I love lilies. They are elegant, colorful, and in the right conditions easy to grow. My new favorite is the Calla Lily called ‘Captain Amigo’. Early last spring I bought half a dozen rhizomes at Costco and potted them in a container on my side porch. For the past two springs I have had a nice showing of “lilies” – only they aren’t really lilies.
We call them Calla “Lilies” when in fact they are just Callas. Their family is Araceae, and genus name is Zantedeschia, whereas the true lilies are in the Liliaceae family. Callas originated in South Africa and moved to the Americas in the 1800’s. Calla comes from the Greek word meaning beauty.
I’m sure you are familiar with the white common callas – Z. aethiopica – with the rolled creamy white spathes (with a pronounced yellow stamen in the center) folding back into a trumpet shape. The 4-8 inch flowers grow on 2-4 feet long stems with bright to dark green 6-8 inch wide shapely leaves. Callas grow from a rhizome (not a bulb as true lilies) and like wet areas. The leaves are sometimes evergreen in our mildest winters.
In the past 25-30 years calla’s hybrid cousins (of which there are hundreds so far) are being introduced. They grow from a rhizome and like a well-drained porous soil. In sandy soils add an all-purpose fertilizer. It is best not to plant in our clay soils unless you supplement it with lots of compost – as good drainage is needed. These new callas come in most colors – the pale pinks, to the vivid yellows, oranges, and reds. There are also lavender, purple and almost black. The new callas aren’t as tall or big as the common calla – growing only to 2-2 1/2 feet; many are dwarf types. Plant with a north, east, or south exposure – they don’t handle our hot summer sun well. They bloom in spring and the leaves die down in the fall.
My favorite calla hybrid is ‘Captain Amigo’. It has beautiful yellow flowers, but the most wonderful thing about it is the leaves. They are shaped like an oblong but pointed spade – up to 10 inches long and 6-8 inches wide. They have the most interesting irregular shaped spots – white to almost translucent. I love the cut leaves for my floral designs – but that’s another topic.
Try growing callas – the common white calla for wet places and the smaller hybrids for well-drained soil. Enjoy.
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The Red Bluff Garden Club is affiliated with the Cascade District Garden Club; California Garden Clubs, Inc; Pacific Region Garden Clubs and Natural Garden Clubs Inc.