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Until the early 1900s, it was believed that the calla and the aquatic arum belonged to the same genus. The German botanist Karl Sprengel was the first to state that the calla and the aquatic arum were not so much alike; in fact, there were numerous botanical differences that characterized the two flowers. The name calla derives from the Greek kallos, which means beautiful. The calla grows spontaneously in Africa, near the Transval river and between the equator and the Cape of Good Hope. During the rainy season they bloom, in times of drought, instead, they fall "in hibernation".
In the language of flowers, the calla and the aquatic arum are the emblem of beauty, simple and refined.
It is considered an excellent decorative plant for ceremonies and events. It is not rare, in fact, to see it inside the decorated requests for wedding ceremonies. We are talking about the calla, a bulbous species of great charm and beauty to which we dedicate an interesting popular section. In fact, inside it you will find articles on the cultivation of the plant, its characteristics and its meaning. In this introductory content, however, we want to present the plant to you and make it familiar, in order to decide whether to cultivate it or not. Regardless of the ceremonies and decorations, the calla is also a plant that lends itself to potted cultivation on terraces and balconies and to the decoration of flowerbeds in the garden.
The calla is a plant of easy adaptability to different climatic conditions. Its flexibility depends on the many varieties available and the hybrids created over time. The calla, in fact, thanks to numerous hybridization processes, can withstand both heat and cold. For an optimal cultivation, it is necessary to know its botanical and cultural characteristics. You will acquire all the necessary knowledge by reading the individual contents of our section. Meanwhile let's say immediately that the calla is a plant native to the sub tropical and equatorial areas. Its country of origin is southern Africa. The plant belongs to the genus Zantedeschia and to the Araceae family. In Europe, the plant was imported in the mid-1700s, but was classified only a century later by the Italian botanist Francesco Zantedeschi, from which it derives the name of the genus to which the calla belongs. However, this plant should not be confused with a marsh plant called the aquatic aro and belonging to the genus Calla. The plant, botanically called calla of marsh or calla palustris, is a plant with origins and cultivation requirements completely different from the calla belonging to the genus Zantedeschia. In our section, however, you will also find interesting information on the marsh calla lily.
The calla is a plant that has a green, fleshy and sinuous stem ranging from forty-five centimeters to one meter in height. The leaves are green, shiny, oval or heart-shaped, sometimes with wavy edges. The plant has a very particular flower: this part, in fact, called "spadice", has the shape of a cylindrical rod. The rod, in turn, is contained within a white petal (or other color) that in reality is only a deformed leaf of the calla. This deformed leaf is called spata. The spadix, or the flower, contains small yellow inflorescences that cross it in all its length. From these inflorescences small fruits that contain the seeds will sprout. The color of the spade and the spadix, that is of the part that is considered the flower of the calla, can vary according to the species and the variety. Usually the colors range from white to pink or orange-salmon. The most popular varieties have a white flower.
Among the most well-known varieties of calla we recall the Aetiopic Zantedeschia, the Zantedeschia
albomaculata, the Zantedeschia elliottiana, the Zantedeschia rehmanni, the Zantedeschia schwarwalder and the Zantedeschia pentlandii. From these varieties, hybrids with a unique coloring and charm have also been made. However, the most known and cultivated variety is the Aetiopic Zantedeschia, especially with the tallest stem, about a meter, and the white candid flower. The Zantedeschia albomaculata presents, instead, a yellowish flower. The Zantedwschia elliottiana, always with yellow flowers, can reach up to 90 centimeters in height. Zantedeschia rehmanni is smaller, and is included in the dwarf varieties, which has a stem no higher than thirty centimeters and flowers ranging from pink to purple. The flower of the Zantedeschia schwarwalder, on the other hand, is colored blue. Finally, the Zantedeschia pentlandii, a plant with a stem sixty centimeters high, has yellow flowers with red shades.
