Japanese cobra lilies, A. sikokianum
A woodland delight!
Common Name: Jack-in-the-Pulpit
Botanical Name: Arisaema
Form: low upright
Plant Type: tuberous herbaceous perennial
Mature Size: from 1 to 2 feet depending on variety
Origin: China, Japan, Africa, Mexico and North America.
Hardiness Zone: depends on species
Foliage: green leaves are divided into 3 to 5 leaflets depending on the variety
Flowers: an erect central spadix (spike) surrounded by a spathe (bract)
Fruit: red berries
Exposure: part shade to shade
Soil: high organic, moist soils, dislikes clay and sand
Uses: woodlands, natives
Propagation: seed, offsets
Problems: no insects or diseases
Arisaemas always attract attention with their unique and beautiful flowers. These coveted beauties’ fame stretches from Asia to North America with over 190 species. Western species are referred to a jack-in-the-pulpit and Asiatic species are called cobra lilies.
Arisaemas are classified as arums; members of the Araceae family. All arums share the same flower morphology an erect central spadix (narrow spike of tiny flowers) surrounding by a spathe (a bract that resembles a hood).
Flowers emerge in April and May with green leaves that are divided into three or five leaflets. There’s no main stalk as the flowers and foliage grow as a colony. As summer approaches, the plants wither and become dormant. Summer dormancy is normal and is part of their life cycle. The only remnants are the bright red berries that replace the hooded flowers.
Colonies spread readily, especially when disturbed so don’t forget they are there when you’re digging in the garden during the summer.
Provide arisaemas with conditions close to their native habitat – lowland woodlands with seasonal flooding. Soil should contain lots of organic matter and be moist, preferably with 3 inches of an organic mulch. Water in the summer as they dislike prolonged drought. They dislike full sun, so keep them in shady to partially shaded locations. Being from the forest, they are suited to being planted under larger plants that provide them with shade during the heat of the day. To improve hardiness, cover plants in fall with a thick layer of mulch.
Three-leaf Jack-in-the-Pulpit, A. triphyllum, is the most common species of North America. Plants are 1' - 2' tall with two trifoliate leaves with inflorescences (flowers) that have green or purple and white stripes. (Zone 3-9).
Japanese cobra lily: A. sikokianum, is a less hardy species from Japanese with hardiness zones from 5 to 8. Plants are bolder and taller growing from 18 inches to 2 feet, but prefer the same growing conditions as their western counterpart. The hood of the cobra is dark purple with stripes of green and white on the outside. Inside the hood is pure white. They are quite striking and are difficult to find.
The whipcord cobra lily, Arisaema tortuosum, originates from the Himalayas. They have a distinctive purple or green whip-like projection that extends upright from the hood up to a foot in length.