Black Calla Lilies

Some Important Facts About Black Calla Lilies

Of the many flowers one could own, black calla lilies are certainly the most beautiful. A welcome addition to the home or garden, these elegant plants are available year round, either outdoors or in the home, and last for 7-10 days in a vase as cut-flower displays.

Known for their trumpet-like shape and elegance, callas have always been considered a flower of celebration. The zantedeschia aethiopica (as it’s known in Latin), is believed to have been named after the Italian botanist and physician Giovanni Zantedeschi (1773-1846).

Though commonly known as an arum lily, these gorgeous flowers are not part of, or related to, the lily family. Callas are an arum, and as such have much closer ties to the philodendron, caladium, and the lowly skunk cabbage, which thrives not in a vase, but throughout marshland areas.

Originally believed to have its origins in Africa, this flower was a favorite of the Romans, who displayed lilies in their homes as a sign of prosperity, and in conjunction with the passage of the Winter Solstice. The plants sometimes reaching heights of six to seven feet, the wealthier citizens would gild a bloom’s edges with gold leaf.

Calla lilies are known for their colorful and speckled heart-shaped leaf, known as a spathe, from the center of which projects a central spike (spadix), which is the actual flower. The trumpet-shaped flowers grow to heights of three feet or more, and many colorful varieties are available, year-round.

Long regarded as both symbols of light and purity, they are highly favored for use in wedding bouquets and cut-flower arrangements, having in years past been a long-standing fixture at funerals and wakes.

Calla lilies are best grown in USDA Zones 7-10, in either partially shaded locations throughout the warmer climes, to full sun in the cooler areas. Black calla lilies, though, as well as the other more colorful varieties, are not as hardy as their plainer cousins. As such, they grow best in Zones 9-10.

Before planting, the soil must be prepared with a mulch mix to not only reduce plant stress but hold in sufficient moisture, while also allowing for drainage.

Plant size must be considered when deciding where to place the “tubers” (or roots), as most calla lilies grow to a height of 36 inches, the leaves spreading outward 1 ½ feet.

Before planting, new roots should be placed in an area where they can dry out and harden. The roots are then placed in prepared soil approximately 2” below the surface, with any foliage pointing upward, and at a distance of 1 ½’ apart from each other.

Then soak the plants, making sure during the following days and weeks to keep the ground moist but not water-logged. The calla lilies should appear and begin blooming within 2-3 months, and with proper care can continue producing new foliage for 6-8 weeks.

At season’s end, lilies in Zones 9-10 can be safely left in the ground, but in the colder climes they must be dug up before hard freezes occur. Remove withered foliage and place the unearthed tubers in a well-ventilated area so they can dry and harden.

Then put them in a closed storage container filled with vermiculite, where they should remain for at least ten weeks. In the spring, replant the tubers, fertilizing them with a 5-10-5 or 5-10-10 mix.

Black calla lilies and other varieties can also be grown indoors following the same planting procedure as is used for outdoor plants. Unlike the outdoor lilies, though, houseplants should be placed in direct sunlight in a room where a 70° F temperature is maintained.

Keep them moist and apply water-soluble fertilizer during growth cycles. At the end of the blooming season, remove the tubers and allow them to rest for 2-3 months before replanting.

Floral arrangements should be trimmed at the stem and placed immediately in a vase of clean water, the arrangement out of direct sunlight and drafty areas. Remove flowers and re-cut the stems every five days, and refill the vase with fresh water. The lilies should last 7-10 days or longer, with proper care.