Zantedeschia aethiopica

Zantedeschia Aethiopica – Calla Lily

Evergreen clump forming plant with large arrowhead shaped leaves and large, pure white flowers.


Robust, evergreen, erect, clump-forming, to 1.5 m high, with leathery leaves in close-set tufts from a tuberous rootstock of white fleshy roots. The white spathe is actually a modified leaf and the yellow spadix is the sexual, flower part of the plant. In Karin’s Garden Z. aethipoica is evergreen, even if it looks a bit tatty in late-autumn, before flowering from August through to December. The variety “Green Goddess”, with a green and white spathe, is listed in the National Pest Plant Accord and so the cultivation, sale, and distribution of this variety is proscribed in New Zealand. Nevertheless both the species and “Green Goddess” hold the award of garden Merit (AGM) from the UK Royal Horticultural Society (RHS).


Z. aethiopica comes from Southern Africa. It is the national flower of Saint Helena in the South Atlantic Ocean. It is also an important symbol of Irish Nationalism because it is used to commemorate those who died in the Easter Rising. Its preferred habitat is in streams and ponds or on the banks; and in marshy areas, often under willows. It arrived in New Zealand as early as 1870.

Soil / Aspect:

Despite its origins and reputation as a wetland plant, Z. aethiopica grows well in ordinary conditions in Karin’s Garden, though you should avoid planting in full sun, to avoid leaf and flower scorch though flowering. Though, of course, if you do have a pond, it will thrive in the pond margin. It is fully hardy in Coastal Tasman.


Z. aethiopica requires very little maintenance. Withered flowers should be removed, pulled not cut as for all Callas. At some point during winter, possibly as the first flowers appear, you may feel moved to remove the tattier leaves. This is also a good time to divide plants for propagation, when it can withstand fairly robust mis-treatment.