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Calla Lily Meaning: Magnificent Beauty, Sexuality & Purity

Calla lily meaning is magnificent beauty. Calla lilies also mean faith and hope. These unique and beautiful flowers have an interesting mythological history. Calla lilies are said to come from the ancient god Hera, the wife of Zeus.

In this Greek legend, Zeus brought Hercules to nurse from his wife while she was sleeping. He wanted his son to have the strength of the gods. Hera awoke and pushed the baby away from her. Drops of milk flew across the sky. This created the Milky Way. Calla lilies bloomed on earth everywhere the drops of milk landed as they fell out of the galaxy.

Calla Lily Meaning


This article covers the history, mythology and symbolism of calla lilies. Calla lilies have extensive historical and mythological meaning. Included are calla lilies and the Romans; the spiritual meaning of calla lilies; calla lilies in weddings and funerals; calla lilies in art; origin of the calla lily name; calla lily flower colors; calla lily gifts and growing calla lilies.

Calla Lily Meaning to the Romans

Calla Lily Meaning and the Romans

The Romans associated calla lilies with winter solstice, the darkest day of the year. Calla lilies were forced to bloom indoors to celebrate the preservation of the light and to bring this flower meaning light indoors. The Romans also viewed the flower’s large spadix, a phallic flower stalk containing many male (pistillate) as a symbol of lust and sexuality.

Purple Calla Lily Meaning

Calla Lily History and Spiritual Meaning

The calla lily was a sacred flower to the Minoans and also prized among the ancient Jews. In Christian iconography, the calla lily means purity, chastity and the ascension. The calla lily also has spiritual significance as a symbol of Jesus’ resurrection on Easter. It is also commonly depicted with the Virgin Mary.

Calla lily flowers also appear in Roman mythology. According to Roman legends, Venus saw the flower and felt her beauty was threatened by its pure white blossoms. She cursed the flower so that it would grow a large and unsightly pistil.

Calla Lily Meaning in Weddings

Calla Lilies in Weddings and Funerals

As calla lilies have shifted into prominence, they have become a popular wedding flowers. A single calla lily in a tall vase is a classic statement of elegance and beauty. White calla lilies are said to be a good luck charm for newly married couples. They are extremely popular in bridal bouquets.

Calla lilies are also often associated with funerals. In this context, calla lilies are a symbol of death, especially an early death. In this capacity, calla lilies have been placed on the graves of youth who have suffered untimely deaths.

Calla Lily Art

Calla Lily Meaning in Georgia O’Keefe’s Art

Georgia O’Keeffe successfully brought the calla lily to prominence with her series of close-up paintings of single calla lily flowers. She wanted to have the viewer really look at the fundamental form of the flower without any preconceived notions.

Her sensual flowers redefined calla lily meaning through a pure, almost geometric form. The calla lily is also visible in many of Diego Rivera’s works of art.

Lilies in the Sun

Lilies in the Sun and Wind by Kathleen Karlsen
See all Flower Art & Gifts

Calla Lily Meaning by Flower Color

Call lilies come in white, yellow, orange, pink, lavender, rose, purple, black and dark maroon. Here are the specific meanings of a few of the more popular colors:

White Calla Lily Meaning: White calla lilies are a symbol of hope, beauty and purity.

Purple Calla Lily Meaning: Purple calla lilies represent passion and charm.

Yellow Calla Lily Meaning: Yellow calla lilies mean gratitude.

Pink Calla Lily Meaning: Pink calla lilies symbolize appreciation and admiration.

Black Calla Lily Meaning: Black calla lilies suggest elegance and mystery.

Origin of the Calla Lily Name

The calla lily is not actually a lily, but a separate genus. Although the calla lily was known in ancient Rome, it was first catalogued in modern times. During the Victorian era an increase in disposable income led to more travel. This resulted in the discovery of new and interesting plants to cultivate.

In the 18th century the flower was misnamed by the famous Swedish botanist Carolus Linneaus. Later the German botanist Karl Koch found the error and established a new genus, zantedeschia, for the calla lily and related flowers. However, the original common name of “calla lily” has continued to be used. The word “calla” comes from the Greek word for beauty.

Growing Calla Lilies

Growing Calla Lilies

Calla lilies are native to Africa. They are a corm-based plant with disc-shaped bulbs. The calla lily is a flowering genus of twenty-eight species growing mostly in marshy areas. Calla lilies reproduce by creating clusters of smaller bulbs at the top and bottom of the central corm. The calla lily grows continuously in water and can survive mild frost. Calla lilies make hardy cut plants and can survive for quite a while in vases. 

Calla lilies are an extremely hardy plant and can grow in a variety of extreme conditions, including frost. Calla lilies are sometimes found growing in water. The hardiness of calla lilies make them a good choice for beginning gardeners.

However, calla lilies are toxic to both humans and animals, causing stomach upset and swelling of the lips, tongue and throat. In spite of this, calla lilies are eaten in bulb form in some countries and considered a delicacy. The toxic inner flowers are removed before cooking.

On the African island Madagascar, the calla lily thrives due to the steady temperatures and moderate seasons. Calla lilies will bloom all year around as long as they have a sufficient supply of water, energy and nutrition.

The calla lily flower is comprised of two parts. The  spathe is the outer leaves of the flower. The spadix is the yellow spike in the middle. The spathe is actually a modified leaf and the spadix is the true flower.

Calla Lily Gifts

Calla lily themed gifts are perfect for both weddings, recovery from illness and funerals. The bright, bold flowers are an affirmation of life in the face of major thresholds and challenges. The strength of each flower is appropriate as a symbol of the strength of bonds between family and lovers.

Although calla lilies symbolize death, they specifically are associated with passing into a new dimension triumphantly. They can be used a a celebration of a life well-lived or a heroic effort.

Calla lilies, irises and pink anemones appear in the painting Lilies in the the Sun and Wind by Kathleen Karlsen. The profusion of colorful flowers makes this a great image for a living room, dining room or kitchen. Find gifts with this image: Lilies in the Sun and Wind Fine Art Prints.

Author Kathleen Karlsen

Kathleen Karlsen is the author of the book Flower Symbols: The Language of Love. This handy reference book includes extensive flower meanings and folklore about the world’s most beloved flowers. Flower Symbols is the perfect gift for yourself or a flower lover in your life! 

Kathleen is a writer, artist and musician living in Bozeman, Montana. She is the mother of five kids (teen to adult) and the author of two books. Kathleen’s other book is Vocal Medicine: Transformation through Sound. Listen to Kathleen’s MUSIC and see more of her ARTWORK

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This article includes the history, meaning and mythology surrounding the unique and beautiful calla lily. Covers the origin of the calla lily name, calla lily flower meaning in various cultures, calla lily flower meaning by color, and the modern meanings associated with calla lilies in art and life.

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