Arisaema: Unusual buy Easy Plant for Spring

The weather’s started to become kinder and dry spring days are more of a regular occurrence in the garden. The bulbs and shrubs are out in force at Aberglasney and everything else is slowly but surely bursting into growth. With so much going on it’s becoming almost impossible to keep up with everything that’s coming into flower. Narcissi and even some Tulips have started emerging and the Magnolias have started to flower clearly having appreciated the milder winter.

Arisaema flowers look like Cobra
Arisaema flowers

Between all the elegance and spectacular flowers there’s also some very interesting bulbs to be appreciated – although they should technically be called tubers. The Arisaema, which is related to Arum and Calla Lily, is an excellent plant that deserves far more attention that it gets. Often, known as the Cobra Lily due to the rather sinister shape of its flowers, they’re something very different that’ll bring spring and summer interest to your garden.

Backlit orange Arisaema
Backlit Arisaema

For many years they’ve been really expensive to buy but, fortunately, they are becoming much more reasonably priced. There’s hundreds of different types to choose from; most are hardy and in my experience are pretty good perennials. Certain types will clump up like Lilies or seed around to create stands that are very impressive to behold.

Usually it’s the flower that steals the show, but what I like most about them is that they’re really interesting from the minute they shoot through the ground. Most have mottled stems that look like snakes and very unusual foliage that looks particularly great in low/poor light. The flower bud unrolls from the side of the stem and looks like a funnel with a tongue. Their unusual qualities are totally captivating – especially to children who seem to find them absolutely fascinating.

Green ridged Arisaema speciosum bishop leaves
Arisaema speciosum bishop leaves

The best spot to grow Arisaema is in a shaded damp border (they mix well with Hostas and other woodland plants). Slugs can be a real problem but much less than with Hostas, and they’re very cold hardy. They can be bought as bulbs or potted plants in the autumn when they’re growing, but the best thing to do is plant them immediately.

Recommended Varieties (apologies in advance for the long names!)

Arisaema candidissimum

In my opinion, this is probably the prettiest one. It has white striped pink flowers and a beautiful sweet scent. Like most Arisaema, the leaves are also very interesting and make excellent foliage for most of the spring and right through to autumn.

Pink and white striped Arisaema candidissimum in flower
Arisaema candidissimum

Arisaema consanguineum

These are the easiest to grow and can be well over a meter tall with flowers that are held well above its foliage. They tend to last for about a month. In my experience they seed around quite easily and, if they do, they’ll make a really spectacular show in a few years time.

Arisaema consanguineum

Arisaema tortuosum

These are the biggest type and can grow to over two metres in height. They’re seriously spectacular and will flower much later in the year – usually about July. This can be really handy as shady borders often run out of steam by midsummer.

Green Arisaema tortuosum in flower
Arisaema tortuosum

 

Unsurprisingly, once a keen gardener finds out about this wonderful plant, they often take a big interest in them for their unusuality. There’s a wide choice available which is brilliant, and despite looking like they should be really hard to grow they’re pretty simple in the right conditions. Arisaema’s have a long season of interest from the new shoots, flowers, and foliage. Some also have really striking seed heads that look like bright red sweet corn – these last all winter.

Bright red Arisaema seeds
Arisaema in seed

The best place to buy them is specialist nurseries and plant sellers who can help you select the best ones for your garden. If you’re struggling, as always, a great place to start is the RHS plant finder.

Arisaema fargesii

Tips for the Week:

  1. Get out and do some digging or seed sowing whilst the weather’s dry
  2. Check how the perennials are coming through and think about any gaps you’ll have that may need replacing
  3. Dead head bulbs to prevent the seeds taking energy from the bulbs
  4. Keep on top of the weeding – they’re really out in force!
  5. If the shoots are there, take cuttings of Geraniums and other tender plants
  6. Celery, Cauliflower, lettuce and lobelia can be sown indoors now
  7. Outdoors, this warm weather makes it ideal for sowing vegetables
  8. Remember to use fleece or carpet to warm the soil before sowing

One thought on “Arisaema: Unusual buy Easy Plant for Spring

  1. Thank you for a really interesting article. I have some Arisaema consanguineum seed on the go for a sub tropical border and was helpful to know they are shade lovers and woodland based. May be a year or to before they reach maturity me thinks. My have to cheat and go buy one for photography purposes this year. Good to know I have the easy grow variety. You are on the list to visit this year.

    Best wishes,
    Richard

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