Calla Lily Meaning

Calla Lily Meaning

Calla lily meaning is magnificent beauty. Calla lilies also mean faith and hope. Calla lilies have extensive historical and mythological meaning. They have been used to symbolize both the highest aspirations and lowest desires of mankind.

Calla Lily Meaning

For this reason, the calla lily has both religious significance as a symbol of purity, faith and holiness and more earthly meanings from Greek and Roman cultures. Clearly the popularity of calla lilies began in ancient times and continues to grow today. Learn more about this fascinating flower of beauty and desire!

Calla Lily Meaning to the Romans

Calla Lily Meaning in Mythology

Calla lilies are a unique and beautiful flower with 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.

Zeus 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.

Purple Calla Lily Meaning

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.

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 Spiritual Meaning
Photo by Bernard Sprang, Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

Calla Lily 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. This is partly because they bloom near Easter.

In addition, the trumpet shape is symbolic of victory, as in the triumph of Christ over death. It is also commonly depicted with the Virgin Mary. Other saints appear with with white calla lilies symbolic of the ascension into heaven.

Calla Lily Meaning in Weddings

Calla Lilies in Weddings

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

In many cultures, calla lilies symbolize new beginnings and rebirth. The connection to beginning a new life together at a wedding is clear. Therefore, calla lilies are extremely popular in bridal bouquets. The calla lily is also the flower associated with the 6th wedding anniversary, representing the couples’ ongoing love.

Calla Lilies for  Funerals

Calla lilies are sometimes 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.

On the other hand, calla lilies symbolize a victorious arrival in heaven as a rebirth into the spiritual world. Rather than simply mourning for the loss of a loved one, calla lilies help to orient towards a celebration of ongoing life.

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.

Calla Lily Color Meaning

Calla Lily Meaning by Color

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

White Calla Lily Meaning: White calla lilies are a symbol of hope, beauty, peace and purity. White calla lilies also mean faithfulness, innocence and holiness. White encompasses all other colors and symbolizes a spiritual source or the energy behind all things. The white calla lily is the national flower of Ethiopia, used as a sign of peace.

Yellow Calla Lily Meaning: Yellow calla lilies mean gratitude. Sunshine yellow flowers stimulate clear thinking. The general color meanings of yellow are enthusiasm, cheerfulness, sense of humor, fun, optimism and intellectuality.

Orange Calla Lily Meaning: Orange calla lilies mean excitement and energy. Orange flowers raise the spirits and reflect the joy of sunshine. Cheerful orange flowers symbolize warmth, fire, energy and vitality. Flower color meanings for orange include creativity, confidence and intuition.

Pink Calla Lily Meaning: Pink calla lilies symbolize appreciation and admiration. In a more general sense, pink flowers symbolize love and healing from grief, anxiety or emotional trauma. Pink is related to warmth and love, gentleness, beauty, and an outward orientation.

Red Calla Lily Meaning: Red calla lilies symbolize courage, love and beauty. The color symbolism for red flowers includes pleasure, desire and vitality. In addition, red represents the will to win, love of sports and the survival instinct. Red flowers are stimulating and eye-catching. 

Lavender Calla Lily Meaning: Lavender calla lilies mean relaxation and healing. Lavender is a gentle form of purple and usually has religious connotations. For example, lavender is closely associated with Easter. Lavender flowers encourage tranquility and peace.

Purple Calla Lily Meaning: Purple calla lilies represent passion and charm. Purple is also the color of royalty. Purple and violet colors soothe the mind and nerves. Some color psychologists say purple helps to relieve tension and dissipate anger and violence.  

Black Calla Lily Meaning: Black calla lilies suggest elegance and mystery. Black may also be connected to sadness. Black is a practical color that makes a strong statement. The power of black gives a fundamental sense of strength.

Moroon Calla Lily Meaning: Maroon is a sophisticated form of red. Maroon flowers are unusual and striking. Maroon calla lilies symbolize controlled intensity and passion. Maroon can increase energy levels is a measured, dignified way.

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. The calla lily is actually not a true lily. 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.

Lilies in the Sun

Lilies in the Sun and Wind by Kathleen Karlsen
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Meaningful Gifts Featuring Calla Lilies

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.

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Author Kathleen Karlsen

Kathleen Karlsen is a musician, artist, writer and speaker. She is the author of two books (Flower Symbols and Vocal Medicine) and over 200 articles. Kathleen, her husband Andrew and their five children live in Bozeman, Montana. More about Kathleen Karlsen.


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 symbolism in various cultures, calla lily flower colors, and the modern meanings associated with calla lilies in art and life.

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