Voodoo lilies are exotic tropical plants, and they’re really fun to grow! It’s not difficult, but their care is a bit different than you may be used to. In this post, you will learn everything you need to know about how to grow voodoo lilies.
When I got my voodoo lily bulb from a friend several years ago, she gave me a warning. She said one day, you’ll walk into your basement and wonder what died down there. That means it is in bloom.
Oooo, it sounded so mysterious… I had no idea what to expect. To be honest, I was a little nervous about the putrid smell, but I couldn’t wait to see the fantastic flower!
The first couple of years, nothing grew but foliage. Then finally one winter, my voodoo lily started to bloom for the first time.
I was elated! I checked on it every day, watching the spike grow taller, skinnier, and more intriguing.
Finally, it opened and… well, she was NOT kidding about the smell. The stench only lasted a few days, and it wasn’t too overpowering.
But the smell was strong enough to make me think twice (and gag a little) every time I walked into the basement. Haha! Totally worth it for this Ah-mazing flower though!
This is by far the most unique plant I have in my collection. The flowers are both gorgeous and putrid, and I love it! The best part is that voodoo lilies are extremely easy to care for.
Here’s what you’ll find in this voodoo lily plant care guide…
What Is A Voodoo Plant?
A voodoo lily is a type of corpse flower (aka carrion plant). So, as you can probably guess, that means that when they bloom, it smells like rotting flesh.
Some corpse flowers can grow to be huge 6′ tall monsters. Those are the ones you hear about on the news when they start blooming at your local conservatory.
It’s not very practical for home gardeners to grow the giant varieties (some have 100 pound bulbs!) – those are best left for the pros with conservatories. But there are several smaller specimens that are fun and easy for anyone to grow.
The one that I have is in the Araceae family (I’m pretty sure it’s a Sauromatum venosum, but it didn’t come with a tag).
Mine is a dwarf variety, so the flower spikes are only about 1-2′ tall, and the foliage gets to be about 3-4′ tall.
Oh, and the reason for the putrid smell? Well, that’s to attract flies and other insects that enjoy a meal of rotting flesh. These insects will pollinate the flowers instead of bees.
Hardiness Of Voodoo Lily Bulbs
Some voodoo lily varieties (there are over 100 different types!) are actually perennials down to zone 6. But others aren’t as hardy, so it’s important to know which type you have before planting them in your garden.
They can be grown in pots or in the ground. Mine is one of the hardier varieties, and I’ve had bulbs survive the winter in my zone 4b gardens off and on for several years now.
Unfortunately, they don’t flower in the garden in cold climates like mine though. That’s why I keep mine in a pot. It blooms during the winter or very early spring before our ground outside has thawed.
But the exotic looking foliage adds a unique tropical touch to the garden, and is reason enough to grow them, if you ask me.
What’s With The Weird Name?
I once read somewhere that the reason this plant is called “voodoo lily” is because of the magic of the flower.
They bloom out of a dormant bulb, even if it’s not in any soil. That’s why it’s magic! I don’t know if that story of where the name came from is true or not, but it’s a fun one.
Voodoo Lily Care Instructions
There are over a hundred different varieties of voodoo lilies, but they all require the same basic care. And, for exotic plants, they are actually really easy to grow.
Here’s all the information you need to know for successful voodoo lily care…
Voodoo lilies bloom in the winter or very early spring, depending on the climate, weather conditions, and the species.
When grown indoors, they make really fun (though stinky) winter blooming plants (hence the story of why it smelled like something died in my basement!).
The bulbs need to be mature before they will flower though. And the smaller they are, the longer you’ll have to wait for it to bloom.
It can take several years for them to mature, so if you want flowers right away, be sure to buy large bulbs.
The size of a mature bulb will vary by variety (the gigantic ones are a few feet wide, yikes!). The mature ones that I have are about the size of an onion.
Watering is a very important part of proper voodoo lily care, so be sure to pay attention here. In their native environment, the summers are wet, and the winters are dry.
So, you need to water them in the summer, but not during the winter (when they are dormant). Consistent overwatering can cause the bulb to rot, so never allow the soil to stay soggy.
During the summer, I like to allow the soil to dry out a bit between waterings, then give it a good soaking. If you’re growing voodoo lilies in a container outdoors, be sure there are drainage holes in the bottom of the pot.
To check the moisture level, stick your finger down one inch into the soil. If it’s wet, then wait to water. If you struggle with getting it right, I recommend buying an inexpensive soil moisture meter to help you out.
Stop watering in the late summer/early fall to prepare it for dormancy. Do not water it at all during the winter while it’s dormant.
When it starts growing again in the spring, give it a good drink of water. Then continue to water it normally thorough the summer.
The ideal light exposure for voodoo lilies is partial sun to full shade. Mine grows happily in a part sun location.
They may be able to tolerate full sun if you protect them from the intense afternoon rays. But be careful giving them too much, or the foliage may get sunburn.
If you plan on growing them as houseplants, put it in an area that gets indirect filtered light from a nearby window, but keep it out of direct sunlight.
Voodoo lily plants will grow their best in a rich, organic soil that has good drainage. If you have clay soil, you can amend it with compost to give it more nutrients, and better drainage.
