A Guide to Amorphophallus Bulbifer – She smells of Death

Last Updated on June 13, 2020 by cmoarz

What is an Amorphophallus Bulbifer?

Amorphophallus bulbifer, also known as Voodoo Lily is a plant having both the male and female reproductive organs in itself. It is a straight, perennial herb that stands around 50 to 90 cm tall. Its tuber is 15 cm in diameter.

The name Amorphophallus Bulbifer is given because of the bulbils that form on top of its leaves. These bulbils look like tiny bulbs. They fall to the ground when the plant goes dormant. These fallen bulbils then grow into new plants the next spring.

There are many species of Amorphophallus but the Amorphophallus Bulbifer is one of the prettiest. It has a very attractive pink spathe. It is exotic-looking and has a soft greenish exterior, mottled and marbled with pale pink. Its length is 10 to 30 cm. It has an oval or boat shape. At its base, it is rolled longitudinally upon itself, like a leaf in the bud. On the outside, it has a greyish green color with blackish green spots. It has a dark pink base inside but gets paler towards the top.

The spadix is large and swollen and is surrounded by the spathe. It has the color of flesh which is whitish-pink. Its length is about the same as the spathe. The male part of the spadix is located above which is up to 4 mm long. The female part is at the base which is up to 2.5 cm long. The spadix consists of many tightly packed florets.

It has a solitary leaf. It is a compound leaf that has many branches and looks like an umbrella. It is held up on a single very long petiole forming something like a mini canopy. The leaf usually grows after the flower. Bulbils appear at the forks. The leafstalk is smooth, fleshy, and colored dark green with whitish-pink spots.

The natural habitat of Amorphophallus Bulbifer is in wooded foothills and monsoon forests. They are usually at much higher altitudes that the habitat of its more tropical relatives. This makes its cold tolerance much higher. You will find Amorphophallus bulbifer growing along village roadsides in moist shady places.

Voodoo Lilies come from India, Nepal, China, Bhutan, and Bangladesh. In frost-free climates, you can grow them in your garden. In cooler areas, they can be grown in pots or greenhouses. They usually sprout a single flower or leaf.

Can I grow Amorphophallus Bulbifer, aka, The Voodoo Lily?

Yes, it is actually one of the easiest Amorphophallus species to grow.

The best place to grow the Voodoo Lily is in a slightly shaded spot. This way it gets moisture during the growing season and remains drier during winter. Ideally, you can plant it beneath large evergreen shrubs and trees. The plant will enjoy the shady filtered light. It also gets protection from the overhead branches. You should not plant them in places with very low humidity. This will make the leaves desiccate or dry out. During winter, tubers are best dug up and stored.

In low light, you will have an exceptionally dark green leaf with nicely contrasting pink margins. But they need to be moved to brighter light gradually. In bright light, the leaves turn bright green and the pink margins become less pronounced.

You can also plant your Voodoo Lily in pots. This way it is easier to manage its growing conditions. The pots should be at least 4 inches wider than the tuber. If you are planting small tubers, then the planting depths should be around 2 to 3 inches. With large tubers, it should be around 6 to 10 inches deep. Use a good quality potting mix. And make sure that the top of the plant is facing up. When it gets too cold, you can bring the pot inside.

The soil should be humus-rich. Mix organic matter with a little loam. You can add perlite, bark, and sand to improve its structure and drainage. You should add more bark in a pot to ensure good drainage. Use grit if you are planting it outdoors.

Water your plant once a month but remember to keep the soil mostly dry. Around September, the plant usually starts to go dormant. Don’t give it too much water when dormant. You should let the soil dry out. Keep it dry for a couple of weeks before watering it again. Avoid putting fertilizer. Just repeat this process until the tuber comes to life again in the spring. Then you can water it regularly and start fertilizing the plant. You need to fertilize actively growing voodoo lilies monthly. Use an all-purpose houseplant fertilizer diluted to half strength.

When dormant, protect it from the frost and wet by mulching with several layers of leaves. Or, you can dig it up and keep it dry indoors until spring and then replant it.

The Voodoo Lily will develop into an unusual 1-meter tall plant. When it becomes mature, it will produce a slight pink slender curled flower. Once the flowering is finished, an attractive cluster of red berries develop. If it does not flower, a leaf will sprout. Leaves and flowers sprout directly from the earth. They change their shape, form, and color daily.

How long does it take for a Voodoo Lily to bloom?

Voodoo Lilies are inconsistent bloomers. Initially, they flower when they are mature, after about 3 years. But flowers may not appear every year. Voodoo Lilies flower in the winter or very early spring before the foliage emerges. This depends on the growing conditions and the variety of the plant.

If the bulb is small, it will take longer to flower than if the bulb is large. It can take several years for the bulb to mature, so if you want flowers right away, be sure to buy large bulbs. Choose bulbs that are at least the size of a softball to get flowers right away.

Some Voodoo Lily varieties flower every year but some varieties can take years before they bloom again. The blossom only lasts a day or two.

