Fascinatingly beautiful Jack-in-the-pulpit naturalizes in small clusters as an accent plant in shade and woodland gardens. During midsummer dormancy, fill in with impatiens or other shade-tolerant annuals.
Jack-in-the-pulpit blooms in spring. Its intricate, cuplike flowers have a hooded top (a spathe) in earthy colors like green, cream, burgundy, and brown. From the center of the cup, a pollen-bearing spike peeks out, resembling a person standing in a pulpit. As the flowers fade, the plant produces a cluster of red berries mid-to late-summer. These berries become more visible as the spathe withers and shrinks, adding a late dash of color to the shade garden.
Jack-in-the-Pulpit Care Must-Knows
This native plant thrives in damp, acidic, and rich humus forest floors in eastern North America. To create this habitat for Jack-in-the-pulpit in your garden, amend the soil in an area of full or part shade with compost and an acidic fertilizer if needed. It doesn't require a well-drained location as many other plants do, making it a wonderful option for wet, boggy areas of your garden. Jack-in-the-pulpits are poisonous, especially the corms (bulblike roots), so exercise caution when planting these if you have pets and/or small children around.
Related: Wildflowers for Shade
To plant, dig a 6-inch-deep hole and place the corm as you would a crocus or other small bulbs, root side down. These are ephemeral plants: Once they have bloomed and stored enough energy for next year, the foliage dies back. Plan to fill bare spots with annuals.
To prevent slugs from damaging Jack-in-the-pulpit, place a small bowl or container filled with a few inches of beer near the plants. The slugs can't resist the smell, crawl into the container, and drown. Another way to deter slugs is to keep landscape tidy: Slugs like to spend their days under leaves and other plant debris, where it's nice and moist. Sprinkling diatomaceous earth, eggshells, grit, sand, gravel, and pine needles creates barriers slugs don't want to crawl over to reach your Jack-in-the-pulpit plants, too.
More Varieties of Jack-in-the-Pulpit
Arisaema sikokianum develops a maroon or burgundy pulpit with a central white "Jack," resembling an ice cream cone with a striped hood. It is a large species, sometimes growing 30 inches tall. Zones 5-9
Jack-in-the-Pulpit Companion Plants
In spring, a cloud of tiny blue flowers hovers above brunnera's mound of fuzzy heart-shape leaves. The plant prefers partial shade but can grow in full sun in cool climates provided it receives adequate moisture. Variegated forms need more shade; in full sun they're likely to scorch. It is sometimes called Siberian bugloss.
This plant hardly grown 40 years ago is now one of the most commonly grown garden plants. But hosta has earned its spot in the hearts of gardeners—it's among the easiest plants to grow, as long as you have some shade and ample rainfall. Hostas vary from tiny plants suitable for troughs or rock gardens to massive 4-foot clumps with heart-shape leaves almost 2 feet long that can be puckered, wavy-edged, white or green variegated, blue-gray, chartreuse, emerald-edged. The variations are almost endless. Hostas in new sizes and touting new foliage features seem to appear each year. This tough, shade-loving perennial, also known as plaintain lily, sets white or purplish lavender funnel-shape or flared flowers in summer. Some are intensely fragrant. Hostas are a favorite of slug and deer.
In early spring, the brilliant blue, pink, or white flowers of lungwort bloom despite the coldest chill. The rough basal leaves—spotted or plain—always please and continue to be handsome into winter. Planted close as a weed-discouraging groundcover or in borders as edgings or bright accent plants, lungworts are workhorses and retain their good looks. Provide high-humus soil that retains moisture. Although lungwort tolerates dry conditions, be alert for mildew.