Saturday, December 26, 2009

Plant profile: Zantedeschia

The eight species of Calla lily have the distinctive funnel-like flower shape we all know. Painters like Diego Rivera and Georgia O'Keefe got a lot of mileage out of these flowers over the years, and they're certainly an elegant look.

Latin name: Zantedeschia ("zan-teh-DESH-ee-ah")
Common name: Calla Lily, Easter lily, Arum lily
Originally from: Southern Africa from South Africa north to Malawi.
Blooms: White flowers start in late fall and go on through spring. Other species come in yellow, pink, orange, red, burgundy and shades in between.
Light: Full sun to light shade.
Water: Drought tolerant! They go dormant in summer when there's no water, but will stay green year round if you keep them moist.
Where to see in P. Garden: Flowering right now, at the bottom of the steps.

The name of the genus was given as a tribute to Italian botanist Giovanni Zantedeschi (1773-1846) by the German botanist Kurt Sprengel (1766 - 1833). We have Zantedeschia aethiopica in the garden - the usual white version. I'd like to get some other colored ones sometime too.

It has been cultivated for the Easter floral trade since the early 20th century; hence the (ambiguous) name 'Easter lily', common in Britain and Ireland. It has become an important symbol of Irish Republicanism since the Easter uprising of 1916.

UPDATE June 2016:
These guys have seeded around a bit and now we have two massive clumps that are just starting to die back for the season. We don't have enough dampness to keep them green year round, but they are well worth it for the oodles of flowers they put out from December until June.


  1. I always thought Calla lilies were exotic and difficult to grow until I read that in their native habitat they are called 'pig lilies' and grow in hog wallows. Since then I found them easy to grow.

  2. Love calla lillies, they're just so darn pretty. Yours look great. :)


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