If you want to keep them in a container, then use a well draining mix. A general purpose potting soil will work just fine for growing voodoo lily bulbs.
Voodoo lilies don’t require fertilizer to bloom, but they will benefit from being fed. They respond best to organic fertilizers rather than synthetic chemical ones.
Stop feeding it in late summer to prepare it for dormancy, and do not fertilize at all during the winter.
Start by giving it a weak dose of liquid fertilizer in the spring when you see new growth. Then feed it normally through the summer months.
Perhaps the best part about growing voodoo lilies is that they are not prone to pest problems. As far as I know, there aren’t any types of bugs or animals that will eat them. Yes!
You won’t have to worry about pruning your voodoo lilies either, the foliage never needs it. But if they’re growing too large for the space, you can trim them back.
Just don’t cut off all of the foliage until it has died back in the fall. Once the flower fades you can remove it, if desired.
Voodoo Lily Plant Propagation Methods
The easiest way to propagate voodoo lilies is by division. Every summer mine multiples, and I get lots of tiny bulbs.
The small ones will grow leaves, and they get bigger every year. It takes several years for them to get large enough to bloom though.
Collecting & Growing The Seeds
Yes, voodoo lilies can be grown from seed! When successfully pollinated, red berries (which contain the seeds) will form. You can collect them once the berries become soft, and start to harden.
As with most tropical plants, the seeds do not store very well. So it’s best to sow them as soon as possible.
Sow them in a lightweight seed starting soil, and keep them evenly moist until the seedlings start to grow.
It takes a very, very long time to grow them from seed, and you’ll have to wait several years for them to flower. So only try it for fun, and if you’re an extremely patient person.
Mine has never produced seeds because it always blooms during the winter inside my house, and there aren’t any flies to pollinate it.
Voodoo Lily Bulbs Winter Care & Dormancy
One important thing to remember about voodoo lily care is that the bulbs require a period of dormancy every year.
They will naturally go dormant in the fall, so don’t panic when it starts to die back. It’s best to allow it to go dormant. Don’t try to keep it growing, or you’ll just end up killing it.
If yours is in a container like mine is, it can easily be overwintered in the basement or a heated garage.
Once frost kills the foliage in the fall, I bring the pot inside, stash it in a corner of the basement, and forget about it (until I smell them blooming). If you plan to overwinter yours this way, do not water it at all during dormancy.
If your voodoo lily is growing in a garden where they aren’t hardy, you can lift the bulbs in the fall to store them indoors for winter. Keep them in a dry, above freezing location.
They will probably start blooming while in storage. So be sure to put them in a spot where you can enjoy the gorgeous flowers.
Just remember not to panic when you first walk into the room, and wonder what died in there! Haha!
The flower grows before the foliage does. It can take a few weeks (or longer) for the leaves to start growing once it’s done blooming. So don’t worry if it looks dead after the flower fades, that’s totally normal.
Voodoo Plants FAQs
In this section, I’ll answer some of the most common questions I get asked about growing voodoo lilies. If you can’t find an answer to your question after reading the post and these FAQs, ask it in the comments section below.
What does a voodoo lily smell like?
Are you sure you’re ready for this (try not to gag)… the voodoo lily flower smells like rotting flesh.
Why does a voodoo lily flower smell so bad?
A voodoo lily smells bad because flies are the natural pollinators of carrion flowers. So the smell is meant to attracts flies rather than bees.
How long does a voodoo lily bloom?
It can take a few weeks for a voodoo lily to bloom after the spike begins to form. But the flower only stays open (and stinky) for a couple of days, so keep a close eye on it. You don’t want to miss the show!
How often do voodoo lilies bloom?
How often voodoo lilies bloom depends on the variety you have. Mine flowers every year. But some types can take several years or even decades before they flower again. That’s why the big ones often make headline news!
Does a voodoo lily die after it blooms?
No, a voodoo lily does not die after it blooms. The flower will die, and eventually drop from the plant. But lovely foliage will soon follow, which is also spectacular.
Are voodoo lilies poisonous?
Yes, voodoo lilies are poisonous! So keep the bulb, foliage, and flowers out of reach of children and pets at all times.
Is a voodoo lily carnivorous?
No, voodoo lilies are not carnivorous. The flowers smell like death, so they do attract lots of flies. But they do not kill or consume any bugs.
Where To Find Voodoo Lily For Sale
If you live in a warm enough climate, you may be able to find voodoo lily plants for sale at your local garden center in the spring.
And if you’re really lucky, they may even carry the bulbs. They are pretty rare though, so don’t be surprise if you can’t find them at any stores.
Voodoo lily care isn’t difficult, and it’s fun to grow this exotic beauty. Yes, they are stinky. But don’t worry, the unique, magic voodoo lily flower is well worth the stench. Now, if you’ll excuse me… I need to go see what died in my basement.
Are you tired of struggling to keep your indoor plants alive through the long, dry winter months? Then my Winter Houseplant Care eBook is just what you need! It has everything you need to know in order to maintain healthy and beautiful houseplants all year round. Download your copy today!
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Share your voodoo lily care tips in the comments section below.