Plant Description

Arthropodium cirratum

Arthropodium cirratum (at left) with hydrangeas and other shade-loving plants in my garden

The so-called renga renga lily (ht 60-90cm) from New Zealand is a very useful, robust, clump-forming plant for shade, even quite dry shade. It can apparently also cope well with wet soil! It can tolerate light frosts. In its natural habitat, it grows in dry, rocky coastal regions. It is classified as part of the family Asparagaceae. It has attractive arching foliage and in October and November sends up tall spikes which open to reveal a profusion of small white star-shaped flowers. These provide clouds of bloom for several weeks. It is an undemanding plant that grows from a fibrous rootstock, and it will gradually expand to form a decent-sized clump over time. The cultivar 'Matapouri Bay' (ht 70-100cm) is regarded as a good cultivar; 'Te Puna' is a dwarf version (ht 30cm), and I have also seen a pink cultivar, 'Joy Pink'.

Arthropodium associates well with Hydrangea, which come into bloom at the same time, and I also like it with calla lilies (Zantedeschia aethiopica) and the small Philodendron cultivar 'Xanadu', which provide a bold contrast of form in a shaded garden border. It also looks very pretty when grown with rhizomatous Begonia, which are in bloom at the same time and provide a similar froth of flowers. It also associates well with ferns and cycads, its curving leaves echoing the form of those foliage plants.

Protect the flowers and foliage from snails, which are the only real enemy of the renga renga lily. In autumn or late winter, remove the scruffy old foliage at the base of the plant, and divide the clump if it is getting too large. This will also reduce the risk of fungal diseases infecting the foliage in our humid summers.

It seems likely that the early Maori people in New Zealand baked the roots of renga renga lilies for food; and the plants were also used as a medicinal ointment. The flowers are very attractive to bees.


Arthropodium cirratum
Flowers October and November.
Plant Family: Asparagaceae

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