Home Garden

Orchid vs. the Calla Lily

Both the orchid and the calla lily are sought after for their unique and ostentatious blooms. They are commonly used as cut flowers in bouquets, often together in one floral arrangement. Each plant has many varieties, each providing flowers of different shapes and colors. In addition to their value as cut flowers, each is treasured in homes and gardens across the country. The similarities end here, however, as each plant is very distinct both in its needs and its physical appearance.
  1. Leaf Appearance

    • The simplest way to discern calla lilies from orchids is to observe their leaf structure. Most orchid leaves are 6 to 8 inches long and oval-shaped, dark green, thick and succulent. The leaves grow near the ground and are somewhat sparse. The calla lily has large, pointed leaves that grow upward from the ground on single stems. The veins in the leaf are clearly visible and grow outward from the center of the leaf to the edges. The leaves are ample in number and are significantly thinner than orchid leaves.

    Flower Appearance

    • There are more than 30,000 species of orchids and eight species of calla lily. Thus, especially in the case of orchids, the flowers may vary greatly between species. Calla lily blooms share a commonality of a long funnel- or horn-shaped bloom, a characteristic generally not shared with orchids. Orchids vary much more in appearance, but the growth pattern of commonly available commercial species is similar. A single large stem grows upward from the leafy bottom of the plant, and along this stem flowers bloom in an alternating pattern.


    • Orchids and calla lilies are virtual opposites in terms of their respective preferred environments. Calla lilies require full sun, while orchids prefer shade or filtered light. Calla lilies must be watered regularly, while overwatering is the most common cause of death for orchids grown in homes. Calla lilies grow best in rich, well-fertilized natural soil, while orchids prefer loose growing mediums such as moss or bark, not soil. Most calla lily species emerge from the ground when the soil warms and continue to grow as the weather heats up, dying back when the temperature begins to crawl back down. Orchids, on the other hand, need a steady, temperate climate between 45 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit for proper growth.


    • Calla lilies grow best outdoors in the home garden. Plant your calla lily bulb or flower in a part of the garden that receives full sun. The plant will grow best in a rich, loamy soil that is kept moist. Orchids cannot be successfully grown outdoors in most parts of the United States and should be used as a houseplant to ensure survival. This is done to regulate both temperature and sunlight. Water orchid plants once a week, only when the growing medium is completely dry. If roots are left in a damp medium, they quickly rot, and the plant can die within a matter of days.