20 July 2020

How to grow calla lilly: history and useful tips

By Christopher Brickell

Calla lilly is an incredibly beautiful representative of the kingdom of Flora. In this article you will know how to grow calla lilly and all the useful information about it. It cannot be confused with any other plant: the strict elegant flowers in a wide variety of shades against a bright glossy green background. The poets and writers praised this natural miracle, and artists depicted the flower on their canvases.

History of calla lilly

calla lilly pink

So before we tell you how to grow calla lilly, we would like to share its history. In the language of flowers Calla Lily was considered a symbol of passion and attraction. Because of botanical confusion, the plant received many names: Zantedeschiya, Calla, White-wing. In fact, kalla is a common folk name for all members of the family, Zantedeschiya is the official name.

The plant received its botanical name after Giovanni Zantedeschi, an outstanding Italian scientist of the 19th century. Now calla lilly is spread almost all over the world. Of course, the thermophilic beautiful flower cannot take root outdoor areas of moderate climate, but you can always buy this elegant plant in a bouquet or a potted plant.

The flower is in great demand and people grow calla lilly for sale in greenhouses and conservatories. One of the species of calla is well acclimatized in Australia and has become an invader for clogging drainage canals and bay meadows. And in New Zealand, it is is even forbidden to grow  calla lilly or sell it.

wedding boquet

The plant is popular among professional floral artists to create bright decorative floral decorations.Beautiful innocent-white petal of calla perfectly complements any wedding celebration and elegantly emphasizes the beauty and femininity of the bride’s white dress.

Beauty is deceptive

However, sometimes it happens that behind the illusory defenselessness hides a cruel essence. The beauty of the southern beauty is deceptive, almost all its parts are poisonous. The main danger is high content of calcium oxalate and toxic alkaloids.

Calla lilly is not a deadly threat to humans, not a single fatal poisoning case has been officially registered. However, by coming into contact with the mucous membranes of the nose or mouth, the juice of the plant can cause itching, burning and light burns, and its ingress sometimes ends with irritation and inflammation of the stomach and intestines, as well as vomiting and diarrhea.

The African flower is most dangerous for small herbivores. Thus, a rabbit, who has inadvertently eaten lush herbs, poisons cause hypoesthesia and paralysis. However, the young leaves of the calla, after treatment, are quite suitable for food and are eaten by some African tribes for traditional dishes, while the large fleshy roots go to fatten the pigs.

calla lilly

In addition, berries, which also contain toxic substances, serve as food and do not cause the slightest harm to some local bird species. The indigenous people of the African continent are well acquainted with all the properties of this beautiful and cunning plant and know how to grow calla lilly and use it for medical purposes.

Local healers use the stinging flower to treat arthritis, radiculitis, wounds, boils and insect bites. According to scientific classification, the genus Zantedeschia belongs to the Araceae family and originates in Africa.


The plant’s historical range covers almost the entire continent, including Central and South Africa. Around the middle of the 17th century, the botanical gardeners of Callas were also active in Europe, England and North and South America. Nowadays, African beauties can be found almost anywhere in the world.


The peculiarity of the genus is the characteristic structure of the inflorescence. The flower itself is a small, usually yellow cob wrapped with a funnel-shaped covering leaf. The cover, which is often mistaken for the flower itself, is the main external feature of the Callas. The covering leaf develops as an extension of the stem and is initially green in colour, but as the flower develops it changes its colour depending on the species and variety of plant.

In the natural environment there are calla with white, yellow and pink shades of cover, but breeders’ efforts have developed many hybrid varieties of different colours.

Types and varieties of Zantedeschias

To this day, the genus includes no more than a dozen species, but each of them is used as an ornamental culture.

Zantedeschia aethiopica is the most famous and widespread representative of this genus. If they say in a flower shop: Ethiopian calla or just a calla, do not be surprised, most likely, we are talking about this species. It is a plant with large leaves that look like a stretched heart or a spearhead. The shoots are collected in small cluster bouquets and together form a fairly thick green carpet.

