All About Aroids

Aroids or arums are members of the Araceae family.  The Araceae family is large, with more than 100 genera and 3700 species of mostly sub-tropical monocots.  Many species are popular as houseplants, and a few are distinctive landscape plants. 

red anthurium flower with yellow spadex (rod in middle)
Anthurium/Flamingo flower (Anthurium)

This family of plants is diverse with varying mature habits, leaf sizes, shapes, and coloration.   Most members of this family have a similar and distinctive inflorescence (cluster of flowers).  The inflorescence consists of a spadix and spathe.  The spadix is shaped like a rod and often consists of clusters of female flowers near the base and male flowers near the tip. Surrounding the spadix is a leaf-like bract, called a spathe, that is sometimes colorful and showy.  The inflorescence may emit distinctly foul odors (Amorphophallus) and/or produce heat (Symplocarpus) in its attempt to attract pollinators.

Aroids Grown as Houseplants

You have probably seen or grown an aroid.  Common aroid houseplants include philodendron, pothos, Chinese evergreen, peace lily, dumb cane, and Swiss cheese plant.  Only a few aroids that are grown as houseplants have showy flowers.  Peace lily and Anthurium are aroids with showy spathes.  Calla lily and Jack-in-the-pulpit are landscape species with showy inflorescences.

Common Aroids Grown as Houseplants

Common Name



Chinese Evergreen


Variegated green and gray leaves; durable houseplant

Elephant Ear


Large arrowhead-shaped foliage on tropical or temperate plants



Large, often foul-smelling, inflorescence on plants with branched leaves; dormancy required for repeat bloom

Anthurium/Flamingo flower


Often brightly colored spathe with arrowhead-shaped leaves; often grown as a cut flower

Taro/Elephant Ear


Elephant ear like leaves with enlarged, sometimes edible, roots

Dumb Cane


Large speckled leaves on plants with thick, cane-like stems

Devil’s Ivy/Pothos


Green and gold variegated leaves on vining type plants; durable and easy to grow houseplant

Swiss cheese plant


Large plant with large dark green leaves that are dissected or contain holes; some direct light preferred



Green or variegated leaves on vining type plant; durable and easy to grow houseplant

Peace Lily


Dark green or variegated leaves with showy white spathes.

ZZ plant/Zanzibar gem


Waxy green, dissected leaves on large plants; drought tolerant and durable houseplant

variegated houseplant foliage
The bold and colorful foliage of elephant ear (Alocasia) and Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema)


variegated green vining houseplant called pothos
Pothos (Epipremnum)


tall, slender green foliage houseplant called ZZ
ZZ Plant (Zamioculcas)

 Care of Aroids Indoors

Many aroids are grown as houseplants because of their beauty and adaptability to indoor conditions.  Most species prefer bright, indirect light.  Swiss cheese plant (Monstera) is the exception, as it prefers direct light, but other species in this family cannot tolerate more than a few hours of direct light each day.  They usually perform well in North or East facing windows. 

Room temperatures between 65 and 85F are ideal, while temperatures below 60F can cause damage to the leaves of some species.

While landscape species like calla lily (Zantedeschia), caladium (Caladium), and skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus) prefer consistently moist soils, indoor species thrive when allowed to dry out slightly between watering. 

High humidity is beneficial, especially indoors during the winter months.

Most indoor aroids benefit from a light application of fertilizer once or twice during the growing season. 

Aroids as houseplants also thrive when slightly pot-bound; You can be a bit lazy and not repot plants every year into larger containers.

Aroids Grown in the Outdoor Garden

Aroids are a global family. Arisaema, the genus for Jack-in-the-pulpit, has species native to China, Japan, central Africa, Tibet, Thailand, Malaysia, India, Vietnam, Taiwan, Mexico, and North America (including Iowa).  While fewer aroids can be grown outdoors in Iowa, ones like Jack-in-the-pulpit should not be missed! 

Select Aroids Grown as Landscape Plants

Common Name





Woodland native noted for distinctive spathe/spadix

Angel wings/Caladium


Tubers grown in shady locations outdoors during the growing season; noted for showy, variegated leaves; will not reliably overwinter outdoors in Iowa.

Skunk Cabbage


Early blooming, foul-smelling native to wetland areas in North America

Calla Lily


Colorful and showy trumpet-shaped spathe with green to variegated leaves; often grown as a cut flower; will not reliably overwinter outdoors in Iowa

jack-in-the-pulpit plant growing in garden
Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema)


silvery-green foliage of garden plant called caladium
Caladium  (Caladium)

More Information

When planning your indoor or outdoor garden for 2021, consider growing some of these diverse aroids.  If you want to learn more about aroids, check out the podcast, In Defense of Plants.  Several episodes feature aroids.  In episode 158, staff from the Missouri Botanic Garden discuss collecting, propagating, maintaining, and conserving one of the largest living collections of aroids in the world.


Last reviewed:
January 2023