The Zantedeschia

Last winter, I bought five Zantedeschia Aethiopica or “Calla Lily” rhizomes. They’re not very cheap compared to the cost of other bulbs, corms and rhizomes so it was a bit of a special treat. I restricted myself to this particular white variety as they are supposed to be hardy, the coloured ones are not. I couldn’t find any definite information what the right growing conditions should be so they ended up being scattered about the garden.

  1. There’s one under the birdbath where the soil is heavy clay and almost constantly wet from birds splashing water in their bath
  2. There’s one under the cherry tree in a somewhat drier and shadier location
  3. There’s one on the patio in full sun in a black plastic pot, which itself is within a terracotta pot that has no drainage holes. I keep it topped up with water like a mini-marginal plant. I got this idea from seeing a group of callas planted like this in a much larger pot at an NGS garden, the result was very beautiful
  4. This one is planted under an arching shrub in partial shade
  5. There is supposed to be a fifth one, but I’ve completely forgotten where I planted it! I’ve absolutely no idea where is it and I can’t find it anywhere. I’m obviously loosing it.

The one in the pot had to be moved from where it was originally planted as it was close to a concrete wooden tree round and so passing feet would regularly snap off the growing tip, it happened so often that I moved it to the pot to rescue it. Even now it’s trying to grow its first leaf from the snapped tip. I couldn’t blame it if it decided to give up, keel over and die.

Although not strictly a scientific experiment, the one planted in wet clay by the bird bath is having a better time than others and gave me the first flower.

This one is planted in a bit of an awkward spot so this was tricky to photograph. I do like the very pure cream-white form of the flower. If these plants do make it through the winter (as they’re supposed to with a bit of mulch), I still feel it’s going to take a few years to get established plants with multiple flowers, but I can wait.


  1. Sunil, I love calla lilies! The form is so incredibly beautiful. My neighbor keeps trying (and failing) to grow them here, so I’ve decided to enjoy them vicariously through blogs. Have you come across the blog Experiments with Plants? B-a-g sometimes approaches gardening scientifically (and sometimes quasi-scientifically). (And sometimes just plain emotionally.)

    One of these days (years) the 5th Zantedeschia is going to take you completely by surprise…


    1. Hi Stacy, knowing where you are it’ll be because of the year-round hot sun that callas might have a bit of trouble growing. You could see if you can grow them in water in the shadiest spot you have? I’ll take a look at the “Experiments with Plants” blog – thanks for the link and yes, I’m hoping to come across the fifth one some day, I really have absolutely no clue as to where I put it and I can’t find it anywhere? I’m baffled!


  2. There is a little info here, just scroll to Z.

    They come from our Western Cape where we have a mediterranean climate, winter rain, hot summer. When the rains come the lilies emerge where a hollow holds water, or around seasonal pools. If they can keep their feet in water they remain in leaf year round. You make your garden choices accordingly. I see the first of mine flowering as look out at my garden.


    1. Hi Diana, thanks for the information and the link. I remember coming across that page on my research. Being in the UK, I can’t keep the plants in water all year round as the water freezes solid in winter so they’ll have to hide away underground. I’ll just have to see how they fare in winter. They are supposed to be somewhat hardy, but it depends on how harsh the winter will be. I hope I see them come up again next year.


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