Arum Lily Care and Propagation (Zantedeschia aethiopica)

The Arum Lily is one of my favorite plants for indoor and outdoor gardens. Thanks to its versatility, it can take on nearly any space you put it in – within reason, of course. 

Arum lilies are part of the Araceae family and come in many vibrant colors, including yellow, purple, pink, and white. These hardy plants work well as outdoor fixtures and can be left in your garden or on the terrace for most of the year. 

I’ve used them in lots of unique ways to compliment my gardens and set an aesthetically pleasing mood. It’s practically effortless!

As for luck, lilies (including the imposters) are a traditional symbol of good luck in many parts of the world, traditionally in China and Japan – but they have now become a symbol of good luck across the world.

Arum Lily Overview

Scientific NameCalla zantedeschia, Zantedeschia aethiopica
Common NamesArum Lily, White Arum Lily, Calla Lily, Altar Lily
FamilyAraceae Family
OriginLesotho, Eswatini, in Southern Africa
Size and Dimensions (Mature)18 to 24 inches tall, 9 to 12 inches wide
Distinguishing FeaturesLarge arrowhead leaves with a large modified leaf forming the funnel-shaped flowers with a yellow spadix emerging from the white spathes.

Arum Lily Background Check

Hailing from South Africa, Z. Aethiopica, the Arum lily is a great option for nearly any green thumb enthusiast. However, Arum Lilies are not technically true lilies!

Instead, it is a herbaceous perennial, which means that with the proper care, this non-woody stemmed plant will look dead from above the ground at the end of the season. 

However, it is, in fact, alive underground and will spring to life from its living roots for at least the next couple of years. Hence the title as an herbaceous perennial.

Arum Lily Care and Growing Conditions

white arum lily flowers on green stalks

While Arum lilies are generally considered no-fuss plants when it comes to oversight, you should approach your care regimen carefully, depending on what type of setting you’re growing in. 

Best Soil Mixtures

Arum Lilies love loose, acidic, well-drained soil. The soil should be nutritious and have plenty of organic matter, but it should also contain enough aerating materials like coco coir or perlite to keep the water from staying in the soil mixture for too long. 

Porous soils should always remain balanced in nutrition, so be sure you know what’s in your soil!

Water Preferences

Calla lilies are considered aquatic or semi-aquatic plants, and their favorite home is by the water’s edge. 

If you aren’t growing calla lilies near a pond or source of water, however, you’ll need to water your arum daily to moisten the topsoil – especially during dry spells outdoors or when you forget to water indoors. 

I mentioned having a well-draining soil mixture above, so be sure your soil surface doesn’t remain soggy at any point. 

When you see a flower blooming, mix liquid fertilizer high in potash into your water every 3 to 4 weeks. For more fertilizing tips, read the “fertilizer” section below. 

Temperature Requirements

The perfect temperature for the Arum Lily is between 60 and 80°F

It prefers moist and humid conditions with protection from the direct afternoon sun, so it’s best to plant it in an area with part shade or keep it in an east-facing sunny window that enjoys the morning sun. 

The Arum Lily does not like the cold and should always be protected from the danger of frost (the first frost can come suddenly). If you want to get a jump start on the outdoor growing season, start them indoors in hydroponics or soil, and transplant them when the soil and air temperatures are high enough.

Light Needs

This tropical plant grows well in a moist environment with partial shade. Arum Lilies need natural light to thrive, as they like to be in humid and warm climates. 

Your best bet is to place it in a southeast-facing window or flowerbed in full sun in the morning and indirect light in the afternoon during the summer months, but consider moving it to a southern-facing location in the winter months.

High Humidity

High humidity is essential for an arum lily to grow well. 

My suggestion is to keep the relative humidity between 65-75%. If you have a drier climate, it’s the perfect plant to place at a water’s edge. 

I also recommend humidifiers or pebble trays for indoor growers to increase the ambient humidity effectively; it can be challenging to grow the arum lily indoors without these types of approaches!

