Complete Calla Lily Guide

26 Sep 2021

The calla lily is a stunning, elegant, and beautiful houseplant with delicate flowers on top of its stalk. It is often sought after for special occasions or makes for a great addition to one’s beautiful home garden. It is commonly used at weddings too.

With the right care, they make the perfect bouquet and can even be placed in a vase for your dining room table.

Main Features

The calla lily also goes by another name too; the arum lily and its botanical name is zantedeschia aethiopica. Just like the majesty palm and parlor palm, the calla lily belongs to the Araceae family. The houseplant is native to warm and sunny South Africa and Swaziland.

This stunning plant grows directly from a rhizome or bulb without any stems in between. The leaves then open up just above the soil and rise a couple of inches into the air as it unfurls. The trumpet-shaped flowers bloom in a variety of colors and grow a few inches above the lush green foliage.


There are different types of calla lilies but the most popular are listed below:

  • Zantedeschia ‘Edge of Night’; these flowers are a dark purple or black, almost like the black velvet color.
  • Zantedeschia ‘Red Alert’; this variation blooms flowers in a bright orange or red color.
  • Zantedeschia ‘Picasso’; these blossoms are a delicate white with a purple throat.
  • Zantedeschia ‘ Sunshine’; the flowers are a cheerful and bright yellow color.

Let’s take a look at the main characteristics of a typical calla lily.

How Tall Do They Grow?

The zantedeschia aethiopica grows up to a mature height of 2 to 3 feet (61 – 91cm), and it can grow up to 1 to 2 feet (30.5 – 61cm) wide.

How Fast Do They Grow?

The arum lily is known to be a moderate and fast-growing houseplant. It is able to grow up to 2 feet (61cm) in one growing season.

How Long Do They Live?

The calla lily is regarded as an annual perennial, which means it usually only survives for one growing season. It can live year-round in the optimal climate but will die back for about 2 months.

Your calla lily can live for up to 10 years if they are protected and kept warm during the wintertime or are overwintered. You can see exactly how to store them during the cooler seasons under ‘How to Store Them over Winter’.

Are They Poisonous to Cats, Dogs and Humans?

The zantedeschia aethiopica is toxic for both you and your pets. Let’s discuss what symptoms to watch out for.

Cats and Dogs

If your little friend has ingested any part of this plant then it may experience some mouth irritation, trouble swallowing, stomach pains, and vomiting. The sap may also make your cat or dog’s eyes watery and red.

Place your plant out of your pet’s reach, and always contact your vet if you’re concerned.


If you come into contact with the sap, your eyes may begin to swell and water, and your skin may itch. If you ingest any part of the plant then you may experience nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Your throat and mouth may also swell and burn.

Please seek professional medical advice if any symptoms persist.

Calla lily - size, lifespan, toxicity, growth speed (infographics)

Calla Lily Care

If you want to see those elegant flowers then there are a few things that you need to keep in mind but don’t worry, we’re here to let you know exactly how to care for this houseplant.

How Often to Water

The zantedeschia aethiopica requires a decent amount of water to maintain a moist potting mix at all times. Ideally, it should be watered once a week if you live in a warm region.

The number of times you water your houseplant will depend greatly on whether or not you live in a warm area. You should just check that the soil doesn’t dry out too much during the summertime.

You will have to adjust your watering schedule according to the different seasons.


The soil needs to be well-draining to prevent the lily from developing root rot or becoming water-logged.

You can improve your potting mixture’s drainage by adding in some loam, vermiculite, perlite, or coco coir. Excellent drainage is imperative for a happy and healthy lily.

The container your zantedeschia aethiopica is housed in should always have at least one large drainage hole to allow any excess water to drip out.

Additionally, you should always empty the bottom saucer because the arum lily doesn’t enjoy sitting in a soggy and wet environment, and the roots also need to breathe.


The arum lily should be repotted every 1 to 2 years or when it has become root-bound. It should only be repotted during the springtime in a pot that is at least 2 to 3 inches (5 – 7.6cm) deeper and wider than the original pot.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to repot your houseplant:

  1. Carefully lift the plant out of its pot and place it in the center of a larger container. Be sure not to damage the roots too much.
  2. Fill the new pot with some moist, well-draining soil mixture up to 1 inch (2.5cm) below the rim.
  3. Water it well to keep the soil moist at all times, and then care for it as you normally would a mature zantedeschia aethiopica.

How to Prune

Trimming and pruning are only necessary to maintain the zantedeschia aethiopica’s health, and the best part is that when you remove part of the plant it won’t die. Once you’ve pruned the flowers, you can expect to see them grow again in the next growing season, in this case, spring.

