Voodoo lilies are exotic tropical plants, and they’re really fun to grow! It’s not difficult, but voodoo lily care is a bit different than it is for most plants. In this post, you will learn all kinds of fun voodoo lily facts, and find 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 your voodoo lily 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 voodoo 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 when I realized it was starting to flower! I checked my plant every day, watching the flower spike grow taller, skinnier and more intriguing.
Finally, the voodoo lily flower opened and… well, she was NOT kidding about the smell. The stench from the flower 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 tropical plant 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?
- Hardiness Of Voodoo Lily Bulbs
- What’s With The Weird Name?
- Voodoo Lily Plant Care instructions
- Voodoo Lily Plant Propagation Methods
- Voodoo Lily Bulbs Winter Care And Dormancy
- Voodoo Plants FAQs
- Where To Find Voodoo Lily For Sale
What is a voodoo plant?
A voodoo lily plant is a type of corpse flower (aka carrion plant). So, as you can probably guess, that means that when they bloom, the flower smells like rotting flesh.
Some voodoo lily 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 100lb bulbs!) – those are best left for the pros with conservatories. But there are several smaller varieties that are fun and easy for anyone to grow.
The voodoo lily variety 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 grows to be about 3-4′ tall.
Oh, and the reason for the putrid smell of the voodoo lily corpse plant flower? 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 perennial down to zone 6. But others aren’t as hardy so it’s important to know which variety you have before planting them in your garden.
Voodoo lilies can be grown in pots or in the garden. 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.
Voodoo lily bulbs don’t flower in the garden in cold climates like mine though. The flowers grow during the winter or very early spring before our ground has thawed. But the exotic looking foliage adds a unique tropical touch to the garden, and is reason enough to grow this plant 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 bloom. Voodoo lilies bloom out of a dormant bulb, even if the bulb isn’t planted in dirt. That’s why it’s magic! I don’t know if that’s true or not, but it’s a fun story.
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 flower in the winter or very early spring, depending on the growing conditions and the plant variety. When grown indoors, they make really fun (though stinky) winter blooming plants!
The bulbs need to be mature before they will flower though. And the smaller the bulb, the longer you will have to wait for it to bloom.
It can take several years for the bulbs to mature, so if you want flowers right away, be sure to buy large bulbs. The size of a mature voodoo plant bulb will vary by variety (the gigantic ones are a few feet wide, yikes!). The blooming bulbs on my voodoo lily 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 how wet it is, stick your finger down one inch into the soil. If it’s wet, then wait to water it again. If you struggle with watering your plants, I recommend getting an inexpensive soil moisture meter to help you get it just right.
Stop watering your plant 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 the plant 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 part sun to full shade. Mine grow happily in a partial sun location. I’ve heard that they will tolerate growing in full sun, but I’ve never tried it so I’m not sure how well they will grow in the sun.
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. Also be sure to keep them with your other poisonous houseplants so your pets and kiddos can’t get to them.
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 plant the bulbs in a container, then use a well draining potting mix. A general purpose potting soil will work just fine for growing voodoo lily bulbs. If you’re concerned about overwatering, then you can mix some perlite and/or coarse sand into the potting soil to give it better drainage.
Voodoo lilies don’t require fertilizer to bloom, but they will benefit from being fed just like any other plant. They will respond best to organic plant fertilizer rather than synthetic chemical ones.
Compost tea is a really good organic all-purpose fertilizer to use for them. You can buy compost fertilizer in a liquid concentrate, or get tea bags to brew your own. Your plant will also love a nice seaweed fertilizer or fish emulsion (aka organic fish fertilizer).
Stop feeding your voodoo lily in late summer to prepare it for dormancy, and do not fertilize it during dormancy. Once the plant starts growing in the spring, start by giving it a weak dose of liquid fertilizer. Then feed it normally through the summer.
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 feed on them. Yes!
You won’t have to worry about pruning your voodoo lilies, the foliage never needs to be pruned. 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 prune it from the plant, if desired.
Voodoo Lily Plant Propagation Methods
The easiest way to propagate voodoo lilies is to simply divide the bulbs. I have read that they can be propagated by cuttings too, but have never tried it myself, so I can’t speak to that (though I plan to try propagating the cuttings some day!).
Every summer my bulbs multiply, and I get lots of tiny bulbs. The small voodoo bulbs will grow leaves, and they get bigger every year. It takes several years for them to get large enough to bloom though.
Collecting And Growing Voodoo Lily Seeds
Yes, voodoo lilies can be grown from seed! When successfully pollinated, red berries (which contain the seeds) will form on the plant. You can collect the seeds once the berries become soft and start to harden.
As with most tropical plants, voodoo lily seeds do not store very well, so it’s best to plant them as soon as possible after collecting them. Sow the seeds in a lightweight seed starting soil mix, and keep them evenly moist until the seedlings start to grow.
It takes a very, very long time to grow voodoo lily from seed, and you’ll have to wait several years for the plants to flower. So only try growing the seeds for fun, and if you’re an extremely patient person.
My voodoo lily 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 And Dormancy
One important thing to remember about voodoo lily care is that the bulbs require a period of dormancy every year. The bulbs will naturally go dormant in the fall, so don’t panic when your plant 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 your plant.
Bulbs growing in a pot 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 the garden where they aren’t hardy, you can lift the bulbs in the fall to store them indoors for winter. Store the bulbs in a dry, above freezing location.
They are winter flowering plants, and 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!
Voodoo lilies flower before the foliage grows. It can take a few weeks (or longer) for the foliage to start growing once the bulb is done flowering. So don’t worry if your plant 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, then please ask it in the comments section below and I’ll answer it for you as soon as I can.
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?
Because flies are the natural pollinators of the voodoo lily carrion flower, 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 the flower to open after it starts growing, but the flower only stays open (and stinky) for a couple of days.
How often do voodoo lilies bloom?
It depends on the variety you have. My voodoo plant flowers every year. But some types can take years before they bloom again.
Does a voodoo lily die after it blooms?
No. The plant doesn’t die after blooming, but the flower will die and eventually drop from the plant.
Are voodoo lilies poisonous?
Yes! So keep the bulb, plant and flower out of reach of children and pets, because voodoo lilies are toxic to cats and dogs too.
Is a voodoo lily carnivorous?
No. Voodoo lily flowers smell like death, but they are not carnivorous.
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 plants though, so don’t be surprise if you can’t find them at any garden center.
Voodoo lily care isn’t difficult, and it’s fun to grow this tropical beauty. The voodoo lily is definitely one of the coolest plants I’ve ever grown. They look exotic, but are extremely easy to care for. Yes, they are stinky. But don’t worry, the unique, magic voodoo lily carrion flower is well worth the stench.
Now, if you’ll excuse me… I have to go see what died in my basement.
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Share your voodoo lily care tips in the comments section below.