Canna and calla lilies are stunning plants best known for their large foliage and bright colors. Both are rhizomatous perennials that have a tropical appearance and grow in similar locations. In fact, given their similar names and appearance, the two are often mistaken for one another. However, they are very different when we look closer at them. So join us as we discover everything you need to know about canna lily vs calla lily!
Comparing Calla Lily vs Canna Lily
Calla lilies (Zantedeschia aethiopica) and canna lilies (genus Canna) both grow from rhizomes and thrive in moist soil. They are both considered invasive species in some parts of the world, yet both produce stunning summer blooms. Although they look incredibly similar at first glance, there are many differences between them. Check out the chart below to learn a few of the key differences.
|Calla Lily||Canna Lily|
|Origin||South Africa||North and South America|
|Habitat||Swamps, wetlands, coastal prairies||Swamps, stream banks|
|Size||3-foot tall, 2-foot spread||8-foot tall, 6-foot spread|
|Leaf Shape||Arrow-shaped||Elongated oval / paddle-shaped|
|Leaf Color||Green||Green, purple, bronze|
|Flower Appearance||White (main color), yellow, pink||Red, orange, yellow, or variations thereof|
|Flower Color||Small and surrounded by a modified leaf||Large spikes on the top of the plant|
|Bloom||Early summer||Mid to late summer|
The 6 Key Differences Between Canna Lilies and Calla Lilies
The key differences between Canna Lilies and Calla Lilies are their origin, species, size, leaves, flowers, and bloom.
Canna Lily vs Calla Lily: Origin
Although they often appear similar, Canna and calla lilies have very different origins. Calla lilies are native to South Africa, growing best in and around swamps, wetlands, and coastal prairies. Canna lilies are native to North and South America and grow in tropical and semi-tropical regions. The canna lily’s preferred habitats are swamps, ponds, and stream banks. Both plants grow from rhizomes and can survive in water up to 12 inches deep. Both are also widespread across the world; in some places, they are considered invasive species.
Canna Lily vs Calla Lily: Species
As well as hailing from different parts of the world, canna lilies and calla lilies are not even related, despite sharing the name “lily.” Canna lilies make up the genus Canna (in the Cannaceae family), of which there are approximately 19 species. Calla lilies are Zantedeschia aethiopica species, one of eight plants in the Zantedeschia genus (Araceae family). Calla lilies are often confused with the species Calla palustris, also known as wild calla.
Canna Lily vs Calla Lily: Size
The biggest difference between canna lilies and calla lilies is their size. Calla lilies grow to no more than 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide, but canna lilies grow much bigger. Canna lilies typically reach approximately 8 feet high and can spread as big as 6 feet wide.
Canna Lily vs Calla Lily: Leaves
One of the easiest ways to tell these two stunning plants apart is to look at the shape and color of their leaves. Calla lilies have arrow-shaped leaves, which are always green. However, the leaves of canna lilies are elongated ovals – often described as being paddle-shaped. Canna lily leaves can be dark, light green, purple, or even bronze colored. The purple or bronze color doesn’t always cover the entire leaf, though – sometimes, it can be just around the outer edge or in the central area.
Canna Lily vs Calla Lily: Flowers
Another major difference between canna and calla lilies is the appearance of their flowers. White is the main color of calla lily flowers, although other colors can be cream or muted yellow and pink. The flowers have small yellow centers and are surrounded by a tubular-shaped modified leaf known as a spathe.
If calla lilies are known for their pale and pretty colors, then canna lilies are best known for their bright and bold appearance. The blooms of canna lilies can be any shade of red, orange, or yellow. Canna lily flowers appear as large spikes on top of the tall stalks of the plant.
Canna Lily vs Calla Lily: Bloom
Calla lilies and canna lilies also bloom at slightly different times. Calla lilies bloom earlier than canna lilies and come into flower in the last few weeks of spring and early summer, usually lasting for 6 to 12 weeks. Canna lilies bloom mid to late summer – usually from June to October. Additionally, each canna lily flower remains in bloom for a few days before the stem quickly produces a new flower.
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FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Are canna and calla lilies true lilies?
No, although they both share the common name “lily”, they are not actually truly lilies as they are not members of the lily family (Liliaceae).
Are canna and calla lilies poisonous?
Calla lilies are poisonous if they are ingested as they contain calcium oxalate crystals which do not break down in the body. Symptoms of include swelling and a burning sensation on the throat, lips, and tongue, as well as stomach pain. However, it is rarely serious unless eat in large quantities.
On the other hand, canna lilies are not poisonous and the roots and bulbs are said to be edible (although we don’t recommend it!) Additionally, canna lilies are not poisonous to pets whereas calla lilies are.
Are calla lilies and canna lilies good house plants?
Calla lilies are excellent house plants and they thrive indoors. In fact, they can make an excellent decorative addition to any house. Canna lilies also do well indoors. However, given their large size, it is advisable to have a suitable planting container and a large enough space in the house for them.
Can calla and canna lilies overwinter?
Both calla and canna lilies are capable of surviving mild winters. However, neither is frost tolerant and will die back in winter. In particularly cold weather the root bulbs also die as well as the foliage.
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- Regents of the University of Minnesota, Available here: https://extension.umn.edu/flowers/calla-and-canna-lilies
- SFGATE, Available here: https://homeguides.sfgate.com/canna-lilies-vs-calla-lilies-82256.html
- Wikipedia, Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canna_(plant)
- Wikipedia, Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zantedeschia_aethiopica