What is Zantedeschia?

Niki Foster
Niki Foster

Zantedeschia is a genus of flowering herbs native to southern Africa, with eight species commonly called calla lily or arum lily. Somewhat confusingly, Zantedeschia is not a true lily and is distinct from the genera Arum and Calla. Zantedeschia plants are cultivated as ornamental plants for their large, funnel shaped flowers, which may be pink, white, orange, red, purple, or yellow. The plants are toxic and can cause swelling of the throat and gastrointestinal problems, though the leaves of some species are cooked as food.

Zantedeschia is a flowering herb native to southern Africa.
Zantedeschia is a flowering herb native to southern Africa.

Plants in this genus require abundant water and fertilizer, as well as warm temperatures. Some species are tolerant of cooler temperatures or light frosts, while others can only be grown as houseplants in cooler climates. Z. aethiopica, or the common arum lily, is the hardiest species and the most widely cultivated. It has become invasive in some areas, particularly in Australia, where is has become naturalized.

The eight species of Zantedeschia are commonly called calla lily.
The eight species of Zantedeschia are commonly called calla lily.

Also called calla lily or Easter lily, Z. aethiopica features white flowers with a yellow spadix or spike in the center. There are many cultivated garden varieties with different colored flowers, including red desire, green goddess, and pink mist. The spring blooming flowers are traditionally displayed during Easter, particularly in the British Isles.

Zantedeschia elliottiana, commonly called the yellow or golden arum lily, is a summer blooming species with bright yellow flowers. The flowers sometimes mature into berries of the same color that attract bird pollinators. Z. elliottiana is grown ornamentally, and is not known in the wild. It may have developed as a hybrid of other species.

Zantedeschia rehmanii is known as the pink calla or pink arum lily for its bright pink to purple blooms. It is somewhat tolerant of frost, though not as hardy as Z. aethiopica. The pink calla lily requires partial shade and protection from winds.

Rarer species of Zantedeschia include Z. jucunda, Z. odorata, and Z. pentlandii. Z. jucunda and Z. pentlandii have bright yellow flowers, while Z. odorata features fragrant white flowers, similar in appearance to those of Z. aethiopica. Z. odorata grows only in limited areas of South Africa and has a scent reminiscent of freesia. Z. albomaculata, on the other hand, is widespread throughout Africa, growing as far north as Kenya, and has white to orange flowers. There are many Zantedeschia hybrids in cultivation as well, most developed by horticulturalists in New Zealand and California, where the plants grow well.

Zantedeschia plants are toxic and may cause swelling of the throat.
Zantedeschia plants are toxic and may cause swelling of the throat.
Niki Foster
Niki Foster

In addition to her role as a wiseGEEK editor, Niki enjoys educating herself about interesting and unusual topics in order to get ideas for her own articles. She is a graduate of UCLA, where she majored in Linguistics and Anthropology.

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Discussion Comments


The zantedeschia aethiopica, most commonly known as the Easter Lilly is something I look forward to every year.

I cannot resist buying one of these beautiful plants every year, but got tired of throwing them away when they were done blooming.

I figured I didn't have anything to lose by planting it outside and hopefully getting it to bloom again.

I waited until it was warm enough to plant in the ground and placed it in a sunny spot. The instructions said I might get blooms later on that year, or may need to wait another year.

The following June that Easter Lily finally bloomed again. What a pleasant surprise it was to have blooms on that plant again.

One thing I have always loved about growing any kind of lily is that most of them are very hardy, easy to grow and reward you with awesome blooms.


@myharley - I live in zone 5 and can tell you what I do with my calla lilies. I have a row of these planted along the west side of my garage.

Every year I look forward to their bright, cheery blooms, even though I know it means that I have to dig them up every year.

Every fall before the ground freezes, I take a spade and dig up the bulbs. The bulbs don't multiply like day lilies do, but they do seem to grow larger every year.

You need to store them in a place that won't freeze and it is best if they are in some kind of breathable bag. If not, they will get moldy.

I drag mine to the basement in onion bags and keep them where it is cool and dark. In the spring I plant them again, and get the same beautiful blooms every year.

I only started out with a few bulbs, and since they get bigger every year, I can divide them and now have twice as many as I started out with.


I have always thought the blooms of the zantedeschia calla lily are exceptionally beautiful. I also love all the bright colors of blooms and the tube shaped stems.

This is something that I have always wanted to grow myself, but am not that familiar with planting bulbs.

I also live in an area that gets very cold winters. Do these bulbs need to be dug up every year and replanted again in the spring?

If so, will they bloom as well, or is it better to buy new bulbs every year? I know that tulips do best when the bulbs are dug up every year, and am assuming these would be similar.

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