The width of the Zantedeskiya Aethiopica leaf can reach 10-25 cm, and the length – 15-45 cm. The flower is large: a white cover ( its size varies from 20 to 25 cm) is formed around a bright yellow cob of inflorescence length. The total height of the flower is about 60-100 cm. In its natural habitat, this culture prefers marshy and flooded areas, willingly occupying estuaries of streams, river banks and shallow lakes.

In comfortable living conditions, Zantedeschia aethiopica, unlike other species, is able to keep its vegetation cover intact and remains evergreen all year round. Zantedeschia aethiopica is particularly unpretentious and is well established in the open air in relatively cool places such as the British Isles and the northwest United States.

Zantedeschia aethiopicas

Varieties of Zantedeschia aethiopicas are particularly popular:

  • “Crowborough” is a tall (up to 1 m) plant with a yellow cobweb wrapped in a snow-white cover.
  • “Green Goddess” (Green Goddess) – a variety distinguished by the original color of the covering leaf: dark green lines in the cream field.

Zantedeschia albomaculata

Zantedeschia albomaculata is also sometimes called spotted calla. Most likely, the species got its name for the small light spots that cover the entire plate of the leaf, and are well visible on a bright green surface. There are two subspecies of white-stained Zantedeschia:

  • White-stained (var. albomaculata) – characterized by a delicate yellow-pink tint of the flower’s cover. Extended arrow-shaped leaves 20-50 cm long and 6-8 cm wide are covered with light pigment spots.
  • Large-fruited (var. macrocarpa) – distinguished by yellow coloration of the blanket leaf and small triangular-coped leaves 15-20 cm long and 5-7 cm wide. The surface of the leaf is dotted with distinctive light spots.

Zantedeschia odorata

Zantedeschia odorata resembles its common relative Zantedeschia aethiopica. The main difference that gave the name to the species is a special scent, a little like the scent of lily of the valley. Zantedeschia odorata can be found only in a few isolated places in South Africa.

Zantedeschia elliottiana

Zantedeschia elliottiana is a beautiful golden flower with a contradictory history. According to some sources, this species is not of natural origin, but of hybrid garden origin. The plant is named after 19th century American botanist Stephen Elliottiana. Golden Callas is a small bushy species that stands out with an ornate bright yellow leaf-cover 12-16 cm high.The leaves are shaped like green hearts slightly narrowed to the edge, 18-25 cm in diameter, with a surface entirely covered with small light spots.

Zantedeschia rehmannii

Zantedeschia rehmannii

Zantedeschia rehmannii (lat. Zantedeschia rehmannii), also known as pink callas, is a small bushy plant, usually 30-50 cm high. The shape of the leaf-cover is a narrowed and waist-tightened funnel, a bit like an elegant champagne glass. Leaves are thin wedge-shaped, 20-30 cm long and 3-4 cm wide. The colouring of the petals of this type may vary from tender pink to dark purple. The flower is named after the botanist Anton Reman.

Zantedeschia pentlandii

Zantedeschia pentlandii is named after Irish naturalist Joseph Barclay Pentland. The inflorescences of this species are usually dyed in delicate cream, ivory or yellow-green shades. Elongated wedge-shaped leaves are decorated with light dots. This rare species is on the verge of extinction and is under state protection in the Republic of South Africa. Flower growers have different views on the whims of the African beauty. Some sing about the incredible vitality of the flower, while others, on the contrary, are disappointed with the whims of the plant. Perhaps it’s all about diversity and number of varieties. There are about three hundred known hybrids, and their number is constantly growing. The most popular hybrids of Zantedeschia today are:

  • “Memories” is the unique, purple from below the coloring of the leaves. On the front side – rounded white spots.
  • “Picasso” (Picasso) – an incredibly beautiful variety with white at the edges and dark pink at the base of the blanket and motley leaves.
  • “Nashville” is the opposite colour of the cover: pink with an edge and creamy in the centre.

