flowers a-z: c is for calla

Welcome back, fans of flowers, the alphabet or perhaps both! Did you guess that the letter “c” would be for calla?

The calla lily (or zantedeschia) is an elegant, noble flower from the family Araceae, which is native to southern Africa. Callas tend to flourish in warm climates and are primarily grown in California, Colombia, New Zealand and South Africa. However, the calla sprouts from a very strong and sturdy plant and is capable of growing in a variety of soils and habitats, even surviving frosts in some areas! Most people recognize the creamy, ivory-colored calla (made famous by many Latin American artists and ranging in size from enormous to mini) but they also come in wonderfully exotic colors — shades of orange, peach, yellow, magenta and “black.”

For today’s post, I’ve chosen a selection of the rare colors that felt appropriate for fall. I adore this flower’s simplicity and sophistication and the fact that you can do almost no work and arrive at a classic arrangement. Simply gather a mass of callas in a clear vase and enjoy their clean lines. Here, I will discuss some calla basics and show you fun techniques for creating modern, architectural designs. — Sarah

CLICK HERE for the rest of the post (on care and arranging) after the jump!

We should note the stems of the calla — they are spongy and porous and drink a lot of water. As always, cut them at an angle with a sharp implement. Later, I will demonstrate the flexibility of the stem and how to use it in your design.

Callas range in size and scale, as illustrated by the sampling of cut stems below. The smaller the width, the more flexible the stem.

Today’s colors are black, peach and maroon. I prefer not to mix colors when designing with callas, as I like each hue to shine on its own.

A chic way to display callas is to simply tie them with a ribbon, as I have done below, and lean them at an angle in a tall vase. Because callas have such straight lines, it is fabulously unexpected to create angles and curves in your design.

You have a wide range of options when using ribbon or other fabric to gather callas. Here, I have taken satin ribbon, wrapped it several times around the cluster and tied a knot. I like the way the tendrils look hanging to the table.

Tropical leaves are a great accent for a calla arrangement. Any kind of waxy leaf will do — ti leaves, philodendron or even lily grass. Most florists have a selection of similar greens from which to choose.

Because I have begun a theme of “restraint” here, I decided to also gather and wrap the leaves with floral tape before pairing them with the callas.

Simply place the gathering of leaves at an angle in the vase next to the callas. Cut the stems of the leaves short enough so that they can nest together with the callas. Place them so they peek out of the vase just below the calla blooms. You may also choose to fan them a bit more than I have here.

Another way to work with callas is to use the smaller, more flexible stems and curl them into interesting shapes. Pull a few stems from the vase and work them with your hands. Get a feel for how wiggling the end back and forth makes the stem more and more malleable.

I worked with these black callas for only a few moments, bending the stems back and forth to get them pliable. Then I placed them in a low, curved glass vase. I pressed them into place along the edge of the vase with my hands.

It may take a few tries to get the callas to prop up in the vase, but the effect is really dramatic. Only the ends need to be submerged, so have fun with the design! Here, I have seated the blooms just above the edge of the vase.

The maroon callas had slightly thinner stems, making them even easier to form.

Another concept is to integrate the curves and the angles. I started by binding a cluster of black callas.

Then I added this bound cluster at an opposing angle to the curved cluster already in the vase. I like the sculptural, yet understated look of this arrangement.

Finally, I made a little mischief by adding a surprising third element to the vase :) I gathered some of the cut calla stems “from the garbage” and bound them with floral tape, as well. I placed this little bundle in the water with the callas.

You can start to see that designing with callas gives you a great deal of control — you can use them as they are found in nature, or manipulate them to suit your vision. They are great flowers for experimentation.

How fantastic is this bundle of peach calla joy?

The most important thing to remember when working with flowers is that it should be enjoyable! Do not be afraid of making “mistakes.” The more you put your hands on the blooms, mess with them and maybe break a few rules here and there, the more your inspiration can blossom.

Join me again in two weeks when “d” will be for . . .

  1. Priscila says:

    simple, but beautiful.

  2. Helena says:

    I love this series!

  3. Gladys says:

    Gorgeous. Though it’s a pity not to have a picture of the black bouquet alone.

  4. grace says:


    which bouquet? the dark purple one has some solo shots in a vase above ;)


  5. Jess says:

    Love the black lilies. So striking!

  6. Trader Joe’s has planters of those black calla lillies. So Morticia Addams chic!

  7. Nicoletta says:

    those rose callas are awesome! I would list “fresh flowers” as one of life’s pleasures!!!

  8. Maria says:

    Goodness that display is gorgeous!

  9. karina says:

    I love color calas and your bouquets are very pretty, and it seems easy to do, I will have try at home the one of the last picture.

  10. Heidi says:

    One time I was doing a wedding with a ton of calla lilies. It was my first time using them and I learned quickly that the stems virtually disintigrate in water after several days and smell terrible!

    Also my friend and I sprayed the oranges red and my friend had sprayed several too closely. Those that were sprayed too closely looked great the day before, but the day of the wedding they had completely died. I was able to whip up some new bouts and corsages, but man it was a learning experience for sure!

  11. Beautiful. If I remember to water them enough, I’ll get plenty of callas in my garden. Thanks for the great ideas!

  12. Elizabeth says:

    “Colombia” is spelled with two O’s :)

    1. grace says:

      sorry about that elizabeth, fixing it now :)


  13. I love calla lilies! They were my grandmothers favorite flower, and mine too. Your arrangements are beautiful, thank you for sharing!

  14. These calla arrangements are beautiful.
    I hope I can find Callas in Ottawa, Canada.

  15. Linda Landig says:

    What gorgeous, modern designs. I love them. I wish cala season in are garden wasn’t over for the year. I’m enjoying this series. Thank you.

  16. So beautiful!! The last image is just perfect.

  17. Henta says:

    I live in South Africa where callas are known as arum lilies. We are so used to them, it is lovely to see them through “new” eyes. We are so fortunate to have them!

  18. Lau says:

    Me encantan!

  19. Monica says:

    While Sarah mentions bending the stems back and forth to get them to curve, you can also peel a very thin layer off two sides of the calla stem – this will also make them more flexible. This is especially useful when making bridal or bridesmaid bouquets.

    Just another tip to help you along if you decide to jump into the world of floral design.

  20. Kristen says:

    D is for… daphne???

    I’m not a big fan of the white callas but I adore the colored ones. Love your bouquets!

  21. sv650kd says:

    I’m excited that you have launched this series, as I want to improve my arranging skills. I laughed to see that my recent attempt (link above) included both “b” and “c”! However, I did not know about opening the brassica, so the arrangement could have been better.

  22. Stephanie says:

    What is the name of the peach calla?


Design*Sponge reserves the right to restrict comments that do not contribute constructively to the conversation at hand, contain profanity, personal attacks, hate speech or seek to promote a personal or unrelated business. Our goal is to create a safe space where everyone (commenters, subjects of posts and moderators) feels comfortable to speak. Please treat others the way you would like to be treated and be willing to take responsibility for the impact your words may have on others. Disagreement, differences of opinion and heated discussion are welcome, but comments that do not seek to have a mature and constructive dialogue will not be published. We moderate all comments with great care and do not delete any lightly. Please note that our team (writers, moderators and guests) deserve the same right to speak and respond as you do, and your comments may be responded to or disagreed with. These guidelines help us maintain a safe space and work toward our goal of connecting with and learning from each other.