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Calla Lily: Classic Beauty with South African Roots
The houseplant of the month for May is the Calla Lily! Whether you know it as the Arum Lily, Zantedeschia, or another name entirely, the Calla is a classic beauty with African roots and a sunny disposition.
Proud leaves, colourful calyces
The Callas’s leaves and calyces stand proudly upright. Bright green, arrow shaped leaves surround young, funnel shaped bracts of pink, cream, yellow, purple, orange, white and even black.
South African Roots
The Calla Lily originates from South Africa – but despite its South African roots it actually grows from a bulb. It was first written about in the 18th Century by botanist Giovanni Zantedeschi, whom the plant was named after. The word Calla, unsurprisingly, means beautiful.
The Calla Lily has been related to Greek Mythology and the Virgin Mary, and is traditionally a symbol of purity and sympathy. The American artist Georgia O'Keeffe (1887 - 1986) painted many Calla Lilies and became famous because of it.
Caring for the Calla - Love, light and warmth
Because of its African roots the Calla Lily loves light and a fair amount of warmth. Give the plant water once or twice a week plus some plant food to get a good result. Leave any old bracts that become green, but remove them when they turn brown. When the Calla Lily has finished flowering, you can plant it in a sunny position in the garden, where it will die down and return next year.
The plant usually grows to 40-55cm tall, and can flower from three to eight weeks, depending on the care it is given. It likes a temperature of 12-25°C. When it has finished flowering in the autumn and starts yellowing, stop watering it and keep it in a cool, frost free place. In the spring you can bring the plant to life again by putting it in a warm place and giving it water.
The Calla Lily loves humus rich soil which is always lightly damp. If you see drops hanging from the calyx of the Calla Lily, this is called guttation and occurs when your plant has had too much water.
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