Voodoo lilies flower before the foliage grows. Once the bulb is done flowering, it can take a few weeks or longer for the foliage to start growing. So, if the plant looks dead after the flower fades, it is completely normal.

When the flower dies, you can remove it. But be careful not to cut the emerging leaf. When the leaf dies and the plant becomes dormant, do not fertilize and water sparingly. The corm may rest several months before coming to life again.

Are Voodoo Lilies poisonous?

Yes, the bulb, plant, and flower of the Voodoo Lily are poisonous. You should keep them out of reach of children and pets. They are toxic to cats and dogs.

All parts of the Voodoo Lily contain calcium oxalate crystals. This can irritate the mouth and esophagus. All species of Amorphophallus are toxic to humans, cats, and dogs. Yet, the cooked tuber of many species is edible.

The leaves are also as poisonous as their flowers. But touching them will not poison you. It is only poisonous when ingested. This protects the plant from grazing.

What do Amorphophallus plants smell like?

The smell of the inflorescence of the Voodoo Lily is bad but not as bad compared to other Amorphophallus species. The flower produces an unpleasant scent for the first day after opening. But after that, it lives for another week without any smell. The unpleasant smell is only present for a few hours after the flower opens.

Other Amorphophallus species like the corpse flower smells like rotting fish when they bloom. Some describe the scent as being like rotting flesh. But only a small group of Amorphophallus species have been tested for odors. The known aromas range from cheese, anise, rotting meat, fish, urine, dung, spice, and chocolate.

The Voodoo Lily produces the unpleasant smell using thermogenic. This means that to emit the scent, the flower actually heats up. This particular odor is produced by the flower so that some types of insects will be attracted to pollinate the flowers.

These pollinators are those insects that are attracted to rotting flesh like flies and beetles. These insects normally seek out decomposing animals. These insects will pollinate the flowers instead of bees. When the insect goes inside the flower, it gets trapped. The insect’s body will then be covered with pollen. The insect will then be released to pollinate another Voodoo Lily.

To us humans, the corpse flower is one of the stinkiest plants. But to dung beetles and flies, it smells great. It makes them think that there is rotten meat somewhere to lay their eggs.

Many different molecules make up this distinctive foul smell. These molecules smell bad on their own. The flowers put out these sulfur-ridden odors. And the flowers heat up. These blooms actually reach the human body temperature. They can warm up to 98 degrees Fahrenheit to fool the insects further. This is why flesh-loving insects are all the move convinced. They fly in from a distance, and go inside the plant looking for dark places within the flower to lay their eggs. And so, they get covered in pollen and help pollinate the next stinky flower in their path. Pollination helps ensure the continuation of the species. Once the flower has bloomed and pollination is complete, the flower collapses.

There is a need for these flowers to attract as much insect attention as possible to ensure pollination since these plants are located so far apart from one other. They also bloom so infrequently. If the plant is fertilized by the flies and beetles attracted to the flower’s strong scent, bright red seeds will form on the spadix.

These plants release the same compounds that produce the distinct smell of a rotting corpse. These chemicals are manufactured at the top of the central spadix.

Here are a few of the chemicals produce by the corpse flower.

One is dimethyl trisulfide. This liquid has a foul odor that can be detected by humans. This odor can be emitted from leeks, cooked onion, cabbage, and broccoli.

Another chemical producing the foul odor in these plants is isovaleric acid. This smell can easily be recognized. This acid is produced by a bacterium called Staphylococcus epidermidis. These bacteria live naturally on our skins and this is the acid that produces the sweaty feet smell.

Trimethylamine is another chemical that can smell like rotten fish in low concentration. With higher amounts, it will smell more like ammonia. This can be found as a product of animal or plant decomposition and even bad breath.

Methyl thioacetate has the smell of cheesy garlic.

These are just some of the chemicals that produce the stinky smell of the Voodoo Lily. There are more that contribute to the deep odor of rotten flesh. But this smell is only experienced by very few people.

How much will it cost to grow a Voodoo Lily?

You can buy Amorphophallus Bulgier in different sized pots online. A 125 mm pot can be bought for $16.50, 180 mm pot for $22.00, and a 300 mm pot for $44.

You can then propagate your own Voodoo Lily by potting up the small offsets that form on the sides of the tuber. Baby bulbs, or bulbils can also be planted. These bulbils form on top of the leaves. You can also get seeds that form on the spadix if the plant is successfully pollinated. But, these small plants take several years to reach blooming size.

You can also find Voodoo Lily bulbs for sale online but they aren’t cheap. Or, you can buy Voodoo Lily seeds as well, if you want to try your hand with growing these.

The Voodoo Lily is a tropical beauty. It isn’t difficult to care for and is fun to grow. It is one of the coolest plants you will ever grow. They look exotic but they are extremely easy to care for. Despite their stinky smell, this unique plant is well worth it.

View A Voodoo Lily Bloom