Lysichiton – American skunk cabbage

Height: 60cm-120cm

Water depth: up to 5cm (2in)

Features: flowers spring

Soil: deep, humus-rich, moist

Site: sun or partial shade

Type: marginal

American skunk cabbage is a dramatically large subject for marginal planting. Its huge, waxy, arum-like (lowers, which appear in early to late spring, often reach 30cm (1 ft) high and are unpleasantly scented. The leaves, which unfurl later, may grow to 1.2m (4ft) long -perhaps a bit much for a small garden, but magnificent in the right surroundings. These are bold plants tor growing in deep, rich, moist soil around ponds and streams.

Popular species

Lysichiton americanum is the largest species, reaching 60-120cm (2-4ft). It has mid-green leaves and golden yellow flowers. In mid to late summer the ripe seedheads are an attraction. Lysichiton canttschatcensis, a Japanese species, is similar to I.. americanum, but smaller. It reaches only 60-90cm (2-3ft) and has pure white, unscented flowers. The leaves are blue-green.


Plant container-grown specimens between mid spring and early summer, taking care not to damage the roots.

American skunk cabbage does best in deep, moist, humus-rich soil, in sun or light shade.

Propagation: You can increase by division, although the divided plants may take two or three years to establish themselves. Remove young plants, which form around the base of old crowns, and pot these up, using a rich, loamy compost. Plant out in spring. Self-sown seedlings are also likely to appear.

Pests and diseases: Trouble free.

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