Everything about Calla Lilies: How to Plant, Grow and Care for Calla Lilies

Whether you have the luxury of space in an outdoor garden or you have to plant indoors and in a container, calla lily will be a good plant of choice. Although it is not a true lily, it produces beautiful flowers that are available in a wide range of colors, depending on the specific variety that you will choose to grow. It starts out from rhizomes and will make a good choice for flower beds or border plants. Indoors, it will add a hint of color to any room.

Growing calla lily will not require too much effort from your end. Even if you are a beginner in gardening, there is no need to worry as the process is quite easy. To know more about this flower, including the varieties available and how to take care of the plant, keep on reading the rest of this post and learn from the insights that we will be sharing.

Background and History

Calla is a Greek word that means beautiful, which is obviously in reference to the physical appearance of this flower. Although there is a lily in its name, technically speaking, it does not belong to the group of lilies. It is from the Araceae family, a group of rhizomatous herbs with at least 1,800 species. The plant is a native to South Africa, as well as Malawi and Madagascar.

Calla lily has an interesting history based on mythology. According to stories, it all started with Hera, a Greek goddess and the wife of Zeus. One night, Zeus brought Hercules home, who is his son, but from another woman. He wanted Hercules to drink milk from Hera. Hera, however, did not like the idea. She pushed Hercules away, creating splatters of milk. The droplets flew across the sky, forming milky way. Also, whenever the droplets of milk landed, calla lily grew.

Calla Lily Flowers

The Flower Signifies Faithfulness, Holiness and Purity

Similar to many other flowers, the calla lily is symbolic. In most cases, the flower signifies faithfulness, holiness, and purity, especially if the color is white. It is also a sign of resurrection and rebirth, making it a good flower for someone who needs to be reminded of hope. Yellow calla lilies, meanwhile, means appreciation or gratitude. On the other hand, if the color is pink, it shows admiration.

Physical Characteristics of Calla Lily

Among others, one thing that most people would know about calla lily is its glistening white flower, which is a symbol of purity. In fact, it can easily rival the popularity of roses when it comes to flowers in wedding bouquets. While white is the most common color, there are also some that are green, purple, pink, yellow, and orange, among others. Its flower has a delicate funnel shape.

Meanwhile, its leaves are about 1.5 inches in length and rich green in color. They look like arrowheads with noticeable white speckles. Its leaves grow from the rhizome that is under the ground.

On average, the height of calla lily can reach one to three feet. The width of the plant, on the other hand, can be up to 1.5 feet.

Varieties of Calla Lily

Which type of calla lily is best to grow? The answer will depend on your personal preferences. To add, you should choose one on the basis of whether you will plant it indoors or outdoors. If you cannot decide on which variety will make a good choice, below are some of the options:

Zantedeschia aethiopica is the classic and most popular choice. It can grow to a height of two to three feet. The flower, meanwhile, can have a length of up to ten inches. It has shiny and dark green leaves. At the center of the white flower, you can see a yellow structure, technically known as a spadix.

White Calla Lily

This is one of the best varieties if you want a bright and colorful flower instead of the usual white blooms. It is a cut or pot flower with green foliage, providing the perfect contrast to the yellow bloom.

Acapulco Gold Calla Lily

It has a large flower that is creamy-white in color. The edges, on the other hand, are green, which is where it got its name. Its stems can reach 36 inches while the spread of the plant can be up to 24 inches.

Green Goddess Calla Lily

If you want a calla lily with an exotic appeal, this will be a good choice. Its blooms are purple while the stem is black. The leaves have ripples, black margins, and white flecks. The height is 23 to 29 inches and spread is 12 to 18 inches.

Edge of Night Calla Lily

It has bright yellow flowers that will provide a glowing effect in the garden. Its flowers are large and round, which will stand out from the green foliage. Its height can reach two feet and the width of the plant is one foot on average.

Sunshine Calla Lily

It is another variety that has a bold and distinct color. While the color of the inner flower is bright yellow, the edges are red. This makes it look as if it is a flaming fire, hence the name. A mature plant can grow up to 18 inches.

Flame Calla Lily

For something that is truly different, this variety is promising. The flower is deep purple with black spathes, making it truly unique, especially when you use it for floral decorations. The light green leaves, meanwhile, have red edges.

Black Star Calla Lily

As the name implies, the flower looks as if it is a dancing fire. The flowers are orange-yellow and the leaves are dark green with white spots. The small size of the plant makes it an ideal option for those who are into container gardening.

Fire Dancer Calla Lily

Another great choice for a cut flower, it has delicate pink blooms that are white on the inside. The light color of the flower stands out amidst the dark green foliage.

