The calla lily (Zantedeschia aethiopica) is an ornamental plant with growing acceptance in the market place that shows thermal constraints during planting. This study aimed to analyse its biological cycle in growing degree days (GDD) to determine the best time for planting and production of flower stalks. Rhizomes were planted in pots during all four seasons, and the pots were kept in a greenhouse. Growth analysis and gas exchange measurements were performed every 30 days. Rhizomes planted in the fall and summer showed greater shoot growth, a larger root system and increased production of flower stalks, and they remained in the vegetative phase longer before the onset of flowering, attaining a lower GDD value. Rhizomes planted in winter and spring matured early, which resulted in a higher GDD value and a decrease or lack of flower stalk production during this period. Calla lily rhizomes planted in the fall and summer showed higher water-use efficiency, light-use efficiency and net photosynthesis. It is possible to characterise the stages of development according to gas exchange. The calla lily must be cultivated with an irradiance of 250–400 μmol m⁻² s⁻¹ in a temperature range of 25–28°C during the initial growth phase (up to 1,000 GDD). Thereafter, the temperature range should be reduced to between 13 and 15°C until 3,500 GDD are reached, which was found to enable increased flower stalk production.