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Thursday, April 24, 2014

My Favorite Plant in the Garden This Week Is...

Arum italicum 'Jack Sprat.'

This variety of Arum has random black spots on the arrowhead-shaped leaves -- not burgundy or purple or blue, but truly black. Like the Epimediums that I posted about last week here, it's another great little plant for dry shade. I bought it 3 years ago, and it has clumped up beautifully since then. I have it in four spots in my garden, and each clump has gotten bigger and wider since I first planted it, but it hasn't self-sown or made runners, or shown itself to be the least bit of an aggressive spreader, a complaint I have heard about the plain green species Arum italicum. I have the plain species too, and in my garden, in dry shade, it also hasn't spread at all. Both have increased modestly via offsets that stay very close to the mother plant.

'Jack Sprat' is a great companion plant to black mondo grass, Saxifrages, golden Hakone grass, Epimediums, Brunnera and dark-leafed Heucheras.

A nice size clump of 'Jack Sprat' next to a Saxifrage

Here it is next to Brunnera, Hellebore and gold Carex

Last year my 'Jack Sprat' Arum flowered, but didn't produce the spike of red berries that I was hoping for (You can see pictures of the flower in this post). Maybe this year I'll get flowers and berries. The cool thing about the cluster of red berries is that it lingers and ripens over the summer after the foliage fades and dies back. The plant will tolerate both dry soil and extremely wet soil.

Here are some particulars about Arum italicum 'Jack Sprat.'

Height: 1 to 1 1/2 feet
Width: 1 to 1 1/2 feet
Hardiness: Zone 5-9
Light: Part Shade to Full Shade
Soil: Moist, humusy, organically rich

I haven't seen it for sale online. I bought mine at an early spring plant sale a few years ago.

Loree at danger garden hosts the Favorite Plant in the Garden meme. You can read her current post about her favorite plant this week here, and be sure and take a look at the comments, where other bloggers like me leave links to their posts.


  1. This is a fun arum! One year, I ordered a few of each arum italicum variety offered by some specialty catalog and was surprised by the ones with black splotches on them. Mine have politely seeded but they're welcome as they provide nice green foliage during the winter. You have quite a collection of plants in your garden!

  2. The little clump I got last year is doing well. I love the randomness of the black spotting.

  3. Choice! My Sunset guide suggests that it can handle my climate zone - now I just have to find shade somewhere...

  4. It is lovely and looks good with the Brunnera.I have the common or garden Arum italicum. I love the leaves in winter in a vase with snowdrops.

  5. This one is a charmer, and I like the idea of telling us a few things that work well as companion plants.

  6. The random black spots adds another dimension to an already good looking group of plants. Added to our wishlist!

  7. Love this one Alison, and I've got it growing right next to a Saxifrage like you do. Of course I should also mention that mine came from you, last spring's I believe. I am a little worried about it though, it's going to get more sun this year since the privet is gone.

  8. Those black marks on the leaves are really interesting. That would be a great plant for a Halloween-themed arrangement.

  9. I love the idea of combining this arum with black mondo grass as a complement and golden hakone grass for contrast! Sounds beautiful! That big clump at the top looks like such a happy, healthy plant. I have a seedling Arum italicum with black spots. Good to see what it can turn into.

  10. Hi Alison, I'm sorry I've been away for so long, I have to catch up on all of your excellent posts. 'Jack Sprat' is fantastic, I wonder if it would have survived our frigid winter? What a beauty. I am so excited to see all the green and thriving plants in your garden; we're still not defrosted yet and it's wet, gray and dismal. (And so am I.) Off to the doctor tomorrow, I've been bitten by a deer tick of all things, apparently even though winter doesn't want to let go, the ticks didn't get the memo.

  11. It really is a true-black spot, isn't it? You don't often see that. The clumps are nicely shaped too. Great plant.

  12. That is a beautiful plant, but we have the green variety and it is spreading everywhere, a real thug. We won't be adding any pretty cousins.

  13. What a cool plant--only a slight adjustment to the name would be even better--an "L" instead of an "R": 'Jack Splat'! :^) Or is that too punny?

    You are growing it beautifully.


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