An unapologetic plant geek shares advice and opinions on gardening, the contrived and the natural landscape, as well as occasional topics from the other side of the gate.

May 7, 2010

Rude Plant

Would you own a plant that only blooms every 3 or 4 years; is the color of raw meat; smells like July roadkill; and whose shape is... decidedly masculine in a well endowed sort of way?

Amorphophallus konjac 2

Amorphophallus konjac 1

Amorphophallus konjac is an Aroid, and its common names include Voodoo Lily, Snake Palm, Elephant Yam or Devil's Tongue (although it could just as easily be mistaken for another part of Satan's anatomy). I planted a couple of bagel-shaped corms about 10 years ago, and this is only the second or third bloom I have had. I get foliage every year, which comes up late in the season on a dark colored stem, blotched with fleshy colored spots causing it to look like it has Vitiligo. The leaves sit on top of this stalk and remind me of a Cut-leaf Philodendron in shape and have a somewhat iridescent blue-green color. Even if it doesn't bloom, the foliage alone is worth having in a partially shaded garden. Plant Delights lists this for sale and states that it is hardy in zones 6-10, and I have found it to be very drought tolerant.

Amorphophallus konjac 3 (2)

Amorphophallus konjac 3

In the years when it does flower, it sends up the bloom shaft a good month before foliage emerges. The whole thing slowly unfolds over a period of a week or so, and once it reaches its full glory, the smell begins. I know my neighbors must think that we have a dead squirrel in the backyard or that we forgot to double-bag spoiled meat before putting it in the trash. I read once that it is pollinated by flies which may explain the unusual fragrance and colors.

Amorphophallus konjac 4

In doing a little research on this Amorphophallus I learned that it is consumed as a food and as a diet aid. Apparently the corm is extremely gelatinous and very high in fiber. Various jelly candy is made from it in Asia, and according to Wikipedia, some have been responsible for 17 choking deaths in since 1995. When taken medicinally it is used to treat obesity and diabetes. The body will not digest Amorphophallus, but it makes you feel full, slows digestion and carbohydrate absorption, as well as apparently doing a little deep colon cleansing on the way out. I will just enjoy it as a garden oddity and let someone else experience its other benefits.

Amorphophallus konjac 5

When it has finished blooming, the whole thing collapses to the ground, and no little blue pill from Pfizer will revive it. I will have to wait another 3 years to see it bloom again.

Amorphophallus konjac 9


  1. I just don't think I have the nerve to plant one of these. The neighbors already get upset about shrubs poking through the fences. As always, wonderful photos, wonderful story!

  2. WE have friends who have one and it has bloomed once or twice. The UW has one and it is always a big deal — public open house etc. — when it blooms. It is pretty darn dramatic, even without the smell.

  3. Definitely a blush-inducing plant!

    I had no idea this plant was available to the home gardener. Thanks for sharing your bloom.

  4. I have 2 different "versions" of this plant, although I've been lucky and mine have bloomed a couple years in a row. Perhaps this is the year they take off to rest.

    I was surprised to read the part about it being a diet aid...I always thought they were extremely poisonous. In fact I won a copy of Amy Stewart's book Wicked Plants on Garden Rant by retelling the story of my dog eating the poisonous flower because, of course, she would love nothing more than to eat a pile of rotting meat!

  5. Entertaining and informative post. Your pictures are great - lve rarely seen one blooming. I smelled one of recently and it truly smells like something dead is close by...awful!

  6. You aren't interested in a cleansing colonic? Where's your adventurous spirit?
    Am reading this while watching a PBS thing about the Pill....interesting mix.

  7. Well written article! Fascinating plant, but I don't think I'll rush out to buy one. I'll just enjoy yours vicariously for now.

  8. That last deflated image with your comment that "no little blue pill from Pfizer will revive it" made me laugh. I don't think this one will find a home in my garden, but I did see---and smell---one on a garden tour once. It was definitely fascinating.

