Aroids are a fascinating group of plants, grown for their unusual flowers and sometimes dramatic foliage. Adam Bowley from RHS Garden Wisley picks five species which are easy to cultivate outdoors in the UK
The arum family (Araceae) is a diverse and fascinating group of herbaceous plants that have successfully climbed (Monstera), floated (Lemna) and spread (Arum) their way through the past 122 million years of evolutionary history. They can be found adorning offices across the globe (peace lily, Spathiphyllum) and on the plate in your local curry house (taro, Colocasia esculenta).
Their defining characteristic is the unusual flower structure. Many small flowers are packed tightly together around a club-like spadix, which is in turn surrounded by a hooded spathe. As to be expected this group contains a number of garden-worthy individuals; a handful of which are included below.
Arum italicum subsp. italicum 'Marmoratum' AGM
The most well-known and ornate selection of Arum italicum, this cultivar boasts gorgeous marbled silver leaf markings, shining out from the border during the gloomy autumn and winter months.
White hooded flower spikes are followed by distinctive clubs of orange/red berries during summer, providing a pleasant lift to informal hedgerows and wild areas.
Quick to bulk up, divide clumps after flowering to propagate the named cultivar. Seed sown will produce plants with variable markings.
A shady character which produces mats of glossy, spear-shaped foliage, the aptly named 'mouse tail plant' sports bizarre but undeniably cute flower spikes.
Nestled in amongst the foliage in spring each spathe ends in a drawn out 'tail' giving rise to its common name.
Enjoys moist soil and woodland edge conditions.
Arisaema candidissimum AGM
A choice plant for humus-rich soils in dappled shade, Arisaema candidissimum is known for its elegant candy-striped spathes and pleasant if somewhat fleeting scent.
Position at the front of a border or on a slope where the flowers can be appreciated in late spring to early summer.
A white form is also available.
Sinister and statuesque, the mottled stems of the 'dragon arum' rise to five feet from the woodland floor. In late spring the impressively malodorous blood red spathe spews forth a deep purple, tongue-like spadix in a bid to attract flies for pollination.
Plant tubers in well drained woodland soil, in a sheltered spot and revel in the awe and disgust this must-have plant inspires.
Lysichiton camtschatcensis AGM
Where space is plentiful the “Asian skunk cabbage” is an ideal addition to streamside plantings and bog gardens.
Elegant, white hooded lanterns adorn the water’s edge in spring, swiftly followed by the somewhat coarse foliage.
Those with a preference for yellow can opt for its new world sibling L. americanus which is equally easy to grow.