Use a sterilized pair of pruners or scissors to cut the stem down to the soil line to harvest the flowers.  These can make for an elegant centerpiece in your home.

If you’ve noticed that the flower is beginning to wilt, then all you have to do is remove them with your fingertips or cut them off with a pair of scissors.

Remember that when handling the arum lily you should have a pair of gardening gloves handy to avoid coming into contact with its sap.

How to Store Them over Winter

It’s possible to avoid your houseplant from succumbing to overwintering.

Follow the steps below:

  1. Remove the rhizome from its pot by sliding it out of its side, and then brush off the extra soil and dirt.
  2. Use a clean blade to slice off the foliage from the top of the rhizomes. Try to leave about 2 to 3 inches (5 – 7.6cm) of dead leaves.
  3. You can dry out the rhizome in a warm area like your basement or cupboards, for about 4 to 7 days.
  4. Place the rhizome in a paper bag or wrap them in some newspaper, and keep it in a cool, dry place.

Environment Requirements

How Much Sun Do They Need?

It prospers in the warm, bright sunlight. If your home is warm and humid then it’s best to place the houseplant in partial shade, however, if you are in a slightly cooler climate then your calla lily can withstand direct, full sunlight.

The calla lily’s home should always be adjusted during the winter as it’ll require more sunshine to maintain an optimum temperature and environment.


This houseplant requires a decent amount of water which makes it susceptible to fungal diseases such as root rot. To prevent any damage to your plant’s health make sure that the potting mixture is well-draining.

The soil’s pH level should be between 6.0 to 6.5 for a happy and healthy arum lily.

A nutrient-rich and moist potting soil is the best for your plant. It’ll be happy in an aerated and light soil mixture. Aeration is imperative for this plant as its roots need to receive air.

The soil needs to be moist but it should never be overwatered or waterlogged. There are a few potting mixture recipes you should give a try. Check them out below.

  • 1 part loam, 1 part potting soil, and 1 part perlite
  • 1 part compost, and 1 part potting mixture
  • 1 part peat moss, 1 part compost, and 1 part potting soil

The addition of compost will be a great way to make sure that the zantedeschia aethiopica is getting all the nutrients it needs.


It’s important to feed your plant straight after it has been planted, and then continue to fertilize it once a month during the spring and summertime.

Ideally, you should use a well-balanced fertilizer either 10-10-10 or 5-10-10. Unlike with the citronella plant, you should avoid using any nitrogen-heavy fertilizers because this will reduce the chances of your plant blooming.

Top Tip: To encourage healthy blooms try feeding your arum lily with a fertilizer containing a good amount of phosphorus.

Pot Size and Type

The arum lily should be grown in a pot that is at least 10 to 12 inches (25.4 – 30.5cm) wide and is deep enough to provide the roots with some space so that they don’t grow out through the drainage hole.

It prefers to be in a moist environment. This means you should avoid planting it in a clay pot as it’ll absorb too much water causing the soil to become dry too quickly.

Additionally, you should ensure that the container has either one big drainage hole or 5 to 6 smaller holes at the bottom of the pot.


The zantedeschia aethiopica loves a warm environment of 60 and 80°F (15.5 – 26.6°C). The houseplant will enter into a period of dormancy when the temperature drops below 50°F (10°C).

Additionally, you should note that the calla lily is sensitive to cool temperatures, so during the winter, it should be kept in the sunlight to ensure it doesn’t wither away.


The calla lily, much like the dumb cane, thoroughly enjoys a good amount of humidity and moisture. Dry air and a lack of moisture can lead to the demise of your houseplant.

To increase humidity levels around the plant, you can try one of these tips below:

  • Place the lily around other houseplants, or find a humid area such as a bathroom for your plant.
  • Fill a shallow container with a few pebbles and tepid water, then place the container on top of these pebbles. When the water is evaporated this creates a humid environment surrounding the plant.

Can They Be Planted Outside?

The arum lily thrives in USDA hardiness zones of 8 through 10. Ideally, the zantedeschia aethiopica should be kept inside to avoid the harsh sun rays and risk of withering away in a dry environment. The most important thing to keep in mind is that the calla lily doesn’t suffer in cold temperatures during the winter.

Calla lily - care, water, light, soil, pot, temperature, fertilizer (infographics)

When and How Long Do They Bloom?

This houseplant blooms beautiful trumpet-shaped flowers in a variety of colors, such as white, pale pink, and deep burgundy. The most common type of flower is white with a yellow spadix. There are even some hybrids that have been cultivated to flower in a bright orange or dark black color.

Typically, it flowers early-to-mid summer and blooms throughout the season until around early autumn.

