Calla lily beautiful perennial option

Calla lily

Just the name, “calla lily” sounds beautiful.  And its blooms are some of the most striking of all flowers.  The calla is neither a “Calla” nor a “lily” but accidently incorrectly named by the famous Carl Linnaeus, and the name stuck. Some smaller florists’ varieties of this bulb are better as houseplants but we can grow the larger varieties outside.  This perennial bulb must be dug up and stored in cold zones but here they are hardy enough to last through our winters and surprise us year after year.   

This hardy beauty comes from the tropical swamps of Madagascar and South Africa where there is a steady temperature and lots of rain alternating with dry seasons. It is not clear how the calla made it to Europe but paintings in France as early as 1664 in the Royal Garden in Paris show the calla lily.  The calla lily became very well liked; Painters loved the paint the calla.  Funeral directors loved to use the calla with its rich symbolism. Florists loved the calla because its bloom could survive for a long time after being cut from the plant.  

Brides love to use the calla lily in wedding bouquets because their meaning is “magnificence” and “beauty”.  Teleflora tells us that in many paintings and other works of art throughout history, the calla lily has been depicted with the Virgin Mary or Angel of Annunciation. For this reason, the calla lily has been associated with “holiness, faith and purity”.   

The calla lily was named after the Greek word for beautiful, “calla.” The FTD website reminds us of the Greek legend of Zeus.  According to the legend, Zeus brought Hercules, his son from another woman, to Hera, his wife, while she was asleep to drink her milk.  When she woke up, she pushed him away and drops of milk flew across the sky to create the Milky Way.  The drops of milk that fell on the ground grew into beautiful lilies.  

We can find calla bulbs at area garden centers and online.  In our warm region, we can plant them in autumn.  I love their simple, elegant beauty.  And you can find callas in perfect spring colors.  I’ve seen them around town used in beds, borders and containers.  If you see a calla that you adore you might consider asking its “owner” if you can take a cutting or a division of the plant.  

They like to be planted deeply at almost 4 inches and about a foot apart.  Callas want morning sun and afternoon shade and a fairly moist soil.  Most gardeners I’ve spoken with seem to feel that the old-fashioned perennial white variety is the easiest to grow. This white calla (Zantedeschia aethiopica) grows to around two feet tall and had glossy white blooms in the springtime.  

After planting, water the callas well, gently soaking the soil and making sure that it is set around the bulbs.  You should see the top sprouts form in the autumn and the flowers in the spring and summer.  See a bloom that you like?  Feel free to clip it and bring it indoors for a vase because that won’t hurt the plant at all. 

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