12 julio, 2024

Calla flower: characteristics, habitat, properties, uses, cultivation

The Calla flower (Zantedeschia aethiopica) is the best known plant within the genus Zantedeschia, belonging, in turn, to the Araceae family. It is also commonly known as alcatraz, capote, cartridge, lampaz, cala, calla, cartridge, and in English as calla lily. It is a plant native to South Africa.

Zantedeschia aethiopica It is a herb with spiral leaves whose petiole is as long as the blade of the leaf. It develops a rhizome in the soil from which the roots and leaves emerge. The leaves are also very striking due to their size and intense green color.

The most attractive thing about these plants is their particular inflorescence called spadix, in which male flowers and hermaphrodite flowers develop. This spadix is ​​protected by a spathe or bract that surrounds it in an elliptical way and resembles a large flower petal. After flowering, the fruits are produced, which are orange-colored berries.

It is a well-known ornamental crop with many cultivars growing in all parts of the world. It is a terrestrial plant that can grow in subtropical conditions. It develops up to 1900 meters above sea level.

The requirements of this plant are especially the soil, which must have a good organic matter content and offer good drainage. On the other hand, irrigation must be a very careful aspect since this plant, having an excess of water, is more susceptible to fungal diseases. However, it requires constant humidity as it occurs in the places where it grows naturally.

Regarding the uses, the main objective and the one that marks its commercialization is as an ornamental crop. These plants and especially their flowers have an elegant bearing that is used for many special occasions that require delicate decoration.




It is a plant of terrestrial habit that does not produce milky sap, it is up to 1 m tall. Its stem is underground, with a thick and succulent rhizome.


The leaves are whorled with long petioles measuring 33-82 cm, these are spongy and the leaf blades are simple, measuring 15-40 cm long by 6.8-24.5 cm wide.

Its shape is oblong-deltoid to lanceolate-deltoid, the base of the leaf is sagitted and shows 6 to 10 veins on each side.


The calla has a characteristic inflorescence called a spadix. Each axil develops an inflorescence supported by a long peduncle and surrounded by a large bract called spathe.

The inflorescence can measure from 10.5 to 22.5 cm long and 7.5 to 13.5 cm wide, the spathe or bract partially surrounds the spadix, and in the basal part it forms a kind of greenish tube that opens upwards and broadens into a rounded-elliptical blade of a pure white colour, and the apex shows a backward curvature.

The spadix is ​​a spike that develops a fleshy axis and is surrounded by a spathe or floral bract as already described. The spike can measure about 3.9 cm to 9.6 cm long, the male part of the flower is located at the apex and the female part at the base.

There is no sterile zone between the two regions nor at the apex. The male flower zone is about 0.6 cm wide and has a yellow or orange color.

The female unisexual flowers do not have a perianth, and the male flowers have two or three stamens. The females show a superior ovary, with three locules in which one ovule develops for each one, and they have a single style.

The floral biology of this plant can be divided into five phases which are known as pre-female, female, male, fruit development, and fruit ripening.


The fruit of the callas is a green berry with the basal part orange, and they develop between 1 and 12 seeds.


-Kingdom: Plantae

-Phylum: Tracheophyta

-Class: Liliopsida

-Order: Alismatales

-Family: Araceae

-Gender: zantedeschia

-Species: Zantedeschia aethiopica

This species is also commonly known as Arodes aethiopicum, Calla aethiopica, Calla ambigua, Calla moschata, Colocasia aethiopica, Otosma aethiopica, Psudohomalomena pastoensis, Richardia aethiopica, Richardia africana.

Habitat and distribution

The calla is a plant native to South Africa, and is distributed in all subtropical regions of the world. It is located up to 1900 meters above sea level.

It is obtained both in its natural habitat and cultivated in Albania, Algeria, Azores, Bermuda, Brazil, California, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Greece, Great Britain, Mexico, New Zealand, Nicaragua, the Philippines, Australia, Trinidad and Tobago, among other.

