Arum italicum

The horticultural forms of this native wild flower provide useful late season colour, with interesting autumn/winter foliage and bright berries in autumn.

Note: this plant is a separate species to the similarly named Arum Lilly (Zantedeschia).

Family: Araceae
Botanical Name: Arum
Common Names: Arum lily, cuckoo pint, lords and ladies

Foliage: Deciduous or semi evergreen spear-shaped leaves. The prominently veined, low-growing leaves appear in a clump in early autumn.

Flowers: The petal-less flowers appear in spring around the base of a prominent stalk, called a spadix, enclosed within a leaf-like spathe.

Flowering Period: Late summer.

Berries: Bold spikes of bright orange or scarlet berries appear just before the leaves.

Soil: Moist but well-drained, humus rich soil (chalk, sand or loam). Acid, alkaline or neutral pH.

Conditions: Best in partial shade. Plant in an east or west facing aspect in a sheltered position.

Habit: Low growing, clump forming.

Type: Herbaceous tuberous perennial.

Origin: Europe, Asia, Africa.

Hardiness: Hardy in the UK.

Toxicity: All parts are highly toxic. Wear gloves when handling and wash hands after.

Planting and Growing Arum

Easy to grow. Plant the tubers in autumn, 4in (10cm) deep, in a fertile, moist but well-drained, humus-rich soil. Best grown in light shade, although full sun is tolerated if the soil is kept moist.

Useful in the front to middle of a mixed shady border. They also look very attractive in isolation under deciduous trees or near a water feature. Arums can also be grown in containers, although some species produce an unpleasant odour that may not be suitable for the patio area.

Taking Care of Arum

Apply a general fertiliser in spring and add layer of well-rotted organic mulch in autumn. A. italicum will need protection in areas subject to late frost.

Pruning Arum

Not required.

Pests and Diseases

Generally pest and disease free.

Propagating Arum

Lift the tubers in early autumn, divide the offsets and replant immediately (wear gloves when handling). 

Alternatively, they can be propagated by seed sown in autumn. Remove the fleshy pulp before sowing.

Popular Varieties of Arum

Arum creticum is noted for its showy cream or yellow spathe that curls back to reveal a darker spadix, followed by spikes of bright orange-red fruit. The scent of this species is usually sweet. Arrow-shaped, dark green leaves in autumn. Height 18in (45cm), spread 8in (20cm). 

Arum italicum (Italian arum) is a mediterranian form with dark green foliage, attractively marked with prominent white veins. Bears a yellow or purple spadix, within a showy spathe, followed by red berries. Height 12in (30cm), spread 18in (45cm). The variety 'Pictum' is noted for its handsome curled and twisted, variegated, arrow-shaped leaves. The form 'Marmoratum' has more pronounced marbling.

Arum maculatum (lords and ladies) our native wild form is a more modest plant with glossy green leaves often spotted black. Height and spread to 12in (30cm).