Calla - Zantedeschia aethiopica

La Calla

Calla is a rhizomatous perennial plant, belonging to the Zantedeschia family; has origins in central and southern Africa, although it has long since become naturalized in the Mediterranean area. The most common species is called zantedeschia aethiopica, and constitutes, starting from spring, large tufts of triangular, pointed leaves, carried by very long petioles; on the foliar page we can notice the presence of small white specks. In summer and autumn the characteristic inflorescences form between the leaves, consisting of a thin fleshy, cylindrical trunk, which bears a broad white spathe, which subtends a spadix, also white, or yellow, on which the small flowers bloom.
The tuberous rhizomes of calla they are quite large, and each year numerous flowers sprout; in areas with very hot summers, it may happen that flowering occurs at the beginning of autumn.
In addition to white calla lilies in the garden and in the apartment we can also find calle of various colors; these calla lilies are hybrids of the colored species of calla, such as zantedeschia elliottiana o zantedeschia rehmannii; these hybrids are generally a little less rustic, and generally tend to be more delicate and less floriferous.

Introduction, origins and description

Zantedeschia (commonly called calla) is a semi-aquatic or marsh rhizomatous perennial belonging to the Araceae family. The genus is composed of eight species of perennials of medium-large size, with rhizomes that branch, large and fleshy, originating from South Africa. They were introduced to Europe in 1731.
These plants have showy, elegant, evergreen or deciduous leaves, green and sometimes spotted. The shape is triangular, heart-shaped or lanceolate. Flowers often surmount the foliage; the spata can be white, yellow or in various shades of pink and purple.
Being plants much loved by florists and, lately, even in gardens, breeders have been very busy in the search for new cultivars of different colors, shapes and sizes.
They are mostly used as cut flowers or pot plants. In fact, they are not simply cultivated because they are not very rustic.

Family and gender
Araceae, gen. Zantedeschia, 8 species
Type of plant Perennial tuberose
Exposure Sun, half-shade, shadow
Rustic Not rustic
Ground Rich, moist, of marsh
colors White, pink, yellow, red, purple
Irrigation Abundant during the vegetative period. During rest it should be suspended
Flowering Depending on the species from February to October
Composting Regular, abundant

How to cultivate calla lilies

The white calla lilies they are of very simple cultivation; in autumn they put themselves in a good soft and fresh soil, quite rich, in a semi-shady corner of the garden; these plants do not fear the cold, also because in the areas with harsh winter climate the streets tend to lose the whole aerial part, entering in vegetative rest for the whole cold season. They will begin to develop again when the first spring warmth arrives; as soon as the calla lilies start to develop the first shoots it is good to take up the watering again, and keep the soil slightly damp, even if they can withstand short periods of drought.
So the watering will be intensified on arrival of summer heat, to prevent the plant from deteriorating rapidly; in general it may be useful to place our calla lily in a place near a water course or the pond in the garden. Every 10-12 days we provide a good fertilizer for flowering plants.
The bush of leaves consists of one white calla in complete development it can easily reach 90-100 cm in height, and 70-90 cm in width; if left constantly at home these rhizomes tend to produce new rhizomes periodically, causing the head of the calle to widen; if desired it is possible, in September-October, to dig up the rhizomes, and divide them, so as to obtain more heads of calla lilies.
Calla flowers can be used as cut flowers because they stay fresh for many days.
The cultivation of calla is not the simplest, especially if you do not have a suitable environment.
It must be kept in mind that they are plants originating from tropical swamps whose peculiar characteristic is to dry completely from time to time. It would therefore be necessary, even in cultivation, to try to replicate these rhythms to obtain luxuriant blooms.
Generally they can be divided into two main categories: those with early flowering and those with late flowering
The former are more rustic and more tolerant in general. This category includes the most widespread and in particular Zantedeschia aethiopica. They bloom between February and May.
The latter, on the other hand, have smaller dimensions, produce spits between April and October and require a warmer climate, around 20 ° C.

The names of the zantedeschia

This plant has changed its name several times over the years. In fact, it has often been found to share it with other vegetables, forcing botanists (to be clear) to rename it from time to time. In order, its names were: Calla (later attributed to a European herbaceous pond), Richardia (later assigned to a genus of the Rubiaceae family) and finally zantedeschia (from the name of an Italian botanist and physician).

Colored calla lilies

Colored calla lilies tend to be slightly more delicate than white ones; this results in less large tufts, smaller flowers, smaller rhizomes, and often every single rhizome tends to produce a single flower. In addition, colored calla lilies tend to fear the cold more, so they are often grown in pots, so that they can be stored in a sheltered place during the winter season.
Also these callee prefer semi-shady positions, and they fear the direct sun, above all in the hottest days; generally they tend to develop a little later than the zantedeschie aethiopiche, beginning to produce the foliage in late spring, or already in summer.
We can often find the colored calla lilies already in full vegetation even in winter, in the nursery, this because it is widely used to cultivate this plants in the apartment, where they can be safely forced to bloom at any time of the year.
Colored calla lilies need abundant and regular watering, and prefer a fresh and deep soil, rich in organic matter.
If grown in pots we always wait for the substrate in the container to dry before watering again.
During the winter months, if we live in places with very harsh minimum temperatures, it's advisable to grow these plants in a greenhouse, or cover the soil occupied by the rhizomes with a thick layer of mulching material, so that the rhizomes don't come into contact with the frost intense.
In general these hybrid calla lilies are of various colors, from pink to yellow, from fuchsia to purple; in fact there are also white hybrid calla lilies, not belonging to the aethiopic species. When we buy a calla then let us know from the nurseryman about the species to which it belongs, so as not to risk losing the rhizome on the arrival of winter.

