All About Zantedeschia aethiopica (White Arum Lily) and Zantedeschia odorata

Posted by:




Zantedeschia aethiopica and Zantedeschia odorata, both belonging to the Araceae family, are two of the most well-known species within the Zantedeschia genus. Despite their similarities, they have distinct characteristics that set them apart. This article explores their differences in appearance, origin, environmental preferences, hardiness, scent, and height.


Zantedeschia aethiopica is famous for its large, pure white, trumpet-shaped spathes that surround a central yellow spadix. The leaves are arrowhead-shaped, dark green, and glossy. This species tends to have a more upright and robust form, making it a striking feature in gardens and floral arrangements.

Zantedeschia odorata, while similar in some respects, has narrower spathes and a much shorter spadix. The primary difference lies in its more delicate structure and the tendency of its flower stems to bend over as they mature, giving it a slightly drooping appearance. The leaves are similar in shape to those of Z. aethiopica but can be more petite and less glossy.


Both species originate from southern Africa. Zantedeschia aethiopica is widespread across South Africa, thriving in various habitats, including coastal marshes and montane grasslands. It has been extensively cultivated and naturalized in many parts of the world.

Zantedeschia odorata, on the other hand, has a very restricted natural distribution and is primarily found on the Bokkeveld Plateau in South Africa. Its limited range makes it less common and somewhat more specialized in its growth requirements.

Environmental Preferences

Zantedeschia aethiopica prefers moist to wet soils and can even grow in shallow water, making it suitable for planting along the edges of ponds or in boggy areas. It thrives in full sun to partial shade, with the best flowering occurring in bright, indirect light. This species is adaptable but does best in rich, well-drained soil with ample organic matter.

In contrast, Zantedeschia odorata also favors moist soils but is less tolerant of standing water. It prefers a more controlled environment with consistent moisture but good drainage to prevent root rot. Like Z. aethiopica, it benefits from partial shade, especially in hotter climates, to prevent scorching of its delicate leaves.


Zantedeschia aethiopica is quite hardy and can withstand colder temperatures, surviving in USDA zones 8-10. In regions with mild winters, it can remain in the ground year-round. In colder areas, the rhizomes should be lifted and stored in a frost-free environment over winter.

Zantedeschia odorata is less hardy and more sensitive to cold. It is best grown in USDA zones 9-11, where the risk of frost is minimal. For gardeners in cooler climates, this species will need to be treated as a tender perennial, requiring indoor storage during winter months.


One of the most distinguishing features of Zantedeschia odorata is its fragrance. As its name suggests, this species has a sweet, pleasant scent reminiscent of freesias. This aromatic quality makes it particularly desirable for indoor planting and floral arrangements.

Zantedeschia aethiopica, while visually striking, is only faintly scented. Its flowers have a subtle fragrance that is not as pronounced as that of Z. odorata. This difference in scent is one of the key characteristics used to differentiate between the two species.


Zantedeschia aethiopica typically grows taller than its counterpart, reaching heights of 2-3 feet (60-90 cm). In optimal conditions, it can even exceed this height, making it a dominant feature in garden landscapes.

Zantedeschia odorata is generally shorter, with most plants growing to about 1-2 feet (30-60 cm) in height. Its more modest stature and bending flower stems give it a less imposing presence compared to the more upright Z. aethiopica.


In summary, while both Zantedeschia aethiopica and Zantedeschia odorata share the striking beauty typical of the genus, they offer unique qualities that cater to different gardening needs. Z. aethiopica is hardier and taller, making it suitable for a wide range of garden settings, including wet areas. Z. odorata, with its sweet fragrance and more delicate structure, is ideal for specialized care and indoor cultivation. Understanding these differences can help gardeners choose the right species for their specific landscape or floral design needs.

Our Shop

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *