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Zantedeschia aethiopica is a rhizomatous herbaceous perennial plant, evergreen where rainfall and temperatures are adequate, deciduous where there is a dry season.
Commonly called calla lilies, these are not true lilies, but are arum (Jack-in-the-pulpit) family members. They are stemless plants whose flowers and leaves rise directly from rhizomes. They typically grow in clumps to 24-36" tall and feature large arrowhead-shaped (sagittate) leaves and extremely showy flowers consisting of a yellow finger-like spadix surrounded by a bright white spathe borne atop a leafless stalk. Commercially grown as a very popular cut flower.
Winter hardy to USDA Zone 8, and may survive some Zone 7 winters with protection. Best in moist soils with full sun to part shade. Lift rhizomes in fall and store in a damp medium such as peat or immediately replant in containers to overwinter as a houseplant. Calla lilies may be planted in mud at the edge of ponds or water gardens.
May also be grown year-round in containers that must be brought indoors in winter before first frost. Overwintering containers placed near a window with bright indirect light can make attractive houseplants.
This is an old fashioned, but very rewarding garden plant. Zantedeschia is named after Professor Zantedeschi, probably Giovanni Zantedeschi, 1773-1846, an Italian physician and botanist. The flowers are faintly scented and this attracts various crawling insects and bees which are responsible for pollinating the flowers. The spathe turns green after flowering and covers the ripening berries. It rots away when these are ripe and the succulent yellow berries attract birds, which are responsible for seed dispersal. The rhizome is large and eaten by wild pigs and porcupines and the ripe fruit enjoyed by birds. Raw plant material causes swelling of the throat because of microscopic, sharp calcium oxalate crystals. The leaves are used as a poultice and a treatment for headaches. May be used as a marginal plant along streams, or on the edge of a pond. Plant in partial shade if there is no permanent water. It can be planted as a foliage plant in deep shade under trees but will not flower well in this position. It is fast growing and likes very rich, well-drained conditions. It is an excellent cutflower and lasts a long time in water. Nowadays there are other forms of this species which will enliven an old theme. There is also an attractive form with leaves spotted white. Requires consistently moist soil.
Leaves have a strong citrusy aroma when crushed. Makes a good container specimen or bonsai.
Colima is a rounded shrub bearing recurved thorns and red shiny fruit that contrasts well with its bright green leaflets in mid, to late summer. An important wildlife plant, colima is a food source for white tailed deer, many birds, butterfly larvae and butterflies, who sip the nectar from its inconspicuous flowers. Its bark and bitter-tasting aromatic leaves are powdered and used as a condiment, while its wood produces a yellow dye. The flowers, leaves and fruit have an aroma of citrus.