Our plant of the month, and one which is suited to our climate, is Zantedeschia Aethiopica, the Arum Lilly.

Plant of the Month

Zantedeschia Aethiopica – Arum Lilly

The genus Zantedeschia comprising 7 species is found in the wild throughout Africa. The genus can be divided into two groups, the first of these comprises two species which can withstand frost, have white flowers, and are known in English as ‘Arum Lillies’.

The second group is not frost hardy, can have flowers which are yellow, orange, pink or mauve and in English these are known as Calla Lillies.

In the wild zantedeschia aethiopica is common in South Africa in wetlands and swamps. Outside of such areas it can still be found but will lie dormant through the winter. In wetlands it is evergreen all year round.

The plant is named for Giovanni Zantedeschi an Italian doctor and botanist. The ‘aethiopica’ part of the name does not imply its origins lie in Ethiopia, but Africa as a whole. However, even though the common English names all contain the word ‘lilly’, this plant is not a lilly.

Easy to Recognise

The calla flower is very easy to recognise. Its bright white single large bract (almost shaped like a leaf) wraps around the digit-like spadix which houses both the male and female elements of the flower.

The flower rises from a bed of bright green leaves, which provide a lovely contrast to the colour of the flowers themselves. After the flowers it produces many green berries which, over time, turn a bright orange in colour. Zantedeschia aethiopica emits a faint scent which attracts ants and bees.


The calla can be grown as a decorative plant or as a cut flower. In its latter form it is often used within funeral flower arrangements. In South Africa both the leaves and rhizomes of this plant have medicinal uses in dressings and some medicines.

The rhizomes can be boiled and eaten as a vegetable. However, if eaten raw they may cause swelling of the throat. The leaves can be boiled down to a mush and used as a remedy for headaches.

Scientific trials have shown that zantedeschia aethiopica, when planted in wetlands, helps cleanse the water of pollutants and slows down the growth of algae.


The calla likes a damp, wet environment but, if this is not available, they may survive planted in shade.

In the latter case they need rich, well fertilised soil and may not produce as many flowers as they would in their preferred habitat. In ideal conditions the plants flower in spring and summer.

In ideal conditions the plant can reach a height of 90cm. If planted in shade the leaves will be larger than those of plants in wet but sunny areas. The leaves are dark green and vary in size according to the conditions in which the plant is growing.

In general the main flowering takes place February – June but single flowers may be produced at other times of the year. In the wild large colonies of this plant can be found from wetlands at sea level to an altitude of 2250m.

Seeing it growing in such profusion in varying conditions it is easy to understand why it can not only withstand frost but also salty winds at sea level.


Zantedeschia is propagated from seen or splitting rhizomes. Seeds should be planted in spring. If wanting to split rhizomes, this must be done when the plant is dormant and the rhizomes taken should be planted at a depth of 3cm.


In landscaping this is a plant that works well on the edges of streams or pools. It must be planted in wet ground or in full shade.

It looks best when planted in groups and can be combined with other water-loving plants such as some varieties of iris for an even greater visual effect.

When planted in shade it should be seen as mainly a foliage plant. It can also be planted in containers.

Nowadays there are many hybrid varieties of zantedeschia available which are all suitable for growing in the ground or in containers.

The Palm Centre, Koycegeiz

For a wide range of special plants visit the areas best nursery, The Palm Centre at Köyceğiz.

It is open daily between 1st June – 31st October but you can visit at any other time by appointment.

Access to plant sales is free but a fee is payable to look around the extensive nursery.

Just ring or email (English is spoken):

E-mail: : palmiyemerkezi@ttnet.net.tr palmiyemerkezi@ttnet.net.tr

Tel : +90 252 262 28 92

Fax : +90 252 262 51 61

Website : http://www.palmiyemerkezi.com