When to Plant

The best time to plant these tender perennials is in early spring. The plant will flower from late spring into early summer, but once late summer comes, this is the time to think about moving your lily and replanting in a protected area. 

Summer can be a good time to remove dry and dead leaves or stems. By early autumn, move your plant indoors or to a protected environment. 

Arum Lilies have parts of the plant called rhizomes. These bulb-like rhizomes grow horizontally underground and have stems that shoot up laterally, and these can be propagated during the growing season or kept for planting the following spring.

Adequate Fertilizer

Arum Lilies need a good dose of fertilizer to thrive, and regular fertilization is recommended, especially when using sandy soil. 

During planting, use a slow-release fertilizer. This will release nitrogen to boost the growth of leaves and flower stems before flowering starts.  

You can use well-rotted compost mixed with cow dung or bone meal to ensure a slow release of nutrients. If you don’t have access to these materials, you can pick up a suitable fertilizer at your local garden center.  

Spread a layer of fertilizer around your plant, concentrating on areas near the flower stalks before watering. You can also add mulch to trap the moisture and allow the fertilizer to release more slowly. 

It is a great idea to do a soil test before you begin fertilization to check levels such as calcium; this is crucial to the arum to help its leaves stay green and to keep it flowering. You can add bone meal or eggshells to the fertilizer if it lacks these essential organic nutrients.

How to Propagate Arum Lily Rhizome Cuttings (Bulbs)

tools needed for arum lily propagation

Before the end of the growing season (starting in early fall), you can propagate Arum Lilies using the following materials and steps. 

How to Propagate Arum Lily (Step-by-Step)

  1. Dig in and get the original rhizome out. It should have several small white bulbs surrounding it. 
  2. Separate the rhizomes into smaller sections by dividing the rhizome clump with a sharp knife.
  3. Plant the large rhizomes in a pot (or a garden bed may be suitable). When planting, the plant should be buried with the shoots facing upward with a depth of at least 4 inches. 
  4. Cover the shoots with a thin layer of soil. Pay much attention and water them daily to maintain moist soil. 
  5. It will take at least 2 to 3 weeks for your Arum Lily’s new shoots to appear.

Potted Exotics Pro Tip: You can also store the dried bulbs in an air-tight, moisture-free container. Place them in a dark place during the dormant period in the winter, but check to see whether they are too moist or shriveling up due to being kept in a dry place. Keep them protected indoors to avoid the threat of frost.

How To Grow Arum Lily From Seed

Your arum flowers will start closing up after fully blooming to protect their seedpod. If you see a closed-up flower with seeds inside, it can take several months to mature, so you’ll need to wait to harvest the seeds. 

When planting indoors, an arum can grow any time of the year except in late winter, so you don’t necessarily need to store the seeds. 

If you live in a place other than USDA Hardiness Zone 8 to 10, you can plant or propagate your indoor arum lily seeds using artificial grow lights; an LED grow light is enough to make your plant bloom. 

The plant can also thrive in partial shade; however, take care of other conditions like soil type, pH, humidity, and water content to promote blooming. 

To Propagate Arum Lilies from Seed 

  1. Find a flower that is sealed. Open the flower slightly to look for a seed pod inside. 
  2. Cut flowers off that are seeding just below their stalks.
  3. Once dried, put it in a plastic bag, jar, or air-tight storage container. 
  4. Plant it the following year in the spring or at the start of the growing season when the conditions are suitable. 

Potting and Repotting Arum Lilies

potted green arum lily growing outdoors near brown fence

The arum lily can be potted and repotted if it grows out of its pot or garden bed. Crowded roots hamper the growth of any plant, so it’s better to repot your arum lily before it suffers from restricted growth due to overcrowding. 

If your plant has stopped flowering, it might indicate that it requires repotting. 

