Calla or Ethiopian Lily

The Calla or Ethiopian Lily has long been grown as a florist flower, popular at weddings and funerals alike, and easily recognized by the elegant, white trumpet-like spathes. Originating in several parts of Africa, the hardiest species, Zantedeschia aethiopica, can be grown in the garden in rich humus soil in full sun, with ample summer water, and is hardy to Zone 4. Growing from tuberous rhizomes, the glossy, arrow-shaped leaves stand upright to 3 feet, and a long succession of large, white blooms from late spring through summer emerge among them. The "bloom" is actually a modified leaf or bract up to 10 inches long, and the true flower is merely the yellow spadice arising from its center.

Selections have been made for more compact forms, as in 'Little Gem' and 'Apple Court Babe', only 18 and 24 inches tall; an extra hardy, stout-growing type, 'Crowborough', and the unusual 'Green Goddess', with bright green and white handkerchief-like flowers.

There are now interesting colored forms available, but these should be grown as potted plants or lifted in fall, as they are not all hardy. The Golden Calla, Z. elliothiana, has 4-in. blooms in a color range from cream to yellow through orange to deep rust and crimson. Leaves are heart-shaped, often spotted white, and stand 2 to 3 ft. tall. The Pink Calla, Z. rehmannii, has more linear leaves and has 2 to 4-in. blooms from blush thru pink to deepest royal purple. Wow! These make excellent accent plants for patios or conservatories, or may be planted in borders and lifted for winter.

The rhizomes of all can be divided in fall for plants to share, or plant again about 4-in. deep. Be careful to provide good air circulation to avoid fungal diseases, especially in cooler weather, and use caution when handling. The sap can cause skin irritation and all parts of the plant are poisonous to eat. The blooms make excellent long-lasting cut flowers and have no fragrance to compete on the dinner table.

 
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