Plant a Spectacular Tropical-Like Native | gardening tips

Jhe post-pandemic years have seen an absolute explosion of interest in alien aroids. With their spectacular architectural foliage and dazzling leaf patterns, they have sold for tens of thousands of pounds online – not even rooted plants, but individual stem cuttings. This caused an unprecedented boom, with growers in places like Indonesia and Thailand all rushing to spread them to satisfy a booming global market. Yet while so many in the West clamor for these rare plants native to the other side of the world, we’ve managed to overlook the spectacular hardy aroids that literally grow outside our doors here in the UK.

Lead the way: Arum italicum ‘Lords and Ladies’. Photograph: Getty Images

Hardy aroids resemble their tropical cousins ​​so remarkably that in a botanical range, even I – a botanist from Southeast Asia – would find it hard to tell them apart. But they are often a tiny fraction of the cost and are much easier to grow. Just plant them in the ground in moist, shady places and for most of these seasonal bulbs, that’s all you need to do.

Compare that with tropical forms that require constant heat all year round and artificial lighting during the winter, and it can also make it an expensive undertaking. Not to mention that much of the patterning on the tropical types comes from human-induced unstable variegation, which means the mutant white sections often burn even under the most ideal conditions. The natural variegation on the rustic forms, however, does not display such delicacy.

So which strains should you be looking for? Well, for starters, there’s Arum italicum ‘Pictum’, with glossy dark green leaves adorned with the most intricate web, like silver embroidery. It looks a lot like the super trendy tropical kind Syngonium but will quickly colonize any shady spot with well-drained soil, giving you a carpet of exotic foliage that magically appears in winter when everything else retreats underground. Come summer, the same plants offer triffid-like flowers and torches of brilliant red berries. Arum creticum replaces the leaf pattern with much larger creamy-yellow flowers in spring, with a fresh, bewitching scent.

Then there is the remarkable Amorphophallus – a close relative of the giant arum titanwhose 8-foot-tall blooms are the wonder of tropical greenhouses in botanical gardens around the world. Amorphophallus konjac is a bone-hardy cousin that can be grown in any woodland garden. Each plant produces a single leaf that branches out into an umbrella of leaflets to create the appearance of a mini tree. Even the leaf stalk has developed a speckled appearance to mimic the lichen that grows on jungle trees to trick herbivores into thinking they are unappetizing woody trunks.

Like calla lilies, they only need moist, well-drained soil in a shady spot. Plant the forms about 15cm deep and they will reappear year after year in exchange for little more than an occasional watering in particularly dry summers.

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Terri S. Tomasini