How to Repot Arum Lilies

It’s super easy to repot arum lilies; here is a simple guide:

  1. Take your lily out of its small pot carefully to avoid damaging the roots.
  2. Place it in already dug soil in a garden bed or a larger pot.
  3. Ensure that you adequately cover the roots using well-draining, humus-rich soil.
  4. Water the earth every day just enough to keep the topsoil moist. 

Common Problems with an Arum Lily

red spider mite on green arum lily leaf

Remember, Calla Zantedeschia is susceptible to pests and diseases just like most other plants. Mold and fungal infections can affect its rhizomes, leaves, stems, and even flowers. 

Here a just a few problems to be aware of. 

Spider Mites

Spider mites are common insects that feed on plant sap. You can spray lukewarm water mixed with dishwashing liquid over their colony to prevent repeated infestation. 

To kill those spider mites determined to stay, use cotton balls dipped in a horticultural oil like neem oil, or use rubbing alcohol to clean them off. 

Fungal Diseases

Bacterial soft rot, powdery mildew, and botrytis are common fungal diseases affecting Arum Lilies’ rhizomes. 

Plant parents can reduce the risk of this disease by being mindful of the watering schedule – fungal diseases will occur with overwatering.  

Also, prevent overcrowding to ensure adequate air circulation. 

Root Rot

Root rot, as the name suggests, is a disease that affects the roots of plants. This typically occurs with too much water and soil that does not drain well. Yellow leaves, wilting, stunted growth, wet soil, and mushy roots are common signs of root rot. 

To prevent your arum from root rot, keep it dry, skip watering for a few days, and change the soil if necessary. 

Creative Ways to Present Arum Lilies In Your Home

arum lily cut flowers in vase

Arum lilies, as mentioned above, are some of the most versatile tropical plants suitable for indoors and outdoors. It’s a beautiful plant that can be presented in many creative ways. 

Pond or Water Feature

Did you know Arum Lilies can be featured in your water garden? To display it, place it in an aquatic bucket, preferably at the pond’s edge. It pairs exceptionally well with the water-loving Egyptian Lily (Egyptian lotus), which grows in ponds. 

Your Arum plant will also do well at the pond’s edge in an adequate layer of mulch.

DIY Self-Watering Planters

Self-watering planters are the perfect way to keep your calla lilies happy when you don’t have the capacity to keep a close eye on them or are going on vacation for an extended period. Check out our article on how to make your own self-watering planters at home!

Garden Beds

Garden beds are a good option for lilies because they have ample growing space, and you won’t necessarily have to repot them. Ensure they are not planted in a dark area as they enjoy the sunshine.

Container Plant

You can plant arum lilies in pots or containers indoors and outside your home. When grown in containers, the arums are easy to move seasonally or if they are not flourishing.

You can even place them in hanging containers in your home or apartment. Check out our article on how to hang your plants indoors without drilling!

Vase Cut Flowers

Under suitable conditions, Arum Lilies can last 2 – 3 weeks in a vase, which is similar to how long other species, like the Flamingo Lily, last after cutting. Keep stems of flowers underwater but trim any leaves that are likely to be submerged. 

bright yellow arum lily flowers outdoors

Green Goddess (Zantedeschia aethiopica)

This unusual evergreen arum has lush dark green leaves and white flowers with green tips. It has a delightful fragrance and is favorable to florists as it makes a superb indoor flower.

Lily Of The Nile (African Lily)

Unusually blue or violet, the lily of the Nile has large spherical flower clusters. Due to their striking appearance, they can bring cheer to any area in your home.

Black Star Arum 

The black star lily has dark purple or even black flowers that make contrasting your bright, colorful gardens a breeze! The leaves have splotches of white, which makes it even more interesting. 

Mapoch lilies (Z. pentlandii)

With lemon-yellow flowers and white dots on green leaves, this flower can liven up your dull workspace when placed in a large vase at a reception desk.

