The story behind the Calla Lily
Zantedeschia is commonly called Calla, and arum is also still a widely-used name. In the past we were only familiar with flowers of the white Zantedeschia aethiopica, and they were particularly associated with mourning.
Like the Anthurium and the Spathiphyllum, the Calla Lily – officially called the Zantedeschia – is part of the Araceae family and is characterised by the pitcher-shaped bract (spathe). The actual flowers, on the spike, are tiny and less eye-catching.
Many arums have a preference for swamps. Zantedeschia species are also swamp plants that embed themselves firmly in the banks. The arum originates from southern Africa as far north as Malawi, and often grows in places where rainwater drainage is obstructed. These are periodically saturated swampy spots, but they only exist for relatively short periods. The plant can easily survive subsequent long periods of drought.
Zantedeschia was originally called Arum aethiopicum or Ethiopian arum lily. At that time (18th century) western Africa was largely unknown and Ethiopia stood for almost the whole of Africa. The plant was also named Calla aethiopica, whereby ‘Calla’ is Greek for ‘beautiful’. The name ‘Richardia africana’ was also used, after the French botanist Richard. Ultimately they adopted Zantedeschia, after the Italian physician and botanist G. Zantedeschi (1773 – 1846). Aethiopica is Greek for ‘growing in the land of the Moors’ or ‘scorched by the sun’.
You will find that Calla Lilies are mostly available in the spring and summer months, in various colours and leaf markings. Pink and yellow are most common colours, but the plant is available in various colours until September.
Calla Lily is easy to care for and can be enjoyed for a long time.
- Indoors the plant requires a light spot which is as cool as possible to ensure the longest flowering.
- The plant is undemanding in the garden – it can be placed in either the shade and the sun. The temperature must remain above 5-8 °C.
- The flowering time indoors is 2-12 weeks The plants can flower for longer outdoors, particularly when the temperatures are lower.
- Make sure the soil never dries out by watering regularly.
- Give plant food once a fortnight to ensure lavish flowering.
- The plants can potentially be retained for another year by giving them a rest period during the winter, whereby the plant is kept dry and the leaves will die back. The tubers will produce plenty of new flowers during the next growing season.
Images courtesy of TheJoyofPlants.co.uk and text courtesy of the Plant Council Holland.