Learn which plants thrive in your Hardiness Zone with our new interactive map!

Meaning of Calla Lilies

By Alice Moon ; Updated September 21, 2017
Each is a simple beauty
"Even more lilies" is Copyrighted by Flickr user: Geoff Penaluna (Geoff Penaluna) under the Creative Commons Attribution license.

The calla lily is not a true lily, yet the flower is also not a calla, rather, it is part of the genus Zantedeschia. Calla lilies are grown from rhizomes and bloom late in the spring. The calla has been called many things: arum lily, trumpet lily, pig lily and the tantalizing water dragon.


Communicating in the language of flowers is to some extent a lost art. In days where rules of decorum required that lovers be circumspect, messages were delivered through a subtle exchange, where every part, from the hand that made the offer to the particulars of the arrangement, carried a secret message.

Freud and artists such as Georgia O'Keefe caused flower mavens and admirers to see a new level of meaning in the calla lily, an overtly sexual one, due to the flower's resemblance to female genitalia.


The main meanings of the calla lily are magnificence and beauty. They take their name from the Greek word for beauty and their meaning from the myth that the lily originated from the breast milk of the Greek goddess, Hera. Mythical tales also reveal that it was the beauty of the lily that caused it to be cursed by Venus, in a fit of jealousy, to always have to carry a heavy pistil.


Calla lilies come in yellow, green, pink, purple and orange. The colored varieties are called mini calla lilies (the larger, white callas are Aethiopica). The meaning behind the flower can be altered a bit with a change in color. White denotes purity, honesty and innocence. Pink says elegance, communicates appreciation or admiration. Purple, the color of royalty, expresses charm, passion. Take care in using yellow lilies; they can mean either gratitude and gaiety or falsehood.


Calla lilies have become a symbol of elegance and sophistication. They carry such a strong statement that frequently a single stalk will be used in a tall vase for decorating. Give calla lilies as a gift to mark the recipient's increase in status.

Single stalks may also be used to decorate individual chairs or plates in a wedding table setting or the plant may be given as a wedding favor. Brides often include an array of them in the bridal bouquet.


Calla lilies are a traditional symbol of marriage. They revisit this meaning as the flower that marks a sixth wedding anniversary. The choice of lilies covers many major transitions in life. They are often used in funerals to express sympathy, purity the restored innocence of the departed soul. Lilies are also strongly associated with Easter and the rebirth of spring.