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A picture of a Calla Lily

Calla Lily

Zantedeschia spp.

Also known as

Arum Lily, Calla, Pig Lily, Arum lily, Richardia

Photo by truecolours (All rights reserved)

Full Sun
Moderate care
Moderate watering
Tender

H5-H1b

RHS hardiness

-15°C

Minimum temperature

Expected size

Height
Spread

1m

Max

1m

50cm

Min

20cm

2 years to reach maturity

Flowering

    • spring
    • summer
    • autumn
    • winter

    This plant has no fragrance

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    Calla Lily Overview

    Zantedeschia is a genus containing around 8 species of herbaceous, perennial flowering plants, native to southern and East Africa. This genus is popular for its striking, upright spathes that form around a solitary, finger-like spadix. Flower colours include white, yellow, orange, pink, red and purple. Zantedeschia plants are deciduous; they grow up to 1m high and survive the dry season through water storage in their rhizomes or tuber - in the wild, these are buried in crevices of rocks. This is an adaptation to keep the tubers and roots cool over the dry season, and in the rainy season, the plants benefit from water channelled into the crevices. Plants in the genus prefer full sun or partial shade, soil rich in humus, and seasonal watering. Zantedeschia aethiopica grows in both the summer and winter rainfall areas and is evergreen, but will become dormant in dry conditions. All other species (except Zantedeschia odorata ) occur in the summer rainfall region and are dormant in winter. They must, therefore, be kept dry in winter. Zantedeschia odorata, being a winter rainfall plant, is dormant in summer and must be kept dry in the summer months. Tender forms (including Calla Lilies) should be fed fortnightly with a high-nitrogen fertiliser when in active growth, but withhold feed during flowering. A high-potassium feed (e.g. tomato fertiliser) can be given once a week after flowering. Indigenous to South Africa, today, numerous Zantedeschia cultivars are available as garden and pot plants and, due to their decorative and long-lasting spathes, they are popular as cut flowers. These cultivars generate high revenue in New Zealand, the USA and the Netherlands. A number of hybrids have been developed that fall in two main groups: Elliottiana hybrids, which usually have dotted leaves and yellow spathes and golden yellow spadices, and Rehmannii hybrids, which have unspotted leaves and white-pink or dark purple spathes surrounding yellow spadices. Depending on the species, members of this genus can be grown in containers or flower borders/beds in a variety of garden styles, with the species Zantedeschia aethiopica often being cultivated as a marginal aquatic plant.

    Common problems with Calla Lily

    How to propagate Calla Lily

    Division

    Divide in spring - check stored tubers and when they begin to show signs of new growth, divide them, making sure each section has a visible bud. Allow the cut areas to dry and callus over for a few days before planting up. In milder areas, lilies can be divided in autumn after the foliage has faded and is easily pulled from the ground. As per stored tubers, ensure each section has at least one growing eye and calluses over before replanting.

    Tubers

    Plant out tubers after the last frost. Space them roughly ten cm deep and 30cm apart, water the area well.

    Seed

    Sow seed in spring, one seed per 8 cm pot and keep at 21 C (70 F). Plants will take two or three years to flower.

    Special features of Calla Lily

    Attractive flowers

    Attractive leaves

    Attracts useful insects

    Beetles are the most likely pollinators of Zantedeschia flowers

    Other uses of Calla Lily

    Can be grown as a pot plant indoors or frost-free garden locations. It suits being included in subtropical garden designs. Flowers can be cut for floral arrangements as required.

    Edible

    The tubers of Zantedeschia aethiopica and Zantedeschia albomaculata are reported to be eaten by some African communities in southern Africa, although eating raw tubers causes irritation of the mouth. In the early days the tubers of Zantedeschia aethiopica were boiled and fed to pigs, hence the vernacular name “pig lily". The leaves of Z. aethiopica are cooked as a pot herb by the African and Indian communities in South Africa.

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