Symbolism Behind Calla Lilies

5 min read

There are many legends told about the history of the calla lily and how it became to be so symbolic. Each story having a different history, somehow still have similar symbolism behind it to this day. Frequently seen in wedding bouquets, the calla lily, symbolizing love, is the 6th wedding anniversary gift. Also seen at funerals, the calla lily represents a new life or a departed soul. Calla lilies are appropriate to be gifted on a variety of occasions.

They are striking on their own gifted as a single flower but are just as pretty in a bouquet with a single color calla lily or mixed color. Calla lilies make great additions to any other bouquet as well, no matter the theme. Potted calla lilies are also appropriate, allowing the recipient to enjoy the plant and flowers for many years to come. Known for their easy to grow abilities and hardiness, calla lilies are popular flowers for numerous occasions with various meanings.

The Meaning Behind the Name

Not a true lily, or even closely related to a lily, the calla lily belongs to the Zantedeschia genus. Not a true calla either, the calla lily is in the Araceae family along with philodendrons and caladium. Stemming from the Greek word, “calla,” which means “beauty,” this plant was mistakenly named by a Swedish botanist. Though it was later corrected, the common name, calla lily, stuck.

The most common calla lily is white, though they are also available in yellow, purple, pink, and even a dark purple, which looks almost black. The spathe, which is the outer part of the flower, is not a petal as some may think but rather a modified leaf. The flower is actually the spadix. This is the yellow center inside the spathe. Different colors carry different meanings.

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* White stands for innocence and purity. When used in wedding bouquets, they represent marital bliss. Also seen often at funerals, especially those of younger people, it represents someone who has been taken before their time. It also sends hope for the future as it is related to rebirth.

* Pink represents admiration. The faded color is a beautiful addition to any bouquet gifted to an admirer or new love.

* Yellow symbolizes gratitude and joy. Like many other yellow flowers, the yellow calla lily is appropriate to gift to friends or as a general thank you.

* Purple symbolizes charm and passion. This makes it the perfect flower to add to a bouquet for a partner or lover.

* The dark purple or almost black calla lily is gifted when someone wants to portray the message of mystery. They also make a great contrast color in a bouquet with other blooms.

Any of the colors can be added to a bouquet with other flowers making a striking addition. Bouquet with single or mixed color calla lilies are gorgeous as well and are appropriate to gift for any occasion.

Gods and Goddesses

The Greek word for “beautiful” is “calla” and is most often associated with a story involving Hera. Hera is the goddess of marriage and family but has a jealous and vengeful side to her. The legend goes on to say that Hercules, the son of Zeus, was brought to Hera to drink her milk while she was sleeping. Zeus wanted Hercules to have the power of the gods as he was born from a mortal. Hera, not being the mother of Hercules and pushed him away when she woke up out of anger. The milk droplets flew across the sky, creating the Milky Way. The leftover droplets fell to the floor of the earth creating beautiful calla lilies.

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The yellow spadix made the calla lily closely tied to sexuality, lust, and eroticism due to its look. Though some believe it to be true and some say it is a myth, the story is also closely tied to Venus, the goddess of love, desire, and beauty. She became jealous of the beauty of the flower and cursed them with the big, yellow spadix in the center. The Egyptians viewed the yellow spadix differently. They related it to fertility and the inception of children, making the calla lily popular during Mother’s Day as well.

Resurrection and Rebirth

Faithfulness, holiness, and purity are often related to the calla lily from religious stories. Closely associated with the resurrection of Jesus, the calla lily is a popular flower seen at Easter time. This could be because they are in bloom during this time of the year but also because they symbolize rebirth and resurrection, as it’s commonly seen in images with the Virgin Mary. Shaped like a trumpet, the calla lily represents triumph in the announcement of the Easter resurrection. One of the reasons why calla lilies are commonly seen at funerals is because of this history of representing a departed soul. It’s also said that the tears of Eve grew calla lilies as she left the garden of Eden.

The calla lily can tolerate part-shade, though, in cooler areas, it must be planted in full sun. Calla lilies come in the form of rhizomes and need to be planted about 6 inches apart. Ensure they are deep enough to be covered in the soil with the eyes facing up. After a couple of weeks, new shoots arrive and the plant grows quickly once emerged from the soil. With an established plant and new shoots continuously popping up, they can be dug up and regifted or replanted in an area of your choosing. Warmer climates allow the flowers to bloom for long periods of time starting in the early spring. They are perennials in warmer climates, whereas cooler areas treat calla lilies as an annual. Calla lilies can be dug up once the blooms have faded to store the rhizomes to be planted the following spring. This way, the danger of frost is nothing to worry about. They also do great in pots as long as they are big enough.

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