Arum lilies/Varkoor

 

 

Arum lilies/Varkoor

Indigenous to South Africa, Zantedeschia species deserve a spot in the garden or at home.  Whether used in borders, containers or as cut flowers, they always provide a spectacular effect with their rich, cheerful colours and their breathtaking trumpet-shaped flowers (spathe) surrounding a yellow finger-like stalk (spadix).  They are easy to grow and with very little work needed, they will burst into bloom and add bright notes of summer colour to the garden, or to pots and vases inside your home.

Arum lilies/Varkoor
Arum lilies/Varkoor

Zantedeschia is a genus of eight species, seven species confined to southern Africa, and one species, Z. albomaculata, which extends into south-central Africa northwards to Tanzania. Z. elliotiana is known only from cultivation. The centre of diversity for the genus is Lydenburg in Mpumalanga where four species occur. Plants of Zantedeschia grow in the grassland, savanna and fynbos biomes, in full sun, less often in partial shade, and they occur in areas with seasonal rainfall. All species occur in the summer rainfall areas, except for Z. odorata at Nieuwoudtville (winter rainfall), and Z.aethiopica  which is widespread and commonly found in marshy areas.

It is named after its discoverer, the Italian Giovanni Zantedeschi, who was a botanist during the 18th century and discovered this bulb plant. He brought it to Europe and cultivated it.

Arum lilies/Varkoor
Arum lilies/Varkoor

Today a new generation of Zantedeschia hybrids have been bred from our original indigenous species; not only for their spectacular fashionable colours but for their sheer flower power. These new varieties produce many more blooms from a given tuber size, and the number of flowers produced by a tuber is directly proportional to the size of the tuber of each specific variety. Each year after the tuber has produced its magic, it will grow bigger in size, to produce more and even taller blooms the following season. These popular varieties are grown in the garden and in pots not only for the wonderful show they put on, but also for the production of magnificent cut flowers for the vase. Zantedeschia hybrids are easy to grow, and provide gardeners with a vast array of rainbow colours to enjoy in all shades of pink, yellow, white, cream, apricot, peach, orange, purple(almost black) and red.

Care: Species with colourful spathes are frost sensitive and more susceptible to soft rot, caused by the Erwinia bacterium. Conditions for soft rot are favourable when temperatures and humidity are high, or nitrogen levels in the soil are high and aeration low.  Zantedeschia plants propagate well from seed, and plants can be divided by splitting clump tubers at the start of spring. Caterpillars feed on the young leaves of Zantedeschia at the start of the growing season, making plants appear leafless, however they do recover and in no time the plant will again be ‘dressed’ in glossy green foliage.