Captain Marrero Calla Lily

Uses and Applications

While calla lily is not popular as a medicinal plant, it has several uses, providing you with different reasons to plant it in the garden:

  • Ornamental Plant: Whether indoors or outdoors, calla lily will have an attractive color that is sure to turn heads. You can also use it in bouquets and floral arrangements, among others. While white is the most popular color, there are some that are more exotic, such as black and flaming orange.
  • Indoor Air Purifier: Even indoors, the air that you are breathing is not devoid of pollutants that can harm your health. With this, planting calla lily can prove to be a good idea since it can absorb carbon dioxide and benzene, which will be instrumental in improving indoor air quality.
  • Wound Treatment: This is one practice in South Africa, although no scientific studies can confirm its effectiveness. It uses the rhizome and not the bulb. They boil it in water and use it as a dressing to speed up the healing of wounds and to prevent infection.

It is important to take note that the flowers of calla lilies are not edible. In fact, they are poisonous, so stay away from using them for any culinary application. It has oxalic acid that can rigger vomiting and food poisoning.

How to Plant Calla Lilies

The easiest way to grow calla lily is in pots. You can start in containers and transplant once it reaches maturity. Alternatively, there are also compact varieties that will thrive well even in a container with a small space. Look for rhizomes or tubers. As much as possible, do not grow the plant from seeds as the flowering might take quite a long time. Look for a plastic pot and fill it with potting mix. See to it that there are holes, which will provide drainage for the water. The soil also needs to be loose and well-draining. Bury the tubers at least three to four inches deep. Place the pots in a sunny location and wait until it grows.

Planting Calla Lily

The Easiest Way to Grow Calla Lily is in Pots

If you intend to plant it in an outdoor garden, on the other hand, look for the right position. It should be in a sunny spot but with shade. You should also check the quality of the soil, making sure that it is well-draining. Till the ground using a shovel and add mulch or other organic amendments. This will not only improve the nutrients in the soil, but will also significantly improve its ability to retain moisture. Plant the tubers or the seedling. Do this in a time when there is no longer a danger of frost. There should be a space of at least 12 inches between each plant. Water the plants and provide tender loving care as you wait for the calla lily to reach maturity.

Common Pests and Diseases

The flowers of calla lilies may be beautiful, but there are instances wherein you might end up in frustration when the blooms do not grow as you envision. One of the problems can be because of the diseases that will inhibit growth and affect physical appearance. Some of the diseases in calla lily include Pythium rot, root rot, crown rot, gray mold, and bacterial soft rot. When it comes to pests, on the other hand, some that can bring infestation include aphids, thrips, nematodes, and beetles, among others.

How to Take Care of Calla Lilies

To ensure the healthy growth of the plant, below are some of the most important things that you have to remember:

  • Watering is important to sustain the growth of the plant and to provide the roots with the nourishment that is essential for its growth. Nonetheless, especially in the case of hybrid calla lilies, be careful to not overwater it. The soil should not be soggy. If water stays for a long period, this can encourage root rot and other diseases. Poke the soil. When it is dry and firm, this is one indication that it needs watering.
  • The plant will also need winter protection. They will most likely not survive the frost. If they are in containers, move them indoors. If they are in a garden bed, on the other hand, you have to dig the bulbs and transfer it in an indoor environment with an ideal temperature. To harvest the bulb, follow the directions in the next section.
  • If you have indoor calla lilies, it is necessary that you keep it out from direct sources of heat. Keep it away from appliances and AC vents, among others. Too much heat, even from the sun, can delay the growth and can also lead to scorching.
  • In most instances, there is no need to fertilize. If it is taking too long for the flower to grow, however, you might need to apply fertilizer. Do this sparingly. Too much fertilizer can only do more harm than good. This can encourage too much foliage growth without blooming.
  • If there are dead flowers or foliage, remove them immediately. The same thing is true if they are showing signs of diseases. Do not wait for the infection to spread to its healthier parts.
  • The plant also needs humidity. If you are living in a place that is too dry or hot, one good thing to do is to mist the flowers so that they will be humid. If you have calla lilies in pots, on the other hand, you can place it at the top of a tray with pebbles and water.

Harvesting Calla Lilies

When it comes to harvesting calla lily, we are talking about its bulb and not its flower. Harvesting the bulb is necessary when you need to move or transplant. Start by digging, making sure that you will not damage the roots. Excavate at a diameter of at least six inches away from the plant and at a depth of around eight inches. Use a soil fork to loosen the soil surrounding the roots so that it will be easier for you to pull it out. Lift the root from the soil and gently brush the roots to take off any remaining soil. Cut the top of the foliage if you intend to store the bulb.


To add a pop of color in the garden or even indoors, growing calla lily is a good idea. It does not take too much effort and time. The care requirements are minimal and the success rate is high. With the right location, soil, and watering, you will not have a hard time making sure that the plant grows in its best condition.

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