U.S.A., Washington State. USDA zone 8a. Sunset climate zone 5

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Arum italicum For My Garden

During one of my visits to Jim's garden that was featured in the Enchanted Garden of a Hosta Hybridizer, I spotted beautiful arrow-shaped leaves with creamy white veins. It was clear that they just recently emerged from the ground. It was October, the time when many plants disappear til the next spring. The sight of the rather exotic looking plant, which made its appearance so late in the season, evoked a spectrum of happy feelings in me.

Arum in Jim's garden

It was Arum (Arum italicum, Araceae family). My excitement over the plant combined with Jim's generosity led to this beauty coming home with me.
Where should I plant it? I considered recommended light conditions, soil and companion plants. Arum can grow in full sun (in winter), partial shade and full shade. It thrives in average to wet soil. As for the companions, they recommend to interplant it with hostas. Arum emerges at the time when hostas die back. Among other recommended companion plants are foam flower, snake root and bleeding heart.
I chose the border at our garage wall which gets a couple of hours of afternoon sun, has moist soil and several 'hosta' spots that are bare in winter. I showed that border in several posts, including Before and After.

Isn't this marbled leaf beautiful?

I am excited about this new perennial in my garden. In addition to being a pretty winter foliage plant, in spring Arum has spathes of bloom, white in color. When its leaves die back in mid-summer, there will be clusters of red (or orange-red) berries. It's easy to propagate from its berries. If so, I just can let it self seed.

If you are considering planting Arum in your garden, be aware that Arum can be invasive in zone 9 (some readers say zones 8 and 7).
Also, some people's skin is allergic to Arum's sap. I am sure nobody is going to digest it, but just in case - all its parts may cause severe discomfort.
Other Arum's names: Lords-and-Ladies, Cuckoo Pint. Arum italicum is one of two species of Arum native to Britain. The other one is Arum maculatum.
Please read the comments to this post with warnings and a concern with regard to Arum italicum being invasive.
Useful information about Arum italicum:
Hardiness: Zones 5 to 10
Light: Light shade-filtered sun
Height: 1 ft. to 2 ft.6 in (30-75 sm)
Width: Up to 1 ft (30 sm)
Habit: Clump-forming
Soil: Slightly acidic to neutral.
Moist but well drained
Blooms: Summer. Bloom size: 10 inches (25 sm)
General maintenance:
Remove withered or dead leaves to keep a tidy appearance. For a bright display of berries, do not deadhead flowers.
How to sow/plant:
In fall or spring, choose a shady, fertile and well-drained site and amend with compost or well-rotted manure. Plant tubers 4-6 inches (10-15 sm) deep, 8-12 inches (20-30 sm) apart. Collect seed from fruit and sow in fall, removing the pulp before planting, or divide and replant tubers.
Water and fertilize:
Water regularly and apply balanced fertilizer monthly during active growth, reduce watering as leaves wither. Do not water during dormancy.
Features: Attractive flowers, foliage, fruit.
Garden and other uses: Borders, naturalizing, shade woodland garden. Cut flower and use leaves in arrangements
Wikipedia, Martha Stewart Home and Garden

***Copyright 2010 TatyanaS


  1. Love this plant, I just recently planted one too. Such pretty leaves! I saw it on a list somewhere of plants for dry shade, so that's where I put mine. I hope it spreads!

  2. Thank you Alison! It'll be great if it works for a dry shade too. I have a big space under tall evergreens where not many things grow.

  3. Very beautiful marble like design in those leaves. I remember your before and after post, wonder what that area looks like now...?

  4. Informative. I am visiting your blog after such a long time and found it as usual as lovely as always.

  5. Hello Tatyana,

    I just love plants that are not only beautiful but also offer color in the garden when many plants are sleeping. What a great plant :-)

  6. Hi Tatyana, Like Alison, I've added this plant in the past year. It was a good thing I marked its location because it was dormant for so long - I''m counting on some spreading too in the shady spot near the woods - good luck with yours!

