Lords-and-ladies

Lords-and-ladies (Arum maculatum) with its bright autumn berries, is a valuable perennial for shady borders, but its tendency to self-seed means it can quickly become a nuisance.

The flowers of <EM>Arum maculatum</EM>

Quick facts

Common name Lords-and-ladies, cuckoo pint
Botanical name Arum maculatum
Areas affected Shady or woodland edge beds and borders, uncultivated ground
Main causes Self-seeding and distribution of rhizome fragments
Timing Leaves and flower spathes from spring and berries in the autumn, but tubers persist in the soil year-round

What is lords-and-ladies?

Lords-and-ladies is a shade-loving tuberous perennial, native to UK woodlands and hedgerows, which can often become established in gardens. Self-seeding readily, it can quickly take over a border under the right conditions and is difficult to control.

The related Italian arum (A. italicum) and its forms, with marbled white-veined leaves, can also become a problem in gardens. Grown widely as attractive ground-cover, it too can overtake borders in favourable conditions. Control in the same way as for lords-and-ladies.

Appearance

A white tuberous rhizome throws up large arrow-shaped and commonly black-spotted leaves to 45cm in spring.
The flowers, which appear in April and May, are borne at the base of a cylindrical structure called a spadix which is enveloped by a green to purple-tinged membranous hood called a spathe. The flowers are followed in autumn by a conspicuous spike of orange-red berries.

All parts of the plant are poisonous.

Conspicuous spikes of orange-red berries are produced in autumn
    Conspicuous spikes of orange-red berries are produced in autumn

    The problem

    Plants can spread quickly by self-seeding and the unintentional distribution of rhizome fragments around the garden, for example in home compost. The deep rooting tubers multiply each year and are difficult to remove entirely, with fragments left behind in the soil regenerating quickly.

    Control

    Non-chemical control

    Tackling large infestations of lords-and-ladies in a well-planted bed can be difficult. To get rid of it completely requires time and patience. Try the following non-chemical approaches:

    • Digging up tuberous rhizomes regularly can help to limit spread of the weed but is time consuming and unlikely to eradicate it completely, as any missed fragments will regenerate. If undertaken ensure all weed material is destroyed and not added to home compost bins
    • Laying opaque mulches can help to smother weed growth. These should be in place for at least two growing seasons. Where other plants are growing try a deep (15cm/6in) bark mulch instead

    Chemical control

    There is little recorded data on the chemical susceptibility of this weed but success might be had by applying SBK Brushwood Killer in spring when there is an abundance of leafy growth. 

    The systemic glyphosate-based herbicide Round-up would also likely be effective, but several applications may be needed. To improve the uptake of glyphosate, bruise weed foliage with the back of a spade or by treading before treatment.

    Inclusion of a weedkiller product does not indicate a recommendation or endorsement by the RHS. It is a list of products currently available to the home gardener.

    Download

    Weedkillers for gardeners (Adobe Acrobat pdf document outlining weedkillers available to gardeners; see sections 1a and 4)

    Links

    Chemicals: using spot and broad-scale weedkillers
    Chemicals: using a sprayer
    Chemicals: using safely and effectively
    Weeds: non-chemical control

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