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Plant of the Month April 2017

Arum

Arum is a genus of tuberous perennial plants belonging to the Araceae family, the genus is made up of around 25 species native to Europe, Northern Africa and Western Asia to the Western Himalayas. Many of the genus are known for the foul odour they give off whilst in flower, often described as resembling rotting meat or the smell of death.
 

Arum creticum
Probably the most commonly grown member of this genus and definitely one of the most beautiful of the European arums. Originally thought to only occur in Crete, as seen in the given name but was later also found on the island of Karpathos, as well as on the Turkish mainland.
This species is hardy and blooms from March to May, it is fragrant and comes in several forms. The spathe (the large leaf like part of the inflorescence) may vary from pure white to pale or dark yellow, often with green staining around the base.


The superb large leaves are 15-30cm long, unmarked and glossy. With their dark green, arrow shape they are attractive in their own right and offer a hint of the exotic. Generally this species is easy to cultivate and is often seen flourishing in woodland gardens, rock gardens and also in alpine houses. The key to a good show is watering plenty and not allowing to dry out whilst in active growth. Once the plant begins to die back, watering can be reduced and even stopped until new shoots appear the following season. Full sun to moderate shade is the preferred conditions, and in deep fertile soils.

It is a worthy consideration that all parts of this species will cause severe discomfort if eaten and the sap may irritate skin on contact especially in direct sunlight.

Except from the odd slug and aphid, Arums generally grow without any problem of pest and disease.


Propagation
Specialist plant nurseries will usually sell dormant tubers in winter that are of flowering size, so these can be planted below their own depth straight into the ground. If you are up for the challenge of growing from seed, these need a cold period to germinate so either place them in the fridge for 3 months (in a plastic bag with moist perlite) prior to sowing or sow them outside in late summer so they are exposed to the colder winter temperatures, generally germination with occur in late spring. A well drained seed compost is ideal, place a fine covering of grit over the seeds. Flowering from plants raised from seed usually takes 4-5 years. If no seeds are available and you have a decent sized clump you can divide it up either when the plant is fully dormant or once is beginning to go dormant after flowering.

Andrew Luke Posted by Andrew Luke

Andrew Luke is Supervisor of the Woodland, Order Beds & Grass Gardens at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. He is a hardy plant propagation specialist & plant collector. He can be contacted on twitter @PlantGrafter

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