Q: An elderly friend gave me a couple of these plants last spring. He’s not sure what it is. They looked sickly all summer after I planted them. Then when fall and cooler weather came they took off like crazy. What is it?
A: It’s Italian arum – a GREAT winter plant for shade to part sun. I have mine combined with hellebores. The behavior you saw is simply the way it grows. It has a small tuber belowground that produces leaves in fall. The leaves grow rapidly and attractively through winter.
In April you’ll see a white, cupped flower emerge from the center of a clump. It will have a small “finger” sticking up in the center. The finger will soon be covered with red berries – the seed of the plant.
According to one source, the phallic appearance of the flower has given rise to several off-color comparisons to animal parts. “Cuckoo’s Pint” is the only one I can print here without blushing.
Leaves will die off by summer and the berries will fall to the ground…where they will germinate and give you more arum to enjoy.
Italian arum flower
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