Here are a few tips to encourage blooming; use a fertilizer low in nitrogen but high in phosphorus, make sure the roots receive plenty of water, and position your plant in full or partial sunlight.

How to Grow

A zantedeschia aethiopica can be grown and cultivated through bulb planting, propagation from division, and it can be planted as a seed. Let’s delve into how you can multiply your arum lily collection.

Bulb Planting

Once the bulb has been planted properly, it doesn’t need much attention. The lily’s bulb should be replanted in well-draining, loose soil, and placed in partial shade during the springtime.

Follow this guide to properly plant your bulb:

  1. Prepare a pot with some nutrient-rich, moist, and well-draining potting mixture. You can even add in some mulch to maintain a consistent temperature.
  2. The bulbs should be planted about 4 inches (10cm) deep in the soil with the growing tip/foliage facing up.
  3. Cover the bulbs with extra soil if needed and give it a deep watering until the water drips out the pot’s drainage hole.
  4. Find a bright and humid area where the plant can thrive and grow.
  5. You’ll notice new growth in about 60 or 90 days.

Propagation from Division

Arum lilies grow in clumps that you can divide to propagate the plant. It’s best to divide the rhizome during the end of its growing season after it has blossomed.

  1. Take the zantedeschia aethiopica out of its pot by loosening the soil and sliding it out. You can make the soil loose by sliding a knife along the pot’s perimeter.
  2. Brush off any excess soil from the rhizome, and place it in a shady area for around 5 to 7 days.
  3. Once the rhizome has dried out, you should slice in between the clumps.
  4. Gently pull apart and untangle the roots, then you can plant the division about 3 inches (7.6cm) deep in the compost-rich soil.
  5. Water the houseplant heavily and place it in full sunshine.

How to Grow It from Seeds

When you grow it from a seed, it will most likely take around 3 years before it blooms, however, it is relatively simple to grow it by following our guide below.

  1. You will first need to pre-grow the seeds by placing them in between damp paper towels.
  2. Place the seeds in a cool dark area, and check on them in a few day’s time. You should discard any seeds that have shown no signs of growth.
  3. Take out some new containers and fill them with some moist, well-draining pointing soil.
  4. Plant 2 seeds in each pot and sprinkle a thin layer of soil on top of them.
  5. Keep the soil evenly moist and wait for signs of new growth.
  6. You can remove the weaker seedling in about 2 or 3 weeks so that there’s only one seedling per pot.
  7. Care for them the same way you would a mature houseplant by placing them in some bright sunlight.

How to Revive

If you’ve just started growing and caring for a zantedeschia aethiopica then you may run into some problems, however, with some changes in your care routine your plant can be revived back to health.

What’s Causing the Yellowing of Leaves, Wilting, or Stunted Growth?

This lily is a water-loving houseplant, so a lack of water will cause its leaves to yellow, wilt or it’ll stop growing.

Underwatering will also prevent your plant from blooming. Simply, water your plant more frequently and make sure that the soil is kept moist. A consistent watering schedule will keep the foliage a healthy, lush green.

Your houseplant’s growth may be stunted if it’s not receiving an adequate amount of sunlight. Your lily needs to be positioned by a windowsill where it can soak in plenty of sunshine.

Why Are the Stems and Flowers Drooping?

When your houseplant’s stem or flower is becoming limp and drooping then you may be either over- or underwatering it. All you need to do is tweak your watering schedule.

If it’s being overwatered, your plant may suffer from fungal infections such as root rot or anthracnose, also called leaf blight. This is when the leaves develop brown or black water-soaked spots on them.

If your calla lily has a fungal infection then it needs to be uprooted, and any mushy or black roots must be removed. You can then apply a fungicide to the roots and repot it in a clean container with well-draining, fresh soil.

If the soil is too dry then water it immediately until it flows through the drainage hole. The soil should always be moist, so check that it’s not drying out too much during the summertime.

Heavy nitrogen fertilizer may be another reason that your plant is looking a little droopy or limp. When you feed your plant, check that the fertilizer doesn’t have a high concentration of nitrogen.

Why Are the Leaves Edges Brown?

The edges of the leaves may be turning brown because the fertilizer has too much nitrogen in it. As we previously mentioned, make sure that you feed your plant with a well-balanced fertilizer that isn’t too nitrogen-heavy.

Concluding Thoughts

It may seem to some beginners that the calla lily can be temperamental or tricky to care for, however, once all the care requirements have been nailed down, you’ll be thoroughly rewarded with beautiful blooms.

One last thing to remember is that the calla lily flourishes in a moist, humid, and warm environment. So, if you replicate the environmental needs then everything should go according to plan, and your houseplant will bloom year-round.

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