  7. I love the look of this plant and it says I can grow it in zone 5. I will definitely look for this in the spring.


  8. Thanks for the tutorial. I love how you feed your gardening addiction even through the winter months!! LOL

  9. I covet this but have only seen it growing in a plant collector's garden. Not For Sale!

  10. Great post on these! I've had good luck growing a clump of them underneath our rabbiteye blueberry bushes. I'm always amazed by those alien-like orange berry stalks when they appear.

  11. Arum is always a winner in a garden. The leaves are so interesting, and the bloom so colorful and it has a great form.

  12. If you love the basic arum, you have only just begun to collect. Next you should try 'Tiny Tot', a miniature arum, and 'Gold Rush' with gold veins. Arum italicum is available as a dried bulb in the fall from Brent and Becky's Bulbs. Of course if you are in PA, I sell it "in the green". Carolyn

  13. Love a plant that can provide both color and foliage/texture interests. Your arum is beautiful! Also I clicked your side garden before and after post, beautiful design!

  14. Huh! I've never seen this plant before. The leaves are really beautiful and so are the flowering heads. Almost look like bright red berries clustered together. Thanks for enlightening me on this plant!

  15. I grow it in my very dry summer shade garden and have for about 7 years. It has never been a pest but if I move it small bulblets stayed in place and grew there anyhow. It is a delightful plant here nonetheless. That foliage is wonderful this time of year.

  16. Hi Tatyana, I'm thinking the Arum would look great in a winter container with small round cyclamen foliage and maybe a heuchera or evergreen grass... The wheels are turning.

  17. It's a great plant with leaves to die for. Great in flower arrangements.

  18. Oooh, I've got lots of that in my garden - always wondered what it was! Mine's in a quite dry west facing bed and apart from a little weeding, gets no care at all!

  19. This plant is amazing. Beautiful.

  20. Don't you just love those variegated leaves. It is beautiful even without the blooms. It looks like a tropical that would not be very hardy at all so to see it good to zone 5 is a shocker to me. LOL!
    Have a wonderful weekend!

  21. It's good to have a plant to fill the gaps when others die back. Those leaves are gorgeous.

  22. I have seen it growing in a couple of local public gardens, and it is gorgeous. Definitely on my list to add to my woodland garden. thanks for your informative post!

  23. The berries sure add a lot of interest and color for the winter.

  24. Arum maculatum is common in the wild here (in spring and summer). It has purple blotches instead of the lovely marble effect in the arum you show here but it is still a plant I watch out for - in part because it looks almost like a different plant depending on the stages of the seasons.

    And as for seasons . . . I'm puzzled. My bleeding hearts has died down for the winter but you are suggesting it as a companion for winter foliage. Are you meaning they take it in turns to be interesting . . .?


  25. Thank you everyone for your comments!
    Esther, yes, this is exactly what I meant - they take turns!

  26. I too am a big fan of hardy Arums, both the plain green and Arum italicum var. pictum. Indispensable to a garden, gives a cheer with its beautiful leaves as they emerge in the autumn, lasting all winter.


  27. Those leaves!!!
    I want these but am not sure I have a shady enough space for them. Must research and "survey" the garden for space.

  28. AnonymousMay 28, 2012

    Writing from zone 6 in NJ. I've had the plant in my garden for years. Love the leaves. This year, however, (2012) the leaves were beautiful BUT the candles (12) dried up and died prior to the appearance of the berries. The plant has always been in the same spot and has only done this once before. It gets sun, shade and water. Can you offer any suggestion as to what might have caused this? Thank you! June

    1. Hi June! I've never heard about such problem with this plant. People in California complain of it being invasive, but this is it. After reading your comment, I checked a couple of dozens of articles and forums but didn't find any answers. I'm wondering if you had any changes in winter/spring weather this year. Sorry, I can't help.

    2. It's interesting to hear of a problem with the berry/candles from someone in NJ. This is only my second year growing this plant, and it was lovely at every stage, until today! I found the largest, seeming strongest candle on the ground, having broken with rot around the stem near the berry/candle. I am assuming too much water...any other thoughts?