It is an exotic plant that grows wild in cloud forests near irrigation canals, ditches or drainage ditches, pastures and generally in humid regions.


The properties of this plant species are not so extensive because it has a high oxalate content, so it is not recommended to consume it as it can have a toxic effect.

In case of consuming the calla plant, you can suffer from diarrhea, intestinal irritation, it can even cause death.

However, the leaves Zantedeschia aethiopica They are used by applying them directly to heal wounds and bites.


The main use of these flowers is of course as an ornamental. It is an elegant flower used for many occasions from weddings to funerals.

It is a species that is mainly used to prepare decorative centers as a cut flower, either alone or together with other flowers.


The optimal exposure is in the shade or in semi-shade conditions, in places with humid soil, and not in full sun or hot climates.

It can also be grown as an indoor plant, but in this case it must be provided with good lighting to cover its daily light requirements, since a light deficit would affect flowering and would produce greater vegetative development.

Regarding the substrate, the cove requires soils with good drainage and a large amount of organic matter. This is important when choosing a type of soil, or when transplanting to a larger pot.

In this case, if the soil is sandy or clayey, it should be improved by incorporating an organic substrate between 20 and 50%, depending on the characteristics of the soil.

To grow in pots, a layer of gravel or clay can be placed at the bottom to facilitate drainage. On top you can place the substrate that could be any recommended for outdoor plants.

When it comes to places where frost occurs or the temperature during winter is very cold, it is necessary to put a thick padding to protect the plant at its base.

The calla can also be used as a semi-aquatic plant. To do this, it can be partially submerged in water, even this is a way to protect it from frost.



As indicated, the calla is a species sensitive to lack of water. Therefore, the irrigation regime must be abundant and frequent, especially during flowering and when it is in the growth phase. The important thing is that the land or soil where it is located should never be dry.

A good practice to keep the soil of plants grown in pots moist is to place a plate under the pot to conserve the drained water and thus maintain humidity, since water can rise by capillarity.


Fertilization is done during flowering every 15 days through fertigation. This is done by adding a preferably organic fertilizer to the irrigation water, although it is enriched with nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and microelements.

Greater flowering can be achieved with the use of phosphorous and potassium fertilizers. Also, it is important to cut the flowers as they fade.


The calla is a plant that is generally not pruned. What must be taken care of is removing the old basal leaves, since when they dry out they can increase the risk of diseases or parasite attacks.

Likewise, dried flowers should be removed. In this practice of removing dried organs, clean and disinfected tools must be used so as not to contaminate the plant tissues and allow healing to occur successfully.

Plagues and diseases

To avoid diseases, care is required, especially in the amount of water and frequency of irrigation, since an excess of humidity could cause diseases caused by fungi such as Phyllosticta and Colletotrichum.

Other fungi can attack the root of the calla, and these can be identified if there is a yellowing of the lower leaves, since it is a symptom produced by Phytophthora richardie. Likewise, the root can be attacked by Rhizoctonia and Sclerotinia sclerotiorum.

Otherwise, the bacterial attack produces yellowing and necrosis in the plant, while the bulb rots and emits an unpleasant odor. Therefore, plants infected by bacteriosis must be removed immediately.

On the other hand, some pests can appear like aphids, snails and slugs. If these animals exist, it is recommended to delete them manually.


Singh, Y., van Wyk, AE, Baijnath, H. 1996. Floral biology of Zantedeschia aethiopica (L.) Spreng. (Araceae). S. Afr. J.Bot. 62(3): 146-150.
Catalog of Life: 2019 Annual Checklist. Species details: Zantedeschia aethiopica (L.) Spreng. Taken from: catalogueoflife.org
Tropical Coast (2015-2018). Zantedeschia aethiopica. Taken from: tropicalcoast.net
The tree. 2019. Zantedeschia aethiopica. Taken from: elarbol.org
Vibrans, H. (ed.). 2009. Zantedeschia aethiopica (L.) Spreng. Taken from: conabio.gob.mx

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