Not Just For Funerals

By Bonnie Grant | January 12, 2022
by Bonnie Grant
January 12, 2022

For some odd reason, calla lilies always remind me of funerals. I suppose I have also seen them in weddings, but they are more representative of sad occasions. In spite of this, I love callas, especially the white variety. Their unique cupped flowers curve around the stem and are a gentle creamy white. However, calla lily flowers aren’t really the flower of the plant, which is a fun secret.

Calla Lily Flowers

I have been growing calla lilies in my garden forever. They are such uniquely structured plants, with elegant blooms. We always call the curved, petal-like organ a flower, but it isn’t really. In fact, calla lily flowers aren’t really lilies, nor are they flowers. They are in the Arum family, and produce a spathe characteristic of this group. The true flowers are hidden from view and rather uninteresting. Curling protectively around the tiny blooms is the spathe, which is an adapted leaf. 

No matter the facts, we still refer to them as flowers and they are a common bouquet bloom. The white variety is appealing as it wraps around the stem with a soft curve. You start growing calla lilies from the rhizomes. These structures look like roots but are actually storage organs for the plant. You need loose, well drained soil, but otherwise the plant is fairly unfussy. Calla lily blooms can form in both full sun to part shade where temperatures remain warm. One thing they do need is consistent moisture and a dab of spring fertilizer to jump start growth.

Growing Calla Lilies

The calla lily requires a dormant period during winter. Around late summer, slow down your watering and let the foliage die back. In a northern climate, it is best to lift the rhizome and store it over the winter. In temperate and warm regions, leave the rhizome in the soil and mulch around it. In my zone, I have to lift the rhizomes, shake off soil, and let them dry out for a week. Then I store them in peat moss, in a cool, dry place. I replant them after all danger of frost has passed. In spring, I give the plant some time release plant food and begin watering regularly. Soon the stem and a spathe will unfurl. 

Calla lilies have a lot of meanings. The name comes from the Greek word for ‘beauty’. The plant is part of Christian celebrations around Easter, symbolizing Jesus’ resurrection. The flowers also represent youth, holiness, faith, and purity. Their symbology as flowers of rebirth is probably why they are often included in funereal bouquets. 

I just love their unique form and grace. The white hue is a perfect offset for other plants, brightening foliage areas, and combining with other colors of flowers. They are easy to grow and one of my favorite flower-not-flowers. 

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