Plant of the Month for October, 2016

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Arisaema franchetianum

 (air-uh-SEE-muh  fron-SHAY-tee-AY-num)

General Information:

It is late June in the shady garden and out of nowhere appears a spotted finger sticking out of the ground. It grows quickly unfolding a huge tripartite shinny leaf. Each lobe is almost as large as my hand. But the real treasure is hidden below the leaf – a striped cobra that needs to be seen to be believed.

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Arisaema franchetianum‘Hugo’:photo by Robert Pavlis

Arisaema franchetianum ‘Hugo’ is a remarkable plant. The leaves alone would justify having it in the garden, but when you add in the flower spathe you have a real gem. Unfortunately, the plant is not very tall and the flower forms under the protection of the leaves. You have to get down on your hands and knees to really enjoy it – but it is worth it.

Also known as cobra lily and Chinese Jack-in-the-pulpit, the cultivar Hugo is a Plant Delights selection and is reported to be larger and more vigorous than the straight species. It is now propagated by tissue culture and should be more readily available from specialty nurseries. All Arisaema like to grow in part shade but this species can take almost full sun.

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Arisaema franchetianum ‘Hugo’:photo by Robert Pavlis

Arisaema franchetianum is very confused in the trade and many of the plants sold are actually A. fargesii. Buy from a reliable source.

The plant grows from tubers. In fall, the above ground parts die back leaving the tuber to over winter. In colder climates or where the soil stays too wet, the tuber can be dug up and stored inside a fridge for the winter. In spring it can be planted in the ground again, or grown in a pot. The tubers usually make some baby tubers and this is a good way to propagate the plant. The straight species can produce seed, but the cultivar Hugo is sterile.

If you plant it in the garden be sure to mark the spot. In zone 5 it won't show any growth above the ground until late June.

Life Cycle: perennial

Height: 45cm (1.5 ft)

Bloom Time: summer

Natural Range: S. W.  China, N. E. India, and North Myanmar

Habitat: forests, thickets, grassland, 900 – 3,000m

Synonyms:  Arisaema delavayi, Arisaema monbeigii, Arisaema purpureogeleatum, Arisaema bogneri


Light: part shade to full sun

Soil: well drained woodland soil

Water: likes moisture when growing

USDA Hardiness Zone: 5 - 8

Propagation: seed for the speciestuber offsets for the cultivar

Seedex availability (ORG&HPS annual Seed Exchange): rarely


Robert Pavlis