Skunk cabbage, or Eastern skunk cabbage, is a perennial herb or forb often confused with Western or Yellow skunk cabbage, which is in a different genus. Eastern skunk cabbage has green foliage and unusually-shaped purple, red, yellow, or green flowers. Though it has a reputation for smelling bad, the notorious odor is only present when skunk cabbage leaves are crushed. This quality actually has an advantage if you have a problem with larger animals invading your garden, as they are deterred from ruining the plant as a result. Another unique quality about skunk cabbage is that it is one of the only plants that can bloom in the late winter.
Skunk cabbage prefers a more humid environment, as it is often found growing along the sides of freshwater streams, ponds, and marshes. You should start growing skunk cabbage in a pot during the mid-winter and transplant it later in the spring. Skunk cabbage prefers a loamy soil, which is great at retaining moisture. Make sure to plant seeds about ¼ of an inch deep in the soil, pat down to get rid of any air pockets, and water well.
Your pot should be contained in a cold frame (a sort of mini-greenhouse) for the rest of the winter. You can make a cold frame out of a wooden box with a clear piece of glass at the top. Make sure to place your cold frame in a sunny spot, though you’ll want to keep the soil moist. The germination period should take about one to two months.
Once spring arrives, you can transplant your skunk cabbage to a moist, even boggy, area in your garden that gets full sun to partial shade. Definitely water your plant everyday if you need to maintain level sogginess in the environment that skunk cabbage prefers. These are one of the few plants that tolerate poor drainage.
You’ll see that maintenance is quite easy overall for the skunk cabbage. It’ll start to bloom, if it hasn’t already, around spring-- really anywhere from February to May. Once late spring rolls around, you’ll notice that more leaves will start to unfurl, attracting many insects, unlike larger animals. This is a good thing, as insects like flies, butterflies, bees, and beetles will help in skunk cabbage pollination. In the fall when its leaves start to fall over and rot, insects like slugs, millipedes and isopods will be drawn to eat away at the old, fallen leaves.