Callas are not lilies and as a professional florist I think it’s time we get this terminology
right in our industry. Somewhere along the line callas became known as “calla lilies” and they
are constantly referred to in wedding magazines as such, however, they are clearly different
flowers and it’s time to draw a distinction between the two in an effort to both educate our
customers and in order to speak with authority as experts in our field. (Our “flower field” if you
The University of Minnesota Extension illustrates the difference between the two quite
nicely so I am using parts of their definitions for clarity:
Callas, Zantedeschia species, are not true lilies. Callas have a trumpet-shaped flower
called a spathe (which is actually a modified leaf) that wraps around the yellow spadix. The
spadix holds the tiny, true flowers. Its leaves are arrowhead-shaped and solid green or green
with silver or white flecks.
True lilies, such as Asiatic Lilies or Oriental Lilies, belong to the genus Lilium. True lilies
have stiff stems with relatively narrow strap like leaves from top to bottom. Large, showy
flowers develop at the tip of each stem. These flowers may be trumpet-shaped, bowl shaped,
or bell shaped with reflexed petals. They may nod downwards, face outwards, or turn upwards
– and they come in a wide variety of colors. Many are also delightfully fragrant.
I am going to add to their definition my understanding that true lilies also have six petals
and six stamens that surround a pistil. For this reason Alstroemeria, or Peruvian lilies, are more
accurately referred to as lilies than callas.
Why do I think this is important? Well, as a wedding designer when clients say to me, “I
don’t like lilies,” oftentimes they mean callas, then other times they mean day lilies (which
don’t make great cut flowers anyway) or Oriental lilies such as Stargazers which possess what
some would consider an overwhelming scent. If we can change the nomenclature within our
industry, and perhaps within the wedding industry as well, then we will better represent our
personal understanding of the unmistakable difference between these two blooms…one of
which is actually a modified leaf!