    3. Linda, thanks! Rot? It sounds like too much water.

  29. In the Portland (OR) area, and throughout the Willamette Valley, Arum italicum is often thought of as invasive. There are several patches spreading in Forest Park, and I've talked to many homeowners who have had a very hard time managing it (i.e. repeatedly digging up the yard). Research trials hold out little hope of management once A. italicum has gotten out of control. Tatyana, I'd expand your 'zone of invasiveness' to include at least 8, if not part of 7. Not every situation is going to lead to a problem, but I've talked to enough people to want a lot more caution used with this species. Sorry to be the killjoy.

    -Mitch Bixby (City of Portland/Invasive Species)

    1. Mitch, thanks for the warning! I still have only one single plant... It doesn't spread at all. I think it's too dry for it in that particular location.

  30. Beware of this plant! I live on San Juan Island, Washington where this plant is indeed invasive. It is prevalent around all the historic homes in our area, including my 118 year old home and it cannot be eradicated. It grew up in my new sod grass yard this year, in my Vinca bed, beside my driveway, and in all my beautiful new raised flowerbeds. I dug down 2 feet in one flowerbed to get all the bulbs out, put down weed cloth and then filled that bed with new soil. They still found a way to grow around the edges of the weed cloth. My other flowerbeds are raised with weed cloth on the bottom and new soil on top...and, they grew there as well. Every year I pull the seedpods as soon as they show in an effort to stop this madness, but to no avail. I do think the leaves are pretty, but turn ghastly looking when they whither and turn ghostly yellow/white and transparent as they fall over and die back. I would love for someone to tell me how to get rid of it...none of the weed killers seem to touch it. Carol Anderson

    1. Carol, thank you so much for your comment! It's a good warning! I wrote this post three years ago, and my plant is still puny and alone! I'll keep my eye on it!
      I had a scary situation with hops several years ago. They started to spread all over the garden. I dug them out. Good luck to you in your fight against arum!

  31. You are insane!!! It doesn't seem like it's spreading... believe me it is, underground. The previous owner of my house (Portland, OR) actually planted this plant in the yard and now it covers the ENTIRE thing. I dug up and sifted through the soil last year trying to remove every last rhizome and discovered that when you disturb the rhizome dozens of little bulblets are left behind. This year it looks even worse. This is a nightmare plant! As someone who has always been a plant person, I have never hated a plant until now. And I do HATE Arum italicum to the core of my being. Remove it now before it's too late!!!!!

    1. Thank you, Anonymous, for letting me know that I am insane. This post was written in 2010. It is 2014, and I still have one plant. Because I've already got several comments-warnings about this plant, I'll dig it out tomorrow and plant it in a pot. I won't let it go to seed, and I'll check for its remaining roots.
      Arum italicum has many buddies - crocosmia, vinca minor, bishop's weed, etc. So far, I was able to keep those plants under control.
      Please do not hate Arum italicum.

    2. AnonymousJune 08, 2014

      I too inherited Arum in my Portland, OR yard. I come out to the internet periodically to see if by some happy chance someone has discovered a "cure" for removing this plant other than the perpetual digging and sifting out the roots. It spreads by the orange berries it produces(remove and put in the trash. Do Not Compost.) as well as the multitude of bulblets growing underground. It grows without being nurtured in any way; sun or shade, and spreads and spreads. Please do not plant Arum italicum. It is not native to the NW and will out compete many species that are.

  32. First time posting in this thread, just wondering Tatyana, how large was the root ball / how many tubers were there when you dug it?
    Debating whether to plant this in a pot or not, it will be in a very harsh bed, with cold winters and surrounded on two sides by concrete.
    To pot or not?

  33. AnonymousJuly 02, 2015

    Hi I live in zone 5 and I have an arum italicum on the north side of my house so it doesn't get very much sun plus I live in the woods. the problem is my arum plant did bloom for the first couple years but for the last 5 to 7 years it just grew the foliage but no flowers I am not sure if it needs more sun I would appreciate if you could tell me what's wrong.

    1. Hi! It's a shade perennial and it's commonly planted in woodland gardens. So, it looks like you have a good spot for it in your garden. It needs humus rich soil and moisture during its active growth.
      My plant gets lots of sun and sits in a dry spot. I haven't seen blooms for a long time either.


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