Calla meaning

The calla and its meaning

"The calla lilies are in bloom again. A strange flower, suitable for any occasion. I used them on my wedding day, and now I have placed them here in memory of someone who has died," explained Katharine Hepburn as protagonist Randall Terry, of high social extraction, in the film 'Stage Door' (1937) directed by Gregory La Cava. With his words he summarized the ambivalence of the calla, iconic, 'beautiful' in Greek from 'kalos', considered a symbol of purity both of the bride at the beginning of a new life as a couple, but also present in funeral wreaths (in particular in those dedicated to young people who died prematurely) and cultivated in cemeteries. There calla it was also linked to divine purity, to celestial bliss, represented in Christian iconography in the motifs on the mantle of the Madonna, but also, due to its shape, it was considered the trumpet of the Resurrection of the Archangel Gabriel. Equally ambiguous, as well as surprising, is the appearance of the calla bloomed in nature. What would appear to be a flower is a solitary spring inflorescence composed of a showy spathe, that is a modified leaf, large (up to 25 cm), colored and bright, long and funnel-shaped, which surrounds a central spadix erected by the tiny flowers. This was considered a phallic symbol by the Romans. Roman mythology associated the calla to Venus and the Satyrs for lustful ardor: the goddess of beauty, love, fertility emerged from the sea and cursed the perfection of this flower fearing its rivalry, so that it gave birth to a showy long spadix to make him ugly.


The meaning of the calla it became symbolic of eroticism, sexuality and fertility even among the ancient Greeks. According to a Greek myth, the first calla germinated from a few drops of mother's milk that fell to the ground from the breast of Hera (or Hera), goddess of marriage, while the Milky Way was formed from the one sprinkled into the sky. It happened after the goddess awoke and angered away the one who found himself attached to suck to assimilate the powers of the divinity: it was Heracles, the illegitimate son had with a stratagem by Zeus - the king of Olympus, father of the gods, god of the sky and of thunder, husband of Hera - with the mortal Alcmene, wife of Amphitryon. However, the origin of the calla was also attributed to the tears shed by Eve as she left the Garden of Eden and also to those that flowed from the eyes of the Virgin at the foot of the Cross. A popular belief instead suggested predicting the sex of an unborn child by inviting a pregnant woman to choose between a calla or a rose: if she preferred the first - with the obvious spadix considered a male connotation - then she would give birth to a child, while the second corresponded to a child. The interpretation of the sensuality of the calla came up to the nineteenth century, in the Victorian era, a golden period for the spread of the language of flowers. The streets became bearers of passionate and secret messages for the loved one, without resorting to words, in spite of the rigorous social codes in force.

Myths and weddings

Elegant and exotic, with a strong contrasting color with lanceolate and lush dark green leaves, calla lilies have always been preferred by brides at any time of the year, but especially in the spring season, as a symbol of femininity, purity and radiance. Among Christians, the color white is also considered synonymous with truth, righteousness, virginity, rebirth and, therefore, well representative of the faith and devotion of the spouses. Despite its modern and minimalist appearance, in the 1930s the calla became fashionable for bouquets and floral decorations for elegant weddings. Majestic flower, predominant in a bouquet, preferred as a solitaire in a long and narrow vase in home decorations, of intense satisfaction for those who grow it, sought after by home designers for its refined simplicity, the calla lends itself to different solutions in wedding organizations refined. Some brides choose miniature white calla lilies or a single long calla of refined simplicity as a bouquet. Three white calla, symbol of the Trinity, surrounded by white or colored tulips, or daisies, are some of the compositions suitable for floral decorations as an ornament on the altar and chapels in churches, and also in the wedding reception. But if the bride prefers to leave out the traditional plain white, with the calla she can indulge in the varieties available in shades of yellow, orange, pink, red, burgundy and dark purple.

History and uses

The calla, an evergreen exotic plant with sweetly scented flowers, was introduced from southern Africa to Europe around the middle of the 17th century, as it appears to have been included in the Royal Garden of Paris in 1664. Described by the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus in 1753, it was classified as a new genus called 'Zantedeschia', originally from South Africa, in 1826 by the German botanist Kurt Sprengel (1766-1833) in honor of his friend Giovanni Zantedeschi (1773-1846), Italian physician and botanist. It is often also defined as' Calla Arum 'or' Calla Giglio even if, in reality, it does not belong to either of the two genera Arum and Lilium, but the association with these derives from the whiteness of the flower, symbol of purity. In the early 1900s, in Great Britain and Ireland the calla also took on the popular name of 'Easter Lily' as it was cultivated to be marketed during this Easter period. It was also taken as a symbol of Irish republicanism after the 'Easter revolt' (1916). In southern Africa, the leaves and oblong rhizome of the calla are considered edible, large in size, and traditionally collected from wild plants, cooked and consumed as a condiment. Wild boars and porcupines also feed on rhizomes, while birds feed on ripe fruit. The leaves are also used as a compress for headaches. However, the plant contains sharp microcrystals of calcium oxalate, which can cause irritation and edema of the lips, tongue and throat, stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhea in case of raw ingestion. Scientifically, these plants have been shown to be effective for cleaning wastewater and preventing algae growth in man-made wetlands.

