The Beginner's Guide to Growing Jack-in-the-pulpit Plants

The Beginner's Guide to Growing Jack-in-the-pulpit Plants

Getting started with Jack-in-the-pulpit

By Published May 29, 2020 Updated August 02, 2023

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The following article is part of a series geared toward entry-level gardeners. For deep dives into a variety of perennials that we have sold over the decades, visit our archive of in-depth perennial articles written by Tony Avent, Dr. Patrick McMillan, and other Plant Delights and JLBG experts. We also have transcripts of our Gardening Unplugged videos, recorded during our Open Nursery and Garden Days, that have great information for gardeners of all experience levels.

Jack-in-the-pulpit plants (Arisaema triphyllum) are fascinating and unique wildflowers that can add a touch of intrigue and beauty to any garden. Also known as "Indian Turnip," these native North American plants are renowned for their distinctive jack-in-the-pulpit flowers, which resemble a preacher standing in a pulpit. If you're a beginner looking to cultivate these captivating plants, this guide will provide you with essential information on growing, care, companion plants, and propagation techniques.

Growing Conditions

Jack-in-the-pulpit plants are primarily found in woodland areas, indicating their preference for shaded and moist environments. When cultivating them in your garden, it's crucial to replicate these conditions as closely as possible:

  • Light: Partial to full shade is ideal for jack-in-the-pulpit plants. Avoid direct sunlight, as it can scorch their delicate foliage.
    Image of Arisaema consanguineum Silver Center
    Arisaema consanguineum Silver Center
  • Soil: These plants thrive in rich, well-draining soil with a slightly acidic to neutral pH. Incorporate organic matter such as compost to improve soil fertility and moisture retention.
  • Watering: Consistent moisture is essential. Keep the soil evenly moist, especially during the growing season. However, make sure the soil doesn't become waterlogged, as this can lead to root rot.
  • Temperature: Jack-in-the-pulpit plants are hardy in USDA zones 4 to 9. They prefer cool to moderate temperatures, making them well-suited for temperate climates.

Companion Plants

Choosing suitable companion plants can enhance the visual appeal of your garden and create a harmonious environment for jack-in-the-pulpit plants. Some compatible options include:

  • Ferns: Shade-loving ferns, such as lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina) and ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris), complement the unique foliage of jack-in-the-pulpit.
  • Wildflowers: Woodland wildflowers like trilliums, bleeding hearts (Dicentra spp.), and woodland phlox (Phlox divaricata) can provide a colorful backdrop and thrive under similar growing conditions.
  • Hostas: These leafy perennials are well-suited to the shade and can add contrasting textures and colors to your garden.

Propagation Tips

Expanding your collection of jack-in-the-pulpit plants can be achieved through careful propagation techniques:

  • Division: Mature plants can be divided during their dormant season (fall or early spring). Gently lift the plant, separate the corms, and replant them at the same depth.
    Image of Arisaema concinnum
    Arisaema concinnum
  • Seeds: Collect ripe berries from the plants and remove the seeds. Plant them in a prepared bed or container, ensuring they're covered lightly with soil. Keep the soil consistently moist until germination occurs.
  • Patience: Jack-in-the-pulpit plants may take a few years to establish themselves and bloom reliably. Be patient and provide consistent care for the best results.

Our Best Jack-in-the-pulpit Flowers

If you're not sure where to start with these wonderful woodland flowers, take a look at some of our favorite selections form Plant Delights Nursery at Juniper Level Botanic Garden.

Arisaema concinnum

Arisaema concinnum, commonly known as the Himalayan Jack-in-the-pulpit, stands as one of the most majestic members within the Arisaema genus. Its vibrant green stems gracefully appear in late May to early June in NC, reaching heights of 2-3 feet. Crowned atop each stem is a single leaf, elegantly divided into 7-13 elongated leaflets. The leaf and flower of Arisaema concinnum make their simultaneous debut, showcasing a striking dark purple-and-white striped pitcher with an elongated, threadlike tip. Concealed within the pitcher, the "preacher" remains sheltered from the elements. As a stoloniferous species, Arisaema concinnum forms a charming cluster over a few seasons, adding to its allure.

Arisaema sikokianum

Arisaema sikokianum, an exquisite member of the aroid family, stands out as the most stunningly beautiful within the Arisaema genus. Emerging from an underground tuber in early spring, it presents a dark pitcher and two five-lobed leaves on a 1' tall fleshy stalk. The pitcher's unfolding exposes a swollen, pure white protruding spadix, creating a striking contrast with the purple spathe. It's important to note that Arisaema sikokianum requires multiple plants for successful reproduction, as it doesn't offset or self-pollinate. After flowering, the foliage remains appealing until it enters dormancy in late summer. For optimal growth, this species thrives in well-drained, dry woodland garden environments.

Arisaema speciosum 'Himalayan Giant'

The remarkable Arisaema speciosum, sometimes inaccurately labeled as Arisaema speciosum v. magnificum, is an impressive variation of the Arisaema speciosum species found in India. It features large growth emerging in late spring from a unique cigar-shaped rhizome, with a tall 30" cobra-patterned stalk bearing three textured dark green leaflets edged in red. The flower emerges from the base on a short stalk in early May (NC), displaying a wine-purple and white striped hood holding a whitish-pink spadix that transforms from robust to a crumpled red thread, hinting at its eventful journey. Successful cultivation of Arisaema speciosum requires well-drained soil during its dormant phase.

In conclusion, cultivating jack-in-the-pulpit plants can be a rewarding experience for beginners and seasoned gardeners alike. By mimicking their natural woodland habitat and selecting suitable companion plants, you can create a captivating garden display that highlights the unique beauty of these charismatic wildflowers. Whether you're drawn to their intricate jack-in-the-pulpit flowers or their intriguing growth habit, these plants are sure to become a captivating addition to your outdoor space.

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