Calla lily is a flowering plant that can grow 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide. It can grow at cooler temperatures and can tolerate wet conditions. This plant can be grown as a marginal aquatic. Its preferred habitat is in streams and ponds or on the banks. Calla Lilies are one of the few house plants that thrive in wet, even soggy, potting mix. To maintain a constant supply of moisture, keep the saucer filled with water. Bloom usually shows between 8 and 16 weeks after potting, depending on the amount of sunlight the plant receives. In summer, move the potted plant outdoors to a spot in full sun. Re-pot once or twice during the growing season and bring indoors before frost. In areas where winter lows do not drop below 10°F, you can plant your Calla Lily in the ground in spring in an evenly moist or boggy location in full sun. To grow Callas outdoors, plant it after danger of frost has passed in full sun or partial shade (partial shade is required in the South and warm inland areas of the West unless the soil is constantly wet) and rich moist soil (1). Calla lilies purify the air around it and absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen as part of the photosynthesis process. Also lilies absorb airborne pollutants such as benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene. Peace lilies are effectively remove benzene, a byproduct of inks, oils, paints, plastics, rubber, dyes, detergents, gasoline, pharmaceutical, tobacco smoke, synthetic fibers, and trichloroethylene derived from metal degreasing, dry cleaning industries, printing inks, paints, lacquers, varnishes and adhesives (2).
Culinary and Medicical Uses
Calla lily is extremely toxic and should not be ingested. It can cause burns all around the mouth and if ingested, can cause buildup of calcium oxalic crystals from the oxalic acid content along with vomiting. However, the plant’s rhizome, or underground stem, has been used in medicinal treatments in South Africa. The treatment is made by boiling the leaves and rhizome in milk, and then used in a dressing for wounds (3).
Significance to Cultural Communities
Calla lilies are native to South Africa; in Afrikaans the plant is called Varkoor, which means pig’s ear (3). After the plant was brought from South Africa to Europe and North America, the flower became a popular flower of many symbols. Freud depicted the plant sexually and regarded the flower as having deeper meanings and interpretations than how people comprehend it consciously. The calla lily then became a recurring motif in paintings, particularly noted in the works of Georgia O’Keefe. Her provocative representations of the calla lily in the 1930s gave her nickname, “the lady of the lillies” (5). In North America, because the plant usually blooms around Easter time, the calla lily became a symbol of Jesus' resurrection. The calla lily has been depicted with the Virgin Mary or Angel of Annunciation as well. For this reason, calla lilies are associated with holiness, faith, purity, and rebirth. White flowers mean purity and innocence, pink flowers have a connotation of admiration and appreciation, and purple, which is often associated with royalty, denotes passion. Yellow flowers represent gratitude. The pure white flowers are often used at weddings, as symbols of devotion. However, they have also been used at funerals, with the meaning of rebirth, to represent the purity of a departed soul (4).
1. “Growing Guide Calla Lily.” White Flower Farm. http://www.whiteflowerfarm.com/growguide-293.html
2. Deitz, Leah. “What Are the Benefits of Peace Lilies?” Garden Guides. http://www.gardenguides.com/124066-benefits-peace-lilies.html
3. “Calla lily (arum lily) - Symbol of magnificent beauty: Uses and benefits of calla lily.” Herbs-Treat and Taste, May 18, 2011. http://herbs-treatandtaste.blogspot.com/2011/05/calla-lily-arum-lily-symbol-of.html
4. Farrell, Michelle. “What do calla lilies represent?” Telefora, January 22, 2014. http://www.teleflora.com/flower-news/post/what-do-calla-lilies-represent-570744.aspx
5. “History of the Calla Lily.” FlowersBulbs.com. http://flowersbulbs.com/ql_history_calla_lily.htm