“The flowers of tomorrow are in the seeds of today.” Unknown
Jack-In-The-Pulpit (Arisaema triphylum) is a fascinating woodland plant. It emerges in the spring unassumingly with its green three-leaved foliage. Then as if by magic, the flower stem seems to suddenly appear and grows almost overnight into a single bloom worthy of its name and folklore. I find these plants so exciting to watch in the garden and can even be overheard talking to them as they return to my delight every spring.
The seed pod is equally fascinating to watch and is only produced on mature plants. This was my first summer getting a seed pod and only one plant produced one, something I suspect has to do with the plant’s pollination and sexuality. A large cluster of bright green berries formed as the flower was waning.
This interesting and bold seed pod remained on the plant throughout the summer while the flower and the leaves died back. Come fall, the berries turned bright red. Now is the time to harvest the seeds.
With Jack-in-the-Pulpit perennials being quite costly, it is well worth trying your hand at propagation of the numerous seeds available in the seed pods. Cut off the whole red seed pod. Wearing rubber gloves and working on paper towels, squeeze the whitish-tan seeds out of the gelatinous berry. The gloves are needed to protect your hands from the staining flesh and from the calcium oxalate contained in the flesh which is a skin irritant.
Using a fine mesh sieve, wash the pulp away from the seeds. Each berry will yield 1-5 seeds. These seeds should not be dried and need to be planted immediately after harvesting them or stored in a moist medium.
Plant directly into the soil, about 1/2″ deep, in moist partial shade area, for flowering next spring. A plant may require 2-3 years before it matures enough to flower but will produce foliage the first year.
If you will not plant the seeds immediately, they must be “stratified”. This means the seeds need to go through a chilling period. This can be simulated in a refrigerator by storing the seeds in moist sand or sphagnum moss in a sealed plastic baggie. After the chilling period, they can be started indoor then transferred to a moist partial shade location in the garden. I am trying both methods of propagation from seeds and will report back later on my success. The first year I have read the seed may produce a single leaf.
Propagation can also be done from a division of the corms, also in the fall. Cut off any smaller corms growing from the main corm and replant. I may attempt this method when my plants are more mature.
Follow up note: Both methods were successful in propagating Jack-in-the-Pulpit. The plants are slow growing and have only so far(2 years) produced only leaves, no flowers or seed pods. But every year, they are growing more leaves and I expect they will flower in year 3. Gardening takes patience!
To read more about Jack-in-the-Pulpit, please visit these excellent sources: