Calla lily

          Calla Lilies are tender (hardiness zone 8 plus) in Lincoln and Central Nebraska so you must dig them, or better yet, plant in a pot and then bring pot and all into a building in the fall. My garage is insulated so they, and many other plants, do well in there.  A light frost will kill the foliage so you can cut it off.  Plants in pots outside are easily damaged by wind so put them in a sheltered spot. The leaves of the Calla Lily are so large they can be torn easily. They will do well in a part shade area.

          The flowers are big and different looking as the colored part is a spadix which means the bloom is inside and long and narrow.  They are used in florist’s arrangements and in many bouquets.  The big white ones are often used for weddings. The cut flower will last for a number of days.

          The bulbs like warm soil in order to start.  If you need them early use a heat mat under small pots filled with potting mix. Cover the bulbs very lightly and they will be ready to set out in the ground after the soil temperature reaches 60 degrees F. (Consult your County Extension Office for a soil temperature report.) Since many gardeners have never planted them you may have to hunt this spring in the Garden Center or catalogs.  They also like moist soil and some of the big white ones will grow near your lily pond if their feet are wet.

PERUVIAN DAFFODIL (Hymenocallis narcissiflora)

          Another bulb that I see very little in Lincoln is the ‘Peruvian Daffodil’. They are tender in Nebraska (hardiness zone 8) but they are easy to plant and easy to dig as you only put them deep enough to cover the bulb with its neck sticking out. They are the fastest to bloom after planting of any bulb I have ever had. In less than a month after planting.

          Also called spider lily, or basket flower, they have white flowers on a long slender stalk (up to 2 feet). The leaves are large and long, all coming out from the base which may be 2 feet long, creating a vase like plant. Flowers are 5 to 6 inches across in a waxy white with showy yellow stamens.  They are very often found in florist’s arrangements as you can plant them over a period of time to have continuous blooms.  They also fit in potted arrangements as the leaves are handsome after the bloom is gone.  I dig mine after the first light frost, shake the soil loose, cut off the tops and store them in vermiculite in the basement.  Each fall I have one and one-half times as many bulbs as I planted in the spring.


          The best time to plant these is in the fall but you may find some potted ones at the Garden Center in the spring. I have them coming up all over in the shady spots.  I remove the red head of soft beads, strip them from the stalk and toss under a bush or behind (north side) of a plant or building. The red head is “Jack” himself. When he finishes his sermon, seeds form which are bright red and interestingly arranged in rows on the stalk.  The seeds like damp soil so throw them where you can keep them wet.

          An interesting thing about him/her is that if it has been a good year, and lots of food is made, next spring the plant will be a girl and produce the seeds that need that food. A one leaf plant will be a boy, and a two leaf plant a girl. If you are planning on planting the seeds next spring, put the cluster in a jar with some damp sphagnum moss and put in your refrigerator, not the freezer, for at least 60 days.

          There are some rare Japanese Jacks with fancy hoods. These bulbs may cost up to $30.00 each. Then there are other varieties that are much less expensive with huge, white balloon pulpits.  I also have one kind, whose name I don’t know, spreads rapidly. I even had Jack’s come up in the lawn last spring, so last fall I dug up two thirds of the patch.

          The Jack we usually grow in our garden is Arisaema triphyllum and may grow as high as three feet in a good year. The triphyllum in the name tells you that the leaf is in three parts.  The hood is a spathe (also known as the pulpit). Plants tend to die down during the hottest weather we have here in Nebraska. The Native Americans dug the corm and baked or dried it. They were earlier known as Indian turnips. Be careful as the roots, stems, and leaves contain calcium oxalate that will burn you mouth if you try to eat them raw.

          This summer have fun in your garden and try something new. Maybe you will want to try an unusual summer bulb.


For more information consult your County Extension Office or go on the internet to Scroll the top box down to extension and in the second box type in the name of the plant, tree, shrub, disease, insect, or bulb. A list of Extension Publications will be listed that you can print for free. Also available at this web site are publications on how to harvest, prepare, and store you garden produce. Another good website is Click on Gardening to access many fine articles and links to other good websites. 

Copyright April 9, 2005