by Bob Reidmuller
printed in Garden Compass magazine, March/April 2003
Used with permission.

More often associated with demise and macabre circumstances, the Calla Lily is more a herald of rebirth, spring and summer. As twisted as its image so is its botanical name. There is only one true Calla, Calla palustris, a white bog plant. All others at the turn of the last century were moved to the genus Richardia and were eventually reclassified as the genus Zantedeschia…we still say Calla!

White Z. aethiopica, pink Z. rehmanii and yellow Z. elliottiana have given rise to a number of new colored hybrids. To be correct, the “flower” we appreciate is not a flower but rather a spathe (the outside colored part) and a spadix (the spike inside the spathe). This is similar to the “flowers” on Poinsettias or Bougainvilleas. The actual flowers are tiny, insignificant and are on the spadix.

Looking for superbly soft or bodacious bold? These new Calla hybrids are it. Soft pinks, mauve and lavenders are one end of the spectrum to the deepest, brightest yellows and combos of yellow flushed with rust or red darkening with age to deep orange or more red than yellow (look for ‘Flame’ or ‘Blaze’ varieties).

Natives to South Africa, all will thrive on the coast and in hotter inland areas with a little partial shade. They prefer a slightly more acid soil with good drainage and moderate water. Bloom time ranges from early spring to early summer and the plants are as beautiful in containers as in the landscape. These are also excellent cut flowers so go out and plant some Richar…uh?, Zanted…uh?, just go get some Callas!