Arisaema is a genus of herbaceous perennials and a member of the arum family, Araceae, that is also  known as aroids, and includes peace  lily, skunk cabbage,  and elephant ear.  Although most of the species are native to Asia where they are known as cobra lilies, two or three such as Jack in the Pulpit are native to eastern North America.  Plants grow from a rounded to elongated tuber or fleshy rhizome and have divided leaves that appear with or before the flowers.    The flowers are carried on  a fleshy stem  called a spadix and are surrounded by a leaf-like curved bract called a spathe.   Unlike other arums, Arisaema can change sex depending on nutrition, genetics and age.   They are usually male when young and female or hermaphraditic when mature.  The female flowers are followed by attractive red berries densely packed on the spadix.  The flesh of the berries contain substance  that can cause severe skin irritation and should be handled with latex gloves.   The genus name, Arisaema, comes from the Greek word saris referring to arum plants to which they are related, and haima, meaning blood (relationship).

Arisaemae like fertile, consistently moist, well-drained soil in light shade and are especially suited to a shade garden.  They are beloved by slugs and may suffere root rot in cold moist winter soil.  Propagation is by seed but germination time may be long.  Some species produce side tubers that can be divided.


The following species are recommended for the garden:

Arisaema candidissimum

A native of western China, the 3- lobed leaves appear after the flowers and are colorful in the fall.  Plants are late to emerge and should be planted in a place that is shelterd from drying winds.

Height: 1′

Bloom Appearance: White, 6″ spathe, striped with green outside, pink inside.

Bloom Time: Summer

Hardiness: Zones 7-9


Green Dragon (A. dracontium)

Native to central and Northeastern US, the plant has a single long petioled leaf that is divided into 9″ long segments. The berries are orange.

Height: 2-3′

Bloom Appearance: The yellow spadix protrudes several inches above the green spathe.

Bloom Time: Early summer

Hardiness: Zones 4-9


Mouse Plant (A. proboscideum)

Height: 6″arisarum-proboscideum

Bloom Appearance: Purple and white hood-like spathe that gradually tapers to a long thin “tail” about six inches long

Bloom Time: Spring

Hardiness: Zones 7-9


Cobra Lily (A. sikokianum)

Height: 2′Arisaema sikokiamum 3

Bloom Appearance: Pure white spadix surrounded by spathe with chocolate brown stripes on the outside, pure white on the inside

Bloom Time:Spring

Hardiness: Zones 5-8


Jack in the Pulpit (A. triphyllum)

A native of Northeastern US, this plant has two 3-lobed leaves on 12″ petioles that elongate after flowering.

Height: 1′

Bloom Appearance: Drooping spathe varies in color from purple striped with light green to solid pale green; spadix is purple or green and berries are red

Bloom Time: Spring

Hardiness: Zones 4-9



By Karen