Calla lilies are elegant, classic flowers and among the most versatile plants, you can grow. These low-maintenance plants thrive in the garden or in containers, can even grow in ponds and water features, and make stunning, long-lasting cut flowers.
While they are most commonly associated with their classic white flowers, they are also available in a wide range of colors, from delicate pinks to deep, dramatic blacks.
Calla Lily Facts and Information
What Is The Origin Of The Calla Lily?
The calla lily is native to Southern Africa.
How Is The Name Pronounced?
Calla lily is pronounced CAH-luh LI-lee
Where Did The Name Come From?
Calla lilies are named after the Greek “calla,” meaning “beauty.”
What Is The Plant Related To?
The flowers we know as calla lilies are, confusingly, part of the Zantedeschia family and not related to the flowering Calla palustris. The calla palustris genus once included Zantedeschia, so the name “calla” persists.
How Many Species Are There?
The Zantedeschia genus has nine frequently recognized species.
What Is The Botanical Name?
The botanical name of the most common calla lily variety is Zantedeschia aethiopica.
What Are The Common Names?
The common names of Zantedeschia aethiopica include calla lily and arum lily.
Growing The Calla Lily
Size and Growth
Calla lilies grow between 2′-3.5′ feet tall, depending on the cultivar and environment.
Flowering and Fragrance
Calla lilies produce stately, elegant blooms. They are not true flowers; the part of the plant we recognize as a flower is, in fact, a form of a specialized leaf. Most calla lilies have little to no fragrance.
Light and Temperature
Calla lilies grow from a rhizome underground. The rhizome is hardy in USDA zones 9 and higher and in cooler climates should be dug up in the fall and sheltered over the winter, then replanted in spring after all danger of frost has passed. They prefer bright but filtered sunlight.
Watering and Feeding
Calla lilies love moisture and, in fact, can grow in up to 12″ inches of water, making them a popular accent plant to border ponds and water features. They need soil that retains moisture and will benefit from regular fertilizing during the blooming season.
Related: The Wishbone Flower
Soil and Transplanting
Calla lilies need soil that retains moisture, so enrich your soil with organic matter if necessary. Keep the soil moist, particularly during the growing and blooming season. Calla lily rhizomes may need to be dug up in the fall to shelter over the winter, but you should avoid moving them when they are in the growth phase.
When the calla lily bloom is spent, you can trim off the dead flower. Allow the leaves to naturally yellow in the autumn as the rhizome concentrates nutrients for the winter.
Propagating Calla Lilies
A happy, thriving calla lily plant will naturally form new tubers after the blooming season has passed, which can go on to form new, independent plants.
While calla lilies can be grown from seed, seeds are unreliable in germination and take a long time to grow, and most people prefer to purchase dormant rhizomes and grow calla lilies in that way.
Caring For A Calla Lily
Calla lilies prefer very moist, slightly acidic soil. When planting the rhizome outdoors, plant it in a sunny location, 3″-4″ inches below the soil.
After all, danger of frost has passed, spaced 12″ inches apart. Calla lilies make excellent border plants and thrive near ponds and water features and will do well with a regular general-purpose fertilizer during the growing and blooming season.
Each calla lily plant will produce 1-2 blossoms a year, with some cultivars producing up to 6.
When a calla lily is done blooming for the season, it’s important to remove dead blossoms. Deadheading a calla lily not only helps the garden look nicer and more groomed but it encourages healthier, more robust rhizome development that will help it survive the winter.
If you harvest your calla lilies to use as cut flowers, then there is no need to deadhead them. Properly cared for, calla lilies can last for 2-3 weeks as cut flowers and look fantastic in a wide range of flower arrangements.
Pests, Diseases, Or Problems The Calla Lily May Encounter
While calla lilies are fairly resilient plants, they are susceptible to some problems.
Because calla lilies love moisture, they are susceptible to various fungus infections that go with moist conditions. Because they are a rhizome, they are less resilient to root rot or soft rot than other plants. To prevent these conditions, plant the rhizomes with good spacing for air circulation near the foliage, and avoid injuring the rhizomes when planting or handling them. Avoid getting the leaves wet when you water.
Calla lilies are susceptible to spotted wilt and dasheen mosaic, two viruses that are spread through insect activity. These viruses are highly contagious and easily spread through handling, so infected plants need to be removed immediately and completely disposed of (not mulched or composted).
To prevent viruses, water carefully and remove dead foliage or crowding weeds and soil debris from near the calla lily to reduce insect and fungus activity. If necessary, use a natural pesticide to control aphids and thrips, which carry the viruses.
Tips, Tricks, And Suggestions About The Calla Lily
Calla lilies are wonderful in the garden but can also be easily cultivated in containers, either inside or outside. Here are some tips:
Growing a calla lily in a container indoors gives you a handsome decorative plant that outlasts even the cut flowers. For a powerful statement, choose a tall, slender pot to accentuate the shape of the plant.
Best Ways To Use The Calla Lily In Design
The elegance of a calla lily, along with its easy care and long-lasting blooms, give these flowers exceptional versatility in design. They are particularly prized near water features or along ponds, grouped in borders and edgings, and of course as cut flowers in the home. Their stately shape and classic colors compliment almost any design choice.
Most of the time, you will be buying a calla lily rhizome to plant at home. If possible, inspect the rhizome before buying it. Look for any injuries or scarring, and feel it for any soft or weak spots. A healthy rhizome should be firm to the touch and have multiple, paler, tender “eyes” where the growing plant will emerge.
What Are The Most Popular Calla Lily Varieties?
Some of the most popular varieties of the calla lily are:
California Ice Dancer
This calla lily is the classic white flower, with a creamy color on 18″-inch stalks perfect for cutting. It also has darker foliage designed to better showcase the flowers.
Edge of Night
This calla lily has delicately white-spotted foliage and blooms a striking deep red-black.
This calla lily also has lightly speckled foliage and blooms, a deep gold edged in red, with sunset hues.
California Pink Melody
This calla lily has a white throat edged in delicate shades of pink.
Calla lilies are one of the few flowers that are as welcome at weddings as they are at funerals. Their simplicity and elegance are simply timeless, and these easy-to-grow plants can thrive in almost any sunny location, indoors or out, for years of enjoyment.