The calla in art

The first art exhibition on the theme of the exotic calla flower in the different interpretation of painters and photographers was the one entitled 'Georgia O'Keeffe and the Calla in American Art, 1860-1940' organized by the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum and set up at the museum itself in 2002-2003. 54 representations of the 'Calla' were exhibited by 33 artists of the caliber of Imogen Cunningham, Georgia O'Keeffe, Man Ray, Joseph Stella, Edward Weston, to name a few. On the cover of the catalog appeared the oil on canvas 'Calla Lillies on Pink' (1928) by Georgia O'Keeffe. O'Keeffe (1912-1986), studying in Chicago and then in New York, had developed her own pictorial style, first modernist and then closer to abstraction, in which a memory of her origins on the Wisconsin farm remained. Strongly influenced also by her stays in wild New Mexico, she moved permanently to Taos once she was widowed by the gallery owner Alfred Stieglitz, who died in 1946. She became one of the key figures and perhaps the most celebrated female artist in American art of the twentieth century. With his large-format single-flower paintings, he redefined this gift of nature almost as a pure geometric form, inducing the observer to look at the subject without any preconceptions. Her flowers became bearers of a charge of mystery and sensuality, an expression of the ambiguity of strength and feminine softness. The artist never recognized the attribution of eroticism to her floral painting and, instead, explained that she had taken flowers as a model as they did not have to be paid to pose for her.

Calla meaning: The calla in painting

The calla, sensual and sculptural - the best example par excellence of the luxuriant flora of Mexico - has been celebrated several times by the Mexican painter and muralist Diego Rivera (1886-1957), especially depicting it together with local peasants or at religious festivals. Among the exemplary versions of this very popular theme within Rivera's pictorial production we remember the 'Day of the Flower' (1925), the 'Festa di Santa Anita' (1931), the 'Venditrice di calle' (1938), the ' Flower seller '(1942 and 1949), the' Street vendor '(1943), but also the' Girl with street ', the Man laden with street' (1950), the 'Nude with street' and the 'Market some flowers'. In the 'Portrait of Mrs. Natasha Gelman' (1943) painted on commission in large dimensions, the woman, lying on a sofa among bunches of calla lilies, wears an elegant long white dress.

The 'Calla Lily' flower stands alone in the very famous black and white artistic photographs, taken in the years 1986-1988 by the American photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. With the classic style and minimal elegance that distinguished him, he interpreted in a poetically erotic sense the calla lilies with their captivating shape and great aesthetic impact, enhancing their femininity and grace concomitant with the erect central spadix, symbolic of sexual masculinity. The shots of male and female nudes, still lifes of flowers and portraits of celebrities led to notoriety Mapplethorpe who, trained in painting and sculpture, had landed in the 'Big Apple' in 1970. He quickly turned to photography, first with collage erotic pictures taken from magazines, then with their own modus operandi using a Polaroid camera and mostly preferring black and white rather than the trendy color among photographers in the 80s.


Here are the Main characteristics of this plant with an elegant flower.

Attention: the calla is harmful to animals if any part of the plant is ingested.


Calla lilies come in one rich range of colors, the most common is the classic white lily, but the other colors range from pale pink to burgundy.

Some have recently been obtained hybrids (i.e. colors and varieties obtained by crossbreeding) in bizarre colors like orange and black.

Sun exposure

Being one tropical plant, the calla lilies grow into partial shade in areas with a summer climate hot is wet.

A little moderate sunlight or bright indirect light is fine, but the direct sunlight is too much strong for the tender petals.

You can place it next to one sunny window facing east or west for best results.

Remember that, although the plant can live all year round in the appropriate climate, between 18 and 28 °, it is best to let it rest for two or three months a year.

This allows the lily to rest is come back to life with more beautiful blooms the following season.


The flowering period of the calle is in summer is in autumn, but many are not lucky enough to see them flourish. This happens for those who grow calla lilies in pots and in apartments.

So to see them bloom, it is preferable grow them in the garden, planted directly on the ground.

When growing calla lilies, be sure to plant them in the spring. Since calla lilies are plants perennial, will reach their full growth within a year.

Anthurium is a tropical flower and its name derives from a Greek word that means "tail flower". It is characterized by the presence of a heart-shaped bract (leaf accompanying flowers or inflorescences) that surrounds the real flower that is in the center and is pointed-shaped. There is red, pink, lilac, green and brown. The Anthurium is synonymous with hospitality, happiness and abundance.

Resurrection symbol

Fidelity, holiness is purity they are often related to calla and its strongly religious symbol.

There calla it is strictly associated to resurrection of Jesus, calla lily is a popular flower that is often seen in the Easter period.

