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Calla Lily

Recommendations for Maintaining Postharvest Quality

Michael S. Reid

Department of Plant Sciences, University of California, Davis

Maturity & Quality


Zantedeschia spp. The striking white blooms of Zantedeschia aethiopica have long been an important cut flower, and new green-tinged and different-shaped variants are increasingly important. The hybrid ‘mini-callas’, with their elegant shape and wide range of colors, continue to increase in importance as cut flowers and potted plants. The showy ‘spathe’ is a leaf-like organ that surrounds the true flowers, the thick, fleshy ‘spadix’. The genus is named for Francesco Zantedeschia who wrote about Italian plants around 1825. Although often called calla lilies, these flowers are not related to the true lily.

Quality Indices

Callas should be harvested when the spathe has opened enough so that the spadix can be seen. Flowers harvested more mature will be more susceptible to damage, and may have reduced vase life. The flowers are normally pulled from the rhizome, and re-cut to ensure adequate water uptake. The spadix (the thick fleshy inflorescence inside the showy spathe) should be visible at the time of purchase. Watch for bruising of the fleshy stems due to packaging. If cut too tight, flowers will usually not open properly.

Maturity & Quality Photos

Title: Quality

Photo Credit: Michael Reid, UC Davis

Grading and Bunching

Quality callas have long stems, are uniform in maturity and color, and have no defects such as damage to the spathe or spadix. Both large and mini callas are normally bunched in 10’s. Mini callas are sometimes sleeved to provide additional protection.

Ethylene Sensitivity

Calla flowers are not ethylene sensitive, although some researchers have shown positive effects of STS pre-treatment. Contrary to popular belief, callas do not produce significant quantities of ethylene.


Callas do not require any pretreatments.

Storage Conditions

Callas should be stored at 0-1°C. Packing The flowers may be packed horizontally or in upright hampers or water packs. If packed horizontally avoid direct contact with cleats, which may damage the fleshy stems. Standard callas may bend in response to gravity unless held at the proper storage temperature.

Special Considerations

The mini-callas have fewer postharvest problems and are generally easier to handle and use because of their smaller size.


October 2004

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Except for these specified uses, no part of the textual materials available on the UC Postharvest Technology Center Web site may be copied, downloaded, stored in a retrieval system, further transmitted or otherwise reproduced, stored, disseminated, transferred or used, in any form or by any means, except as permitted herein or with the University of California's prior written agreement. Request permission from UC Postharvest Technology Center. Distribution for commercial purposes is prohibited.

The information in this fact sheet represents our best understanding of the current state of knowledge at the time of the latest update, and does not represent an exhaustive review of all research results. Links to any of these UC Postharvest Technology Center pages are permitted, but no endorsement of the linking site or products mentioned in the linking page is intended or implied by such a link.

How to Cite

Author(s) names. Initial publication or update date (located at the top). Title. Link to the specific Produce Fact Sheet webpage (Accessed date)

Example: Cantwell, M. and T. Suslow. 2002. Lettuce, Crisphead: Recommendations for Maintaining Postharvest Quality. (Accessed January 18, 2014).

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