Calla lily

by Adam Pasco

I've had mixed results with calla lilies over the years. It's getting them going in spring that's caused me problems.

Calla lily in flowerI've had mixed results with calla lilies over the years. It's getting them going in spring that's caused me problems. I don't think I provide them with enough heat as I don't want the expense of heating my greenhouse.

Until two years ago, they've just rotted off without showing any sign of growth, but recently I've had more success. Now a group of them takes centre stage on my garden table to steal the show, near the bench where I can admire them close-up. With luck I'll be able to let them die down gradually by reducing watering in autumn, then overwinter their tubers to replant next spring.

Calla lilies have a tongue-twister of a botanical name: Zantedeschia. They grow from dormant tubers (well I think that's what they are). They need a good, loam-based compost, a warm position, and once they're growing you must make sure their compost never dries out. This is one pot plant I don't think you can overwater.

Many varieties have wonderful speckled leaves, while others have dark leaf stalks, but it's their striking flowers most people are after. Their blooms are really spathes; bright trumpets at the tip of a stem, with a graceful twist and pointed tip unlike the flowers of anything else you're likely to grow.

It's surprising that some of the most exotic houseplants, like calla lilies and moth orchids, have actually becomes some of the cheapest to buy in supermarkets. You'll probably find pots in supermarkets now, boasting their stunning spathes.

Zantedeschia albomaculata varieties have spathes in pale shades of pink, yellow and cream through to white, and lance-shaped leaves. Elliottiana hybrids have wonderfully speckled leaves and bright, brash spathes, while the rehmannii hybrids have mainly deeper green leaves and often deep purple spathes. Some of the latest introductions carry deep, almost black spathes, while those in bright or burnt orange look really striking.

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Gardeners' World Web User 18/04/2009 at 22:25

i am getting married on 29th may in my late mothers garden there is a large calla plant i would love to use the flowers for my wedding will they be in flower by then.

Gardeners' World Web User 20/04/2009 at 10:16

Lizzy, very hard to say, as I can't be sure what variety she was growing, or what part of the country the garden is. If I assume this plant is Zantedeschia aethiopica and probably the white variety 'Crowborough' then this usually starts flowering in March/April and can continue into June. You might be lucky! I'm sure all our web community send their very best wishes to you for the future, and a very happy wedding day.

Gardeners' World Web User 08/05/2009 at 11:59

I'm trying to find deep purple calla lilies (swartzcoff??) to plant do you know I can find them?

Gardeners' World Web User 13/05/2009 at 12:29

Debbie, I know Aeonium Zwartkop, but don't know a calla of this name.

Gardeners' World Web User 13/05/2009 at 14:55

I have a very deep pink calla lily an as of yet i have had no trouble at all with it. I grow is in my garden in a very sunny patch, which it seems to love. It is a swartzcoff variety and i purchased it in wilkinsons shop in Runcorn.........i'm hoping for many more years of pleasure from it .

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