Calla Lily Plant Profile

potted pink calla lilies

The Spruce / Krystal Slagle

These gracefully shaped flowers are sought after for special occasion bouquets and dramatic shapes in the garden. Since Katherine Hepburn said, "The calla lilies are in bloom again, such a strange flower, suitable for any occasion" in Stage Door, the flower became (and remained) very popular. Calla lily (Zantedeschia aethiopica) origins are mentioned in both Greek and Roman mythology with ties to both Hera, goddess of marriage and birth, and Venus, goddess of love and beauty.

These plants are native to the southern part of Africa, specifically Mozambique, South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. It also grows in other tropical climates, but where it is not native, it can become invasive, such as in Western Australia and some areas of the southern United States.

It's not clear when the calla lily was first brought to Europe, but an illustration of them in the Royal Garden of Paris dates back to 1664.

Calla lily blooms come in a range of colors, from white to pale pink to deep burgundy, with some recent hybrids in dramatic colors like bright orange and black. They are a long-lasting cut flower and are popular in floral arrangements, especially for weddings, and have a faintly sweet and pleasant fragrance. When growing calla lilies, be sure to plant them in the springtime. Because calla lilies are perennials, they will reach their full growth within one year.

Botanical Name Zantedeschia aethiopica
Common Name Arum lily
Plant Type Herbaceous perennial, rhizome
Mature Size 2 to 3 feet
Sun Exposure Indirect sunlight, partial shade
Soil Type Damp, rich
Soil pH Slightly acidic
Bloom Time Spring
Flower Color White to pink to maroon and other colors
Hardiness Zones 8 to 10
Native Areas Southern Africa, South Africa, Swaziland
pink calla lilies
The Spruce / Krystal Slagle

How to Grow Calla Lilies

Calla lilies are easy to grow outside is grown in zones 8 thru 10. They grow from a rhizome, not from a bulb like Asiatic or Oriental lilies, another key indicator that they are not a true lily. They die back in summer and regrow each year. To prevent overcrowding, divide the rhizomes every few years. If you live in colder zones 3 to 7, plant calla lilies as an annual. You can dig up and overwinter the rhizomes in these colder zones, but results tend to be inconsistent. Most gardeners in temperate areas buy new rhizomes each growing season.

Light

Being a tropical plant, calla lilies thrive in partial shade in areas with hot and humid summer weather. Some dappled sunlight or bright indirect light is fine, but direct sunlight is too strong for the tender petals.

Soil

A rich, moist, well-drained soil is best to keep calla lilies blooming. Calla lilies do well growing alongside ponds and can happily tolerate a moist or even wet location.

Water

Don't water too heavily, especially at initial planting. Once the rhizomes are established, water once weekly if needed. During drought periods, make sure to keep plants watered.

Temperature and Humidity

Calla lilies like a fairly warm environment. A summer day temperature of 80 degrees Fahrenheit is perfect for them. They also enjoy humidity and moisture, so humid summers keep the flowers blooming just fine. If temperatures go much below 50, the plants will tend to go dormant. If you want to dig up your rhizomes for overwintering, do so before temperatures go below freezing in your area in the fall.

How to Grow Indoors

The growing period for calla lilies indoors is much the same as outdoors. Pot them with a loose, well-draining and rich medium. They need constant moisture as pots will dry out sooner than ground plantings. Keep an eye on them for aphids which can be a problem. You can fertilize during the blooming season to stimulate more flowers: use a basic controlled-release fertilizer. When blooming begins to slow for the season (usually in autumn), water less frequently and allow foliage to die back, removing spent blooms. Let the plant dry out and have a period of rest for a few weeks of dormancy. Then in late winter (February), repot the rhizome in fresh soil, and begin watering to encourage fresh growth.

Repotting

When indoor plants become root bound, transfer them to a slightly larger pot. One way to determine if your calla lilies are ready for a bigger pot is if the roots look slightly crowded. Root-bound plants are not likely to thrive. Repotting calla lilies is actually pretty easy. All you have to do is carefully lift the calla lilies out of the smaller pot and gently place them into the larger one, all without damaging the delicate roots. Then, fill the pot with soil until you reach about an inch from the pot's rim. Calla lilies need to be kept moist for a few days after repotting, so make sure to keep an eye on the soil's moisture levels.

Propagation

Calla lilies can be propagated from rhizomes by dividing plants that have been growing outdoors. Over time, calla lilies grown outdoors will form large clumps that can be easily divided into smaller units. After several years these divisions will tend to lose vigor, so most people who want to grow them outdoors will invest in new divisions (available from catalogs) or nursery plants.