White calla lilies (Zantedeschia aethiopica)! We all know them for their cut flowers, but did you realize they are also a perennial in most of the South? I’ll be honest, I haven’t found many of them growing in abandoned pastures; abandoned pastures seem to be the home for the daffodils and some of their other friends. No, I’ve seen calla lilies growing in the old established gardens of the south that are still taken care of. Why? Normally it is because calla lilies need more water than just the natural rainfall they might receive in a field.
How much water? A lot. Calla lilies are traditionally grown completely submerged in the water. A typical technique is to pot a very rocky soil mixture together in a pot, and sink the pot completely under the water in a fish pond or other decorative pool of water. However, they don’t have to be completely submerged. A regular irrigation system will take care of them. They like it a little more shady and damp, so just remember that when placing them in the garden.
Here at the Southern Bulb Company farm, we’re going to put them with our white rain lilies (Zephyranthes candida) and our native white spider lilies (Hymenocallis liriosme) in the thick clays at the edge of our pond. This will accomplish a couple of things. First, it will keep them in the moist soils they need to thrive. Second, the water helps keep the soil temperatures above freezing, and calla lilies can be sensitive to freezing. Our farm is located in northeast Texas, almost a Zone 7, and I would not recommend trying this bulb north of here.
What about the history of the bulb? While I would like to offer a great pass-a-long story like so many of our other bulbs have, all I can speak to is the wonderful old places I’ve seen them grow. Many of our old world bulbs like the little jonquil sweeties, old fashioned daffodils, Byzantine gladioli, and more came from Mediterranean places such as the south of Spain. Calla lilies come to us from South Africa, not a hot bed of early American immigration. From there though, they were eventually brought to Europe and the United States. Dr. Bill Welch had them in his old home near Monroe, LA for generations and now has them growing in a decorative galvanized feeding trough near Brenham, TX (the home of Blue Bell Ice Cream). I’ve also seen them all over the Island of Jersey, particularly in the fabulous garden of Mrs. Lea where her pond leads up to her famous trompe l’oeil, which I wrote about on the Bulb Hunter Blog here: http://www.bulbhunter.com/2007/07/12/the-isle-of-jersey/.
That should be enough description to get you going. We hope you enjoy and are anxious to put these bulbs into your hands! Don’t worry, they’re quick to multiply!