Canna Lily vs Calla Lily: What Are The Differences?

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Written by Hannah Ward

Published: September 15, 2022

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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

Canna lilies (genus

Canna

) grow from rhizomes and thrive in moist soil.

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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 LilyCanna Lily
GenusZantedeschiaCanna
OriginSouth AfricaNorth and South America
HabitatSwamps, wetlands, coastal prairiesSwamps, stream banks
Size3-foot tall, 2-foot spread8-foot tall, 6-foot spread
Leaf ShapeArrow-shapedElongated oval / paddle-shaped
Leaf ColorGreenGreen, purple, bronze
Flower AppearanceWhite (main color), yellow, pinkRed, orange, yellow, or variations thereof
Flower ColorSmall and surrounded by a modified leafLarge spikes on the top of the plant
BloomEarly summerMid 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

Calla lilies are native to South

Africa

, growing best in and around swamps, wetlands, and coastal prairies.

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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

Canna lilies make up the genus

Canna

 (in the

Cannaceae

 family

),

 of which there are approximately 19 species.

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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

Calla lilies grow to no more than 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide.

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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

Canna lily leaves can be dark, light green, purple, or even bronze colored.

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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

Calla lilies are known for their pale and pretty colors.

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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

Canna lilies bloom mid to late summer – usually from June to October.

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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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About the Author

Hannah is a writer at A-Z animals where her primary focus is on reptiles, marine life, mammals, and geography. Hannah has been writing and researching animals for four years alongside running her family farm. A resident of the UK, Hannah loves riding horses and creating short stories.

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