How to Grow Lords-and-Ladies — Arum

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Arum –often called lords-and-ladies–is a tuberous, deciduous perennial which blooms in summer. The exotic-looking “flowers” resemble calla lilies (Zantedeschia). The inflorescence is actually many tiny flowers clustered on a central stalk called a spadix. The spadix is surrounded by a modified leaf called a spathe. Showy spikes of red or orange berries follow the flowers in late summer and autumn.

Arum bears spear, arrow, or heart-shaped leaves which are often marbled. In regions with mild winters, the leaves remain attractive until late spring.

The Arum genus includes about 26 species of mainly spring-flowering, tuberous perennials

All parts of Arum are poisonous if ingested and the sap can cause skin irritation.

Leaves of Arum
Foliage of Italian arum (Arum italicum) with striking pale veins on the leaves.

Get to know Arum

  • Plant type: Perennial with tuberous roots
  • Growing zones and range: Zones 5 to 9 depending on the variety
  • Hardiness: Plants are deciduous
  • Height and width: 8 to 20 inches (20-50cm) tall and wide depending on the variety
  • Foliage: Arrow-shaped or heart-shaped leaves
  • Flowers: Callalike blossoms on short stalks; bract (spathe) half encloses thick, fleshy spike (spadix) which bears tiny flowers
  • Bloom time: Spring
  • Uses: Shady borders, woodland gardens
  • Garden companions: Ferns
  • Common name: Lords-and-ladies
  • Botanical name: Arum
  • Family name: Araceae
  • Origin: Southern Europe, North Africa, West Asia

Where to plant Arum

  • Grow Arum in full sun or partial shade.
  • Plant Arum in humus-rich well-drained soil.
  • A sheltered site is best to help protect foliage in winter.
  • Where Arum is not hardy, grow them in pots and overwinter them in a cool spot.
 Arum italicum flower berries
Arum italicum flower berries

When to plant Arum

  • Plant arum seeds in the fall.
  • Set out container-grown plants in spring or fall.

Planting and spacing Arum

  • Set tubers with the tops 4 to 6 inches (10-15cm) below the soil surface. Roots develop from the tops of tubers.
  • Mark the planting location to avoid digging into tubers when they are dormant.

How to water and feed Arum

  • Give Arum regular water during active growth.
  • Feed plants with an all-purpose organic fertilizer in spring. Apply a balanced fertilizer monthly during the growing season.

Arum care

  • Mulch with compost in spring to keep the soil rich and to help retain moisture.
  • In cold winter regions, cover plants with coarse mulch or evergreen boughs in late fall.
  • Sap from Arum is an irritant if ingested.

Arum pests and diseases

  • Arum has few pests or diseases.

Arum propagation

  • Divide clumps of arum tubers in spring.
  • Separate offests in spring or autumn.
  • Sow seeds in spring.
Arum lily
Arum lily

Arum varieties to grow

  • Arum italicum, Italian arum: Arrow-shaped leaves to 8 inches long; shite or greenish-white, sometimes purple-spotted, flowers in spring and early summer; dense clusters of bright red fruit follow.
  • A. palestinum, black calla: arrow-shaped spathe to 8 inches long, greenish outside, blackish-purple inside; has a curved back that reveals blackish-purple spadix; often grown as a potted plant.
  •  A. pictum: light green, heart-shaped leaves; spathe is violet, green at base; spadix is purplish black.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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