This could be due to the fact that they bloom precisely in this period of the year but also why they symbolize rebirth and resurrection, as is commonly seen in images with the Virgin Mary.

TO trumpet shape, the calla represents the triumph in the announcement of the paschal resurrection.

It is also said that the tears of Eve they did to grow up the calle while left the garden of Eden.

How to grow calla in the garden

To grow calla in the garden and in pots you will need to buy some bulbs which are generally sold from September to December. In fact, already in autumn the Zantedeschia it can be planted in the ground while for the other varieties it can be done up to May. The bulbs must be buried in the position of partial shade, but they also adapt to more sunny exposures as long as the earth is always moist and fresh.

Before proceeding with the planting of the bulbs, make sure you have digged the soil well and eliminate stones, roots and weeds. It is advisable to enrich the substrate with some compost or manure in order to ensure the plant the nourishment necessary during development. Dig small holes a 15-20 cm deep and spaced the bulbs at least 30 cm between them.

Always keep the soil moist and slightly compressed and, if necessary, cover it with one layer of dry leaves or straw to protect the bulbs from the latest frosts. This way you should see the first leaves sprout from the spring, but it is not uncommon for the bulbs to start germinating already in winter.

During development, the watering they must be regular and abundant. Remember that the calla is a marshy plant, therefore it needs a significant water supply.

When the leaves begin to yellow, stop the administration of water. Add fertilizer natural to support flowering and always eliminate withered flowers to avoid the formation of seeds.

FIND OUT: How to grow bulbs In the language of flowers, calla lily is associated with feminine beauty and purity.It is no coincidence that it is the favorite flower of brides

Cultivation of the calla: the main problems

Generally, the calla lilies are tough and strong plants that are not afraid of the attack of parasites, aphids or molds. Attention, however, to thermal excursions as they do not tolerate too rigid temperatures or sudden changes. In milder climatic areas, the calla lily should not be unearthed but can remain in the garden even during the winter.

Beware, however, of the weaker species that instead require explanting.

Finally, remember that calla lilies reproduce by division of rhizomes and rarely by sowing. The reproduction by division of the rhizomes must be done after about 2 months after flowering. Calla lilies love moist, drained soils rich in organic substances. They fear frost and cold and prefer to grow in partial shade.

Curiosity: perhaps not everyone knows that calla is a very toxic plant for both humans and animals.

The meaning of the calla, a flower so beautiful it seems almost divine

Of all the flowers it is the most elegant, the finest and, let's face it, the most stylish. Not surprisingly, the calla is one of the favorite flowers of brides, ready to compete for the podium with the much-loved rose. The calla is a plant with an unmistakable appearance, which stands out for its leaves heart-shaped or triangular, from spat, that is the leaf in the shape of a large petal of various colors, which protects the small internal yellow flowers, grouped in a cylindrical shape called spadix.

The flower belongs to the family of Araceae, is of African origin and grows spontaneously in areas with a mild climate such as central-eastern Africa and the regions between the Equator and the Cape of Good Hope. Before the nineteenth century this flower was called by its name Richardia. Subsequently the flower took on the botanical name zantedeschia aethiopica, a tribute to the Italian physicist and botanist Francesco Zantedeschi, lived between 1773 and 1846. However, the name too zantedeschia it was destined to be little used, replaced by calla, deriving from the Greek word kalos which means "beautiful, pleasant, charming".

In language of flowers there calla indicates elegance, purity, femininity and even eternity, so much so that it is used as ornamental flower not only for weddings and in particular for the bride's bouquet, but also for funeral ceremonies to remember the strength and beauty of the missing people, even more so, if at a young age.

According to Greek mythology the calla was born from the drops of milk that fell from the breast of the goddess Hera, a divinity in charge of marriage, childbirth and fertility. Also in Greece it was believed that the choice between a Calla or a Rose by a pregnant woman could portend the birth of a boy or a girl. In Roman mythology instead it was believed that Venus, harboring jealousy towards such a beautiful flower, had wanted to add it spadix, the spike-like inflorescence, just for the sake of making it ugly.

The most known calla lilies are white in color, but there are different colored variations and each one has its own symbology. There red calla has long been an erotic symbol, a reference to passion, sensuality and fertility, a symbol that was later resized by Christianity to avoid any reference to eroticism being so associated with the tears shed by Eve after the expulsion from Eden or from those of the Virgin Mary at the foot of the Cross of Jesus purple calla, used in funeral ceremonies, indicates pain instead. And always remaining on a religious theme, the shape of the calla it is often associated with the trumpet played by the Archangel Gabriel on the day of the Resurrection.

The calla lilies can be grown both in pots and in the garden and it is good to know that they prefer a temperate climate, such as the Mediterranean one, even if they tolerate high temperatures well. The flowering period it coincides with spring and summer: it is in April that they show their inflorescences and until July they show all their beauty. If you keep a calla at home, remember to always place it in a very bright area, while if it is outside, prefer an area in partial shade.

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