Calla lilies

(Zantedeschia species and cultivars)

Think calla lilies (Zantedeschia species and cultivars) only come in pure white? Think again! While the long-stemmed, white spathes of Zantedeschia aethiopica are most familiar from bridal bouquets and the glossy covers of interior decor magazines, hybrid cultivars with ancestry from other species, such as the pink-flowered Z. rehmannii and the yellow-flowered Z. elliottiana, come in a rainbow of almost every color but blue.

Calla lily cultivars come in a wide spectrum of colours, such as the dark purple ‘Macau’, fuschia ‘Z586’, and aptly-named ‘Sunset Passion,’ in deep orange and yellow hues. The nine calla lily cultivars on display were cultivated at Gardens by the Bay as part of a trial to determine their display suitability and duration.

The eight species of the genus Zantedeschia are all native to rocky outcrops, grasslands, savannah or marshes in southern or central Africa. Herbaceous, clump-forming, perennials, Zantedeschia species are adapted to grow and bloom in the rainy season and survive the dry season as tubers or rhizomes. Members of the Araceae family, they are related to anthuriums, caladiums, and peace lilies. 

The calla ‘flower’ is actually an inflorescence or flower spike composed of dozens of tiny flowers or florets. Like all aroids, it has two main parts: the spathe - a petal-like modified leaf, and the spadix - a fleshy, elongated structure bearing male and female florets. This cultivar, ‘Dubai Nights’ has a white-edged purple spathe and a spadix with minute, yellow male florets on top of rounded purple and yellow female florets.

While neither the geographic ranges and genetic relatedness of calla lilies and tulips overlap, callas do share certain ornamental similarities with tulips that make them a complementary pairing in this year’s Tulipmania display, ongoing in Flower Dome. With their large, single-stemmed, striking flowers or inflorescences in jewel tones, we think callas might deserve a show of their own someday!

Cultivar ‘Z586’ has glossy, white-speckled leaves surrounding at least ten spathes in varying shades of pink. Some cultivars may sport over thirty spathes on a single plant!

Written by: Janelle Jung, Senior Researcher (Research and Horticulture)

A transplanted pake (Hawai'i-born Chinese), she's finding her own Singaporean roots. Every plant has a story, and Janelle helps discover and share these with colleagues and guests, hoping to spark a mutual plant passion! Ask her what plant she named her cat after!

This article is part of our What's Blooming series.