Attractively veined, arrow-shaped leaves grow from tubers in fall or winter. In spring, short stalks bear curious, often malodorous, callalike blooms featuring a bract (spathe) that half encloses a thick, fleshy spike (spadix) set with tiny flowers. These blossoms are followed by dense clusters of fruit, typically bright red, that look like little ears of corn and persist after leaves have died to the ground. Use this plant in shady flower borders or as a tropical-looking ground cover.
Plant tubers during late summer or in early autumn (toward the end of their dormancy), setting them 812 in. apart and about 2 in. deep. Dormant plantings accept summer water but don't need it. A. palaestinum and A.pictum are sometimes used as houseplants in colder climates.
A. italicum. ITALIAN ARUM. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. Native to southern and western Europe. Foot-long leaves on leafstalks of equal length appear in fall or early winter. Very short stems carry white or greenish white (sometimes purple-spotted) flowers in spring and early summer; the fruit that follows is bright orange-red. Spathe first stands erect, then folds over and conceals short yellow spadix. Leaves die to ground after bloom. In favorable situations, naturalizes by volunteer seedlings. Selection 'Marmoratum' ('Pictum') has white-veined leaves and makes an extremely attractive winter carpet.
A. palaestinum. BLACK CALLA. Zones CS, TS; USDA 9-11. Native to Israel. Leaves emerge in winter; to about 8 in. long, on 1-ft. leafstalks. Spathe is 8 in. long, green outside; opens outward and curls back at tip to reveal purple interior and black spadix. Blooms in spring and early summer; then leaves die back.
A. pictum. Zones LS, CS, TS; USDA 8-10. Native to western Mediterranean. May be called black calla, like A. palaestinum, but unlike that species, it has an 8-in. violet spathe with a white base that encloses a dark purple spadix. Flowers appear in fall, sometimes with emerging foliage, sometimes before. Light green leaves with white veins reach 10 in. long and are borne on equally long leafstalks. Foliage dies to ground in hot weather.