Calla Lily – Symbolism and Meaning

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Among the most popular flowers, especially for bridal bouquets, calla lilies are stunning with a simple yet sophisticated and elegant look. The symbolism of the calla lily also makes this a flower ideal for any occasion. Here’s a closer look.

The Calla Lily isn’t a Lily

The name calla lily derives from the Greek term calla which means beautiful. However, this flower is technically not a lily. This misnomer comes from Carolus Linnaeus, a Swedish botanist, who made an error when naming the flower. 

The term was eventually corrected by Karl Koch, a German botanist, who discovered the species Zantedeschia, but despite this, the name stuck, and we continue to call this flower calla lily.

What is the Calla Lily?

White calla lily flower

Calla lily is native to South Africa and consists of a yellow spike in the center of the flower (spadix) surrounded by the outer part or petal (spathe). It flourishes in warm environments with sufficient amounts of water, requiring minimal upkeep. The toughness and endurance of the Calla Lily plant means that it can grow in water and thrive even during winter, making it remarkably strong.

While most flowers can be used for medicinal purposes, the calla lily is not one of them because it’s mainly toxic. As such, it should never be ingested. However, in the past, the flower’s underground stem was used to dress up wounds.

Today, calla lilies are mostly used for decoration and aesthetic purposes. It’s a good option for beautifying any landscape and for creating a focal point in gardens and outdoor spaces. 

Calla lilies are also used for various occasions. Many people use it as a gift to celebrate the arrival of a newborn child, a promotion, or a business venture. 

Representation in Greek Mythology

Calla lilies share the same origin stories as lilies, even though it’s not technically a lily.

In Greek mythology, calla lily, like other lilies, is associated with the goddess Hera who represents marriage, family, childbirth, and women. Legend says that Zeus wanted Hera to nurse his son Heracles, conceived from an affair he’d had with a mortal. He wanted Heracles to gain the strength of a god by drinking the milk from a goddess.

However, Heracles was so strong he hurt Hera with his suckling, so she pushed him away. The milk from her breast scattered across the sky, turning into the Milky Way. The drops that fell onto the ground turned into lilies.

When Venus, the goddess of beauty, love, and desire saw how attractive the lilies were, she became envious. Therefore, she placed a yellow pistil in the center of the flower to distract from its beauty.

Symbolism in Colors 

White is the most common color of calla lilies. However, this flower also grows in different colors such as yellow, pink, purple, and black. Each color has a different meaning and representation. 

  • White – symbolizes purity and innocence
  • Yellow – may have several meanings but mostly symbolizes gratitude, joy, growth, and change
  • Pink – shows admiration and appreciation
  • Purple – signifies royalty, passion, charm, and strength
  • Red – represents passion and intensity
  • Black – unique and striking appearance creates mystery and elegance

Calla Lily Symbolism and Meaning

calla lily flower symbolism

Calla lilies have been sought after for many centuries. They hold various meanings and symbolism depending on the culture, history, religion, color and so on.. 

  • Christianity – In the Christian world, the calla lily is recognized as a symbol of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is depicted in various artworks and paintings. This flower is also known to represent purity, faith, and innocence. People associate it with triumph mainly because it’s shaped like a trumpet. 
  • Spring Season – The blossoming of calla lily during the spring season represents rebirth, resurrection, and youth.
  • Special Occasions –Calla lilies are often used to celebrate different events such as weddings. This flower traditionally signifies marital bliss, devotion, and divinity making it popular among weddings. White calla lilies are often used as a lucky charm for a happy marriage.  It is also the primary flower used for celebrating a couple’s 6th wedding anniversary and indicates the beauty of their love.  

In funerals, calla lilies represent the purification of the soul. The versatility of this flower makes it an all-around choice for various occasions that signify rebirth and new beginnings. 

  • Chinese culture – The Chinese believe that calla lilies signify a happy union that can span for 100 years. Therefore, it has become a popular gift for couples during weddings. 
  • Art –By the turn of the 20th century, calla lily had become one of the most popular flowers in the U.S. As a result, it’s made its way into several paintings by different artists with some of the artworks showcasing a detailed portrayal of the flower. 

Calla lily was featured in Diego Rivera’s paintings showcasing Mexican culture. It is also the focus piece of Henri Matisse’s Calla Lilies, Irises and Mimosas. However, the most notable artwork of the calla lily was from Georgia O’Keefe, which depicts the female anatomy. 

  • Jewelry – The image of this flower represents purity and beauty. People who use this flower as an accessory are said to exude elegance and sophistication. 
  • Message – The main message behind this flower is the beauty it represents. Even if it may disappear for one season, calla lilies serve as a reminder to hold on to your innocence as you go through life and face many challenges. 
  • Spadix – The calla lily’s spadix has different representations. In Greek mythology, it’s associated with lust, sexuality, and eroticism due to its appearance. Meanwhile, the Egyptians saw it as a symbol of fertility.

Wrapping Up

Calla lilies are one of the most unique and striking flowers. Although it can be given as a gift as a single flower, calla lilies are often presented as a bouquet. Whether it’s a single color or a combination of different shades, calla lilies are always an appropriate gift for any occasion. 

They are also widely used by homeowners to spruce up their garden and landscape. Since it is easy to grow or maintain, some people pot it and cultivate it in their homes. The versatility and hardiness of this flower make it an excellent addition to any space.