-lasting blooms

Encourage new, healthier growth by knowing when to trim back calla lilies

Calla lilies
(Image credit: Alamy)

Calla lilies are elegant, trumpet-shaped flowers that can elevate any in or outdoor space, but when it comes to maintaining their beauty, knowing when to cut back calla lilies is essential.

As one of the best summer bulbs, the calla lily has periods of thriving without needing any extra assistance, but this won't last all year, and eventually, you'll have be more hands on.

If you're wondering why your lily is dying, the answer may be that it needs to be cut back to preserve its health. Our experts have provided their top tips for when to cut back your calla lilies.

When to cut back calla lilies

Calla lilies won't need to be cut back when they are still healthy looking, which is often a matter of seasonal timing, coloring and whether or not there is frost.

Jeremy Yamaguchi, the CEO of Lawn Love comments, 'Since calla lilies don’t produce as many flowers as most other plants do, you can’t be as generous with your pruning. Only cut back the flowers that have already withered, as new ones won’t grow in their place –– at least not for a long while.'

Keep an eye out for the signs you need to cut back your calla lilies as an essential part of lily care.

1. Cut back calla lilies after blooming

Calla lilies

(Image credit: Alamy)

Calla lilies' spent blooms can be cut back, but don't touch any remaining, healthy-looking greenery, which can be left to die back naturally.

'Typically, this happens in late summer or early fall. Wait until the blooms have faded and the plant's energy begins to shift from flowering to storing nutrients', suggests Itamar Ben Dor, founder of Green-Life blog.

Miguel Camperos, VP of Operations of SunVara says, 'Like many other plants, you want to prune dead or dying flowers during the growing season to encourage new, healthier growth. It’s best to remove these stems down at the base of the plant. Try to avoid pruning too much during its main flowering period so that new stems
have time to establish.'

2. Trim back calla lilies when foliage yellows

Calla lilies

(Image credit: Alamy)

Around the time when blooms have faded, the foliage will begin to turn yellow and die, which is another sign it's time to cut calla lilies back. This phase indicates that the lily is entering dormancy, where it will conserve its energy for the next growing season.

'Keep an eye out for yellowing or browning leaves', says Itamar Ben Dor. 'This is a natural part of the plant's growth cycle, and it's an indicator that the plant is slowing down for the season. When you notice a significant number of leaves changing color, it's a signal to start the cutting back process.'

Ryan Farley, CEO of LawnStarter advises, 'Never, ever cut green matter from calla lilies. No matter what time of the season it is, if it's green, leave it be. On the other hand, anything that is withered and brown can be cut at any time of the season. This includes leaves, spent blooms, and stems.'

Ryan Farley
Ryan Farley

Ryan Farley is the CEO of LawnStarter, a lawncare service based across locations in the USA.

3. Prune calla lilies before frost hits

Calla lilies

(Image credit: Alamy)

You should cut back your calla lily before the frost hits.

Bryan Clayton, CEO of GreenPal says, 'By doing this, you're prepping the plant for its dormant period during the colder months.

'Frost can damage the foliage and tubers. It's better to be proactive and trim them back a bit earlier than risk exposing them to the cold,' says Itamar Ben Dor, founder of Green-Life blog.

Bryan Clayton
Bryan Clayton

Bryan is the CEO at GreenPal, and has over two decades in the landscaping business. He is passionate about creating outdoor spaces that merge beauty with functionality.


What happens if you don't cut back calla lilies?

If you don't cut back calla lilies, your plant may actually benefit, even if your flower beds look untidy. 'Most people don't know this, but the real magic is in allowing the foliage to die back naturally. The process ensures that nutrients are sent back to the bulb for next year's growth', says Bryan Clayton, CEO of GreenPal.

Since calla lilies don't produce as many flowers as other plants do, you can be cautious with pruning, which is different from how you prune a peace lily.

You should only cut back the flowers that have already withered since new ones won't grow in their place for a long time or ever.

Remember that if your calla lilies are potted, you can move your calla lilies inside to keep them safe from frost.

Lola Houlton
News writer

Lola Houlton is a news writer for Homes & Gardens. She has been writing content for Future PLC for the past six years, in particular Homes & Gardens, Real Homes and GardeningEtc. She writes on a broad range of subjects, including practical household advice, recipe articles, and product reviews, working closely with experts in their fields to cover everything from heating to home organization through to house plants. Lola is a graduate, who completed her degree in Psychology at the University of Sussex. She has also spent some time working at the BBC.