Tips for handling these
elegant but sometimes challenging flowers.
product FRESH FLOWER
1 name games.
Most commonly known as callas or calla lilies in the United States,
these distinctive flowers of the Zantedeschia genus are also
known as arum lilies (primarily in the United Kingdom and Europe); pig
lilies (in their native South Africa, where they’re common roadside
plants); and trumpet lilies (a reminder of the archangel Gabriel and his
Despite their common names, callas are not related to lilies (Lilium);
rather, they are members of the Araceae (arum) family, which
includes Anthurium, Caladium, Philodendron, Dieffenbachia (dumb
cane), Spathiphyllum (peace lily), Aglaonema (Chinese
evergreen) and Arisaema (jack-in-the-pulpit).
These elegant flowers are made up of a funnel-shaped spathe (actually a
colored petal-like leaf) that surrounds a fleshy spike, called a spadix.
The actual “flowers” are the “bumps” on the spadix. Callas’ stems are
smooth and leafless.
Standard callas have a head size of about 6 inches and stem lengths
ranging from about 20 to 48 inches. Miniature callas’ head sizes vary
from about 3 to 5 inches, and stem lengths range from about 8 to 20
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Standard callas are available in white, white/green variegated (e.g.,
‘Green Goddess’) and blush pink (e.g., ‘Diva Maria’). Miniature callas
also are available in white as well as a wide variety of yellows,
oranges, pinks, reds, lavenders, purples and bicolors. Hues vary
depending on growing conditions, so two flowers of the same variety may
have slightly different colorations. Think in terms of a “color range”
5 best buys.
When possible, purchase callas at the stage of openness desired for sale
or use because these flowers generally don’t open significantly after
they’re cut. And if they’re cut too tight, they often will not open at
all. Also, don’t purchase callas too early; buy them close to the time
you need them.
spathes should be firm and free of spots, blemishes, bruises, splits and
brown tips, and the spadices should be visible at the time of purchase.
Callas are available year-round from both domestic and
Always unpack and handle callas carefully to avoid bruising the blooms.
Using a sharp knife, cut at least 1 inch from the bottoms of the
stems—avoid removing all of the white stem end, if possible—and place
the flowers immediately into a clean container partially filled with
lukewarm (100-110 F), properly mixed flower-food solution. One prominent
California calla grower recommends placing only 2 inches of water in
calla storage containers.
are heavy drinkers, so check flower-food solution levels daily. Also,
recut the stems every two days while flowers are in storage.
Callas do not benefit from the sugar in flower-food solutions, but they
do benefit from the bactericide, which helps control the bacteria level
in the container(s). Leaving part of the white stem ends on standard
callas helps increase water uptake and vase life while reducing the
chances of stem splitting or curling. You also can wrap stems near their
ends with waterproof tape to minimize splitting and curling.
8 be cool.
After processing, place callas into a floral cooler at 33 F to 35 F, and
allow them to hydrate for at least two hours before using or selling
them. Although they are native to South Africa, callas are not
“tropical” flowers, so don’t follow the oft-given but mistaken advice of
storing them in a tropical flower cooler or at room temperature.
properly handled from farm to florist, callas can last four to eight or
more days at the consumer level.
Callas shipped dry may arrive a little limp, but they will revive after
being recut and hydrated. If callas’ stems are curved and need to be
straightened, wrap the stems in newspaper, and store the flowers upright
in a tall container.
not an issue.
Callas are not sensitive to ethylene, and contrary to popular belief,
they do not produce significant amounts of the gas; therefore, they can
be stored safely with other flowers.
Photos courtesy of the
California Cut Flower Commission
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