  9. I have seen this before because one of our garden club members grows it. I have considered growing it too but haven't so far. It is very interesting. Not so very sure if one bloom every three years is worth it though-no matter how unusual it is. Definitely a plant for a plant collector!

  10. I wonder if one is blooming at the Plant Delights open house today. We're about a half an hour away.

  11. It is a very rude looking plant Les, lol. But interesting nonetheless... :)

  12. I've had one of these in a pot in my house for 10 years. I had no idea they could be grown outside. It flowered only once, 8 years ago. Even when I put the plant in the basement, wrapped in plastic, the stench was unbearable.

  13. Great post about a very rude plant indeed. They say that the smell is so strong and dirty, but truly a fenomenon!

  14. I've had a pot full of them (not sure which species) for 5 or 6 years now. I started with small corms so I haven't had any blooms yet. Here in the frigid north, I have to bring the pot inside for the winter. So I'm quite sure that when it decides to flower it will be when it's stuck inside.

    I don't care if it never flowers. It's a very powerful and attractive plant regardless. The 'stalk's' mottled coloring is spectacular.

  15. that your voodoo lily or are you just glad to see me?

  16. I need to pick one up the next time I'm down at Plant Delights.

  17. Michael,
    Thank goodness my neighbors don't complain about the yard. I am not sure they like it, but they don't complain.

    I tried to invite friends over when it peaked, but I guess my description of the attraction won no takers.

    Glad to give you a chuckle.

    Not only available, but easy.

    My pack took an unusual interest in this plant as well. They did not eat any, but took more than the usual sniff.

    Fortunately we are now in the throws of Confederate Jasemine and the bad odors are only a memory.

    No, not interested in the colonic.

    Garden Lily,
    It's not a plant for every garden. I am not sure I would have ever paid money for one, but a free corm was accepted.

    If it bloomed all the time, I would not have it. But once every few years is fine.

    For collectors yes, but also for geeks.

    Sweet Bay,
    Lucky you to get to Plant Delights.

    A little rude every now and then is tolerable.

    I couldn't imagine having this plant inside. Brave soul are you.

    The smell is only really bad up close. From a distance it is bearable.

    Yes, the foliage is stunning.

    I am always glad to see you.

    If mine ever gets big enough to get off-sets, I'll let you know.


  18. What a bizarre plant! I can see the devils tongue! It has a strange beauty! Your photo with the roses in the background is stunning. I cannot imagine the smell... I can see how someone might choke on it! Truly bizarre!

  19. We've had one that's come up the past two years, but I haven't noticed it this year. I'll have to go check it out. It hasn't bloomed for us though. --Randy

  20. Great post indeed. I'll leave it up to you to do this piece of garden experimentation...

  21. I guess they couldn't call it "DD" could they? I've never seen one bloom until now. I don't know Les, I like blooms which smell nice. :) I did find myself grinning at your description of it though.~~Dee

  22. We grow the Dranunculus vulgaris out here. It usually flowers the first year and every year thereafter. I had one for awhile. It flowered when the in-laws were here and I found its raw sexuality rather embarrassing.

  23. I have a number of these plants or bulbs too. My son spotted the plant one year at a green house and loved the leaves of it, so I bought one for him. I have collected the baby bulbs from it and planted them each year, and collected baby bulbs from all the other ones as they grew them. Last year my son's bulb blossomed for the first time. It was about 5 years old. This year one of the bulbs that was an off set from that bulb is going to blossom, but I also have 2 younger ones that are going to blossom this year too..... And yes, they are all in the house because I live in cold snowy Wisconsin. We move the bulbs outside in the spring in pots and move them back inside before frost hits here.
    And my son's bulb looks like it is going to blossom again for the second year in a row.

  24. This one blooms every year, not every 3.

  25. Hello! I wonder if I may have your permission to use a photo or 2 of the Konjak plant for a blog posting I am doing about this plant as it is used for skin care. My blog is if you'd like to take a look.
    I hope you will email me with your permission... my email:

    Thanks much.

    Ps: Your post about this plant was quite interesting reading!