Golden or Yellow Arum (Zantedeschia aethiopica)

One of the most dazzling arum lilies, this bright yellow flower is tubular-shaped with white freckles on luscious green leaves. 

Commonly used as a cut flower, this decorative arum makes a stunning addition to any flower arrangement.

White Spotted Arum (Z. albomaculata)

The white spotted arum is another popular flower for floral arrangements, boasting ivory-white chalice-shaped flowers and white speckled leaves.

Common Uses For the Arum Lily

white arum lily cut flowers used for wedding decorations

Wedding Bouquets

The Arum Lily has many forms that can add a lovely touch to a wedding bouquet. 

As a symbol of humility and devotion, different lilies have different interpretations, which can add meaningfulness to an already beautiful bouquet; the white lily represents modesty and virginity, while the orange is for passion, and the yellow stands for gaiety.

Bridesmaids can carry a single flower to gently mirror flowers from the bride’s bouquet, making it versatile for these types of occasions.


In ancient times, Romans and Greeks believed that the lily represented a deceased soul returning to a place of rest. This is one reason why arum lilies are associated with funerals – awarding them the nickname the death lily.

FAQ About Arum Lilies

white arum lily flower over green foliage

Are Arum Lilies Toxic To Cats? 

Arum lilies are toxic to cats and can irritate their mouth/esophagus. It can also cause kidney damage, don’t let your feline friend nibble on your arum. 

Are Arum Lilies Toxic to Dogs?

As per ASCPA, arum lilies are considered toxic for dogs. Their ingestion can cause gastrointestinal problems, anorexia, and tremors, so keep them out of harm’s way. 

Do I Need to Prune My Arum Lily?

No, the common arum lily requires no regular pruning. You only have to remove the dried and dead arrow-shaped leaves and flowers to encourage healthy blooming. You can pinch off any blackened leaves as they appear. 

How Do I Get My Arum Lily to Flower?

Excess nitrogen in the soil, lack of soil moisture, sunlight, attack of pests, and poor conditions are not fit for the arum lily and will prevent it from flowering. 

I suggest keeping your plant in a cool place for two months (without regular watering) and then putting it back in light to encourage blooming and promote beautiful flowers. 

Do Arum Lilies Do Best Indoors or Outdoors?

Arum lilies do best outdoors as they need sunlight along with partial shade. With proper planting, they thrive in warmer climates and humid conditions, but arum lilies are also considered winter hardy in USDA Hardiness Zone 8 to 10

This means they can withstand temperatures of 60 degrees to 80 °F. In regions where temperatures fall below this range, they can be grown as annuals. 

How Should I Grow Arum Lilies Outdoors? 

If you decide to grow Arum Lilies as outdoor plants, there are a few things to keep in mind. 

1. First, your soil should be well-draining. That means you should avoid planting them in your yard where the ground has been compacted from lawn mowing or heavy foot traffic. 
2. If you need to amend the soil with poor structure, consider adding fertilizers, organic matter, compost, and cocopeat to enhance the form and improve drainage. 
3. Your soil should be slightly acidic (garden compost and organic matter will help) and typically have a pH between 6.0 and 6.5.

Do you live in a warm area? You can plant your lily in a flower bed benefitting from a shaded seating area where you can enjoy it. 

Remember, while you need to protect the arum from the afternoon sun, full shade can prevent optimal growt

When To Grow Arum Lilies?

The best time to grow this lovely plant is in the late spring. Once the summer is over, the ground will be too cold once more. When you are ready to propagate your lilies, take the rhizomes and place them with the bulbs facing up and around four inches deep and four inches apart.

This is the most efficient way to ensure that there will be no overcrowding, and in the long run, it will save you from having to repot them often. 

Last but most importantly, don’t neglect your plants and let them starve. Although not as needy as a newborn baby, they are pretty close! 

Regular monthly feeding during the growing season should satisfy your plant enough to reward you with lush green leaves and exquisite, healthy flowers.

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