Calla watering

This is a crucial point.
In general, the vintage is divided into two periods: the vegetative period and the rest period.
During the first (which begins with the end of winter and ends when the flowers begin to wither) it must be irrigated abundantly. Initially the water doses will gradually increase and then remain constant until the plant stops issuing spates. At that point you will return to delay them more and more.
Their habitat of origin are the ponds in the tropical and subtropical areas. Therefore, to live well, they also need a good percentage of humidity in the air. If our house is too dry we can vaporize the leaves possibly using demineralized or rain water (to prevent staining). Otherwise we can use some saucers in which we have placed a layer of expanded clay and two fingers of water. This, by evaporating, will make the environment more comfortable for our zantedeschia.
When the leaves begin to turn yellow the operations will be almost totally suspended. It will intervene only if the ground becomes too dry.

Land for the calla

All species require a soil rich in humus and very moist.
They benefit greatly from the abundant presence of organic fertilizer, especially manure.
It is good, then, before planting, to mix a good quantity with the substratum. If we have to repot a plant it will be good to mix a good soil for flowering plants with organic soil conditioner and at least 1/3 of peat.


Most of these plants are not rustic. They generally tolerate up to 8 ° C. The most adaptable can survive at most 5 ° C (the aethiopica).


To flower well these plants need a great availability of macro and microelements.
The distribution is good to start as soon as you see the first spate tick. In full earth the ideal is a good slow release granular fertilizer for flowering plants or for tomatoes, characterized by the predominance of potassium on nitrogen and phosphorus. They are usually given every three months.
For potted plants, on the other hand, the best products are those in liquid formulations. Generally, fortnightly administration is recommended. It is also possible to give the fertilizer with each watering, diluting it considerably. In this way the supply of nutrients will be constant.
To further encourage flowering, both for plants in containers and for those in the garden, it is possible to vaporize them with foliar fertilizers. These are very effective (since they are in no way dispersed or washed away) and have a prompt effect.


The ideal exposure for almost all species is the full sun, where they manage to flourish optimally. However, they also generally tolerate half-shade and shade well.

Crop care

Crop care is minimal. You will have to intervene only to eliminate the damaged or dry leaves at the base. Keeping the subjects clean is of fundamental importance to prevent them from infiltrating pathogens through damaged tissues.
In case there are leaves with traces of rottenness or other affections it is good to use, to cut them, always scissors disinfected through passage on the flame or with bleach.


The zantedeschie can be multiplied mainly by division (which allows the characteristics of the mother plant to be maintained) and by sowing (with unpredictable results).
In the first case it will be necessary to proceed at the end of the vegetative period (ie September-October), together with repotting. The rhizome will be divided into several sections (making sure that each of them has at least one eye). It will then be planted separately. It is certainly advisable to lightly dust them with sulfur so as to discourage the onset of pathogens. Ideal is to leave them in a warm and dry environment for about 5 days before planting them so that any excessive humidity is dispersed.
The ideal depth in the jar is 10 cm. They should be kept at a temperature of about 20 degrees until they produce the first leaves. At that point we can move them into larger containers and keep them until spring in a slightly heated room.
The calla lilies can, as we have said, also multiply by seed. Those of the aethiopica, whose maturation takes place in August, should be placed in terrines in a compound that should always be kept very moist.
The z. elliottiana, on the other hand, is sown in December. In this case the rhizomes will be transplanted starting from the second year, when they will have become very resistant.

Pot cultivation

Because these herbaceous plants can live and flourish for a long time, maintaining themselves over the years, it is important to grant them rest periods after they have produced the spate and the leaves. Watering must be drastically reduced.
It is equally important to intervene towards September by dividing the main rhizomes from the lateral tubercles. These, in fact, greatly reduce their vitality; consequently in the following year we would have a strong predominance of foliar production at the expense of flowering.

Pests and adversities

These are in general rather resistant plants.
It may happen that they are attacked by insects (such as scale insects or aphids) or by mites. In the first case it will intervene with specific insecticides. If this problem occurs with a certain regularity, for potted plants, it is also possible to use pesticide tablets to be inserted directly into the soil. They usually last about three months and have a continuous action.
For the red spider, on the other hand, especially in the case of strong affections, the distribution of specific acaricides is necessary. To avoid this problem, the specimens can be placed in a less exposed area and the environmental humidity can be considerably increased.


Zantedeschia aethiopica it is one of the largest. In mild climates it is evergreen. It has bright green leaves that can reach 45 cm in length and a width of 20. Spate is pure white and even 25 cm long. They are produced in large numbers during the summer. Outside they have green shades. The spadix is ​​pale yellow, 9 cm. It then produces orange fruits. It can be grown in shallow water or in damp places, but it is exceptional in containers or as a cut flower. Zone 7
Albomaculata it has green, narrow, deciduous, ovate-lanceolate leaves, up to 40 cm long and up to 20 wide, usually with translucent white spots. The stems are long and sometimes with purple spots. The flowers surmount the foliage and have spades up to 13 cm long, white, cream, pale yellow and sometimes pink. Zone 5
Eliot it has rounded, deciduous, heart-shaped leaves at the base, 30 cm long and 25 wide. They are green with numerous translucent spots The spade is yellow and 15 cm long. Spatice, also 7 cm yellow. Zone 7
Rehmannii it has very narrow leaves, not stained and long up to 40 cm. The spats are 12 cm long, in colors that can range from white to pink to purple with black spots in the throat. Zone 6
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