grow calla lilly

  • “Allure” – bright burgundy inflorescences.
  • “Red Alert” – this variety has incredibly bright scarlet inflorescences. Leaves are covered with contrasting light spots.
  • “Odessa” (Odessa) – expressive dark maroon inflorescences.

grow calla lilly

  • “Captain Romance” (Captain Romance) – the covering leaf at the base is painted in orange, with the edge – in bright pink.
  • “Captain Reno” – burgundy flowers.
  • “Captain Rosette” – delicate creamy pink inflorescences.

grow calla lilly

  • “Pink Mist” – original variety with a bright orange inflorescence-cob and a creamy blanket.
  • “Majestic Red is a variety that stands out for its flaming scarlet inflorescences.
  • “Flamingo” (Flamingo) – delicate orange-pink flowers.

grow calla lilly


How to grow calla lillu and care for it

You can grow calla lilly, a spectacular African flower at home. It is necessary to take into account the cyclicality of life of the calla lillies and create comfortable conditions for each stage of flower growth.


Ornamental species in favorable conditions most often reach their peak in the height in winter, and the plant blossoms. At this time, the calla is awake and requires special care. Comfortable temperature for growth is between 20-23°C. In summer, calla lillies hibernate smoothly, and the leaves die off. During rest, the flower does not need food and watering, natural soil humidity and temperature of 10-12 ° C is enough to preserve the root tuber.
Soil, feeding, watering, lighting.

Soil to grow calla lilly

At home you can grow calla lilly with a help of well ventilated mixture of humus substrate. Nutritious and good mixture is obtained by mixing three parts of compost (perennial) and one part of peat. It is also possible to use a ready-made mixture for growing aroids. An important requirement for soil is a free exchange of water and oxygen. The roots of the plant quickly deplete the soil, and it requires regular feeding.


If you plan to grow calla lilly, you have to know that it will be useful to pour the soil with mineral fertiliser dissolved in water approximately once a month. Nitrogen-containing mixtures are good during growth of leaves and shoots, and potassium-phosphorus mixture is good with the beginning of formation of inflorescences. In a pot, an effective drainage system should be provided before planting. It has to be supplemented by a high water collection tray. The drainage layer should be approx. 5 cm thick. Despite the fact that in the wild, calla lilly grows in damp, waterlogged soil and sometimes even in water, ornamental varieties do not require excessive watering.


Kalla is capable of effectively disposing of excess liquids. So in wet weather, on the tips of the leaves can magically appear droplets of so-called aroid dew. During the growth and flowering period, it is sufficient to add soft filtered water directly to the pallet, keeping the soil moist and preventing it from drying out. In addition, zantedeschija likes high, approximately 80-85% humidity. Regular spraying of shoots and leaves is necessary to keep the conditions comfortable for the plant. An exception is the rest period of the crop. With the beginning of the seasonal hibernation period, when flowers and shoots begin to wither, irrigation should be gradually reduced.


If you plan to grow calla lilly, you have to know this flower comes from sunny Africa, so it is very demanding on the level of indoor light, especially in winter, during a short daylight. Of course, it can tolerate a little shade, but the lack of sunshine is likely to affect the brightness of the flower’s colouring. It is therefore highly desirable to add additional artificial light when the leaf is forming (usually in winter).

Reproduction of calla lilly


The easiest way to get a new young flower is by dividing the root. The procedure should be performed during the rest period, when all the branches and flowers die off. The root should be cut in such a way that both the resulting parts contain live buds. It is best not to rush into cutting the root. Over time, the underground part of the plant itself will be divided into several tubers ready for planting. The resulting seedling should be shallowly buried in a separate pot with a pre-prepared substrate. You have to be patient and wait: It will take some time for the calla to start its life cycle.

Watering young calla can only begin after fresh green shoots and leaves have appeared. The new plant will bloom at least a year after transplanting.

Calla can multiply with seeds, but the technology is quite complex and is only applied in practice by professional plant breeders.

That’s how you grow calla lilly.