The cultivation method of calla depends on the time of flowering of the plant. In fact, there are varieties with early flowering and late flowering varieties. The early flowering varieties need spring temperatures of about fifteen degrees, while those with late flowering need higher spring temperatures, even twenty degrees. The most widespread and cultivated calla lily, namely the Zantedeschia aetiopica, grows even at lower temperatures. The marsh calla, on the other hand, which grows inside the ponds, is resistant to cold temperatures only when the pond water is not too low. The plant can be grown both in pots and in the ground. The ideal soil for this plant is a mixture of peat, dry leaves and sand.
All species of calla, both zadenteschia and marsh, need direct sun exposure. The calla zadenteschia must be exposed to the morning sun, then it can also be moved to partial shade. The calla of marsh, on the other hand, needs the sun all day.
Calla is a plant that flowers from February to October. In its natural environment, Africa, the plant flowers during the rainy season and enters vegetative rest during the drought. Some varieties of calla bloom from February to May, others from March to October. The calle that bloom from February to May are called early flowering, those that bloom from March to October are instead called late-flowering. The zantedeschia aetiopica and the zantedeschia schwarwalder are early flowering varieties, while the zantedeschia albomaculata, the zantedeschia rehmanni and the zantedeschia elliottiana are late-flowering.
Repotting and multiplication
Repotting the calla always depends on the time of flowering. Late-flowering species are repotted in February, while early-flowering ones are repotted in August or September. The multiplication of calla occurs precisely during repotting. On this occasion, the rhizomes or shoots are picked and divided. In the calla cultivated on the ground, the rhizomes rest for a couple of months before being planted. For those grown in pots, the rhizomes can be left to rest inside the new container. Sprouts, instead, are planted in small jars and at temperatures of about twenty degrees. The soil for repotting and multiplication is the same as that used for the first planting of the plant.
Irrigation and fertilizer
Irrigation and fertilization of calla occur mainly during the flowering season. Since the latter occurs at different times and depending on the variety, the period of the interventions must be adjusted based on the flowering of the single cultivated species. The calla must be watered abundantly during flowering, while the irrigations must be scarce when the flowers dry and the leaves turn yellow. At this stage it is necessary to irrigate only to keep the soil moist. When the flowers bloom and the leaves revive, we must instead resume abundantly watering. The water must arrive only on the leaves and on the soil, never on the flowers, which risk being seriously damaged by the jets or by the sprays. The fertilizer is also given during flowering. In this period it is fertilized once a week with a liquid fertilizer. This product must have a higher potassium content than nitrogen and phosphorus.
Calla is a plant that can be attacked by various insect pests. Among these, the cottony cochineal, the aphids and the red spider mite. In the case of short attacks, insects can be manually removed by passing a cotton swab soaked in alcohol or by washing the leaves with soap and water. Washings must be carried out gently so as not to damage the plant. On the other hand, serious and extensive parasitic attacks must be treated with the use of specific insecticides. Other adversities can be caused by cultivation errors. If the calla does not grow it means that the soil is too dry, if the leaves appear burnt it means that there has been an excess of sun exposure, if the leaves wither, instead, there could be, on the contrary, an excess of shade or a too low temperature.
The calla does not need any pruning. For this reason it is also considered a plant of easy cultivation. To avoid the attacks of pests and the appearance of diseases, it is only necessary to remove the dry and yellowed leaves. The operation must be carried out using clean and disinfected gloves and knives.
Calla: Name and meanings
The calla derives from the Greek "kalos", which means "beautiful". Over the centuries, this meaning has been extended not only to the Zantedeschia, but also to the aquatic arous, whose flowers symbolize beauty, the simplicity of beauty itself and refinement. In ancient Rome, however, the calla symbolized lust. This meaning derives from the shape of the flower, the spadix, considered by the ancients as a phallic symbol. In the Christian religion, however, the calla takes on the meaning of chastity and purity. It is said, in fact, that the white calla was born from the tears of the Madonna at the foot of the Cross. Particular meanings are also attributed to the flower and its coloring. The white one symbolizes the candor and virginity of the bride. Because it is associated with brides, the white calla is almost always present in wedding decorations. The pink calla, instead, is the symbol of femininity. Some varieties of calla also have purple flowers. The latter symbolizes sadness and is used for funeral decorations. There are also varieties with a red flower that symbolize passion and eroticism.
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