Jack in the Pulpit
Can you plant it now?
Jack-in-the–pulpit is an interesting and familiar woodland wildflower that will start waking up in mid-spring. An emerging sprout, like a fat, green pencil, will gradually rise and unfurl into 2, 3-parted leaves and then reveal the flower, a green and maroon striped “pulpit” with a hood over the preacher, “Jack”. Jack-in-the-pulpit can range in height between 1 to 3 feet with a spread of about a third of that. The flowers are curious and showy and are a perfect choice for a shady garden with pretty good soil. If plants are successfully pollinated, a fistful of bright red berries will form and stay up all summer. Otherwise, Jack will go dormant by mid summer.
But is it okay to plant them now, in mid-winter? Jacks sprout from rounded, turnip-like structures called corms that slough their roots off in late fall. As the soil warms in spring, new roots are produced, thus anchoring the growing shoot.
It IS okay to plant dormant corms now as long as:1) you can dig a hole,
2) your soil is not frozen, and
3) your soil is not wet.
You can also plant other dormant, non-fibrous rooted plants that have tubers, rhizomes, or otherwise thickened and modified root structures. These kinds of root structures have stored energy reserves that enable the plant to get through the dormancy and resume growth when conditions are right. Plants that fall into this category include all Arisaema and cobra lilies, Bletilla, Trilliums, Virginia bluebells, wood sorrel, and bellworts. These plants normally are planted very deep so temperature fluctuations are moderated. It is critical, though, that the soil around the new transplants is well drained or at least does not stay wet. A successful winter planting results in your new plant waking up at the right time for YOUR climate, not ours.