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Attractively veined, arrow-shaped leaves grow from tubers in fall or winter. In spring, short stalks bear curious, often malodorous, callalike blooms featuring a bract (spathe) that half encloses a thick, fleshy spike (spadix) set with tiny flowers. These blossoms are followed by dense clusters of fruit, typically bright red, that look like little ears of corn and persist after leaves have died to the ground. Use this plant in shady flower borders or as a tropical-looking groundcover.

Plant tubers in well-drained soil in late summer or early fall (toward the end of their dormancy), setting them 8–12 in. apart and 4–6 in. deep. Dormant plantings accept summer moisture but don’t need it.

Arum italicum (photo courtesy of Rob Cardillo)
Arum italicum (photo courtesy of Rob Cardillo)

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Arum italicum

Native to southern and western Europe. Foot-long leaves on leafstalks of equal length emerge in fall or early winter. Short stems carry white or greenish white (sometimes purple-spotted) flowers in spring and early summer, followed by orange-red fruits. The spathe stands erect, then folds over to conceal the short yellow spadix. Leaves die to ground after bloom. In favorable situations, plants naturalize by volunteer seedlings. ‘Marmoratum’ (‘Pictum’) has white-veined leaves.

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