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Voodoo Lily, Dracunculus vulgaris

A few year ago I traded plants with a gardener on the Internet and what I received were about three bulbs labeled "Voodoo Lily." Not really knowing much about them I planted them in the garden closest to the house to help protect and overwinter them in the garden. For about three years the foliage would get about two feet high in the shady part of the garden and then die down when it go really hot. The first year growing Voodoo Lily bulbs I thought they had died after surviving the winter.

Last fall I was on this garden design kick and had psyched myself up to sit down and create a plan for the garden and properly place plants. While digging up some other plants I came across the Voodoo Lily bulbs and decided to move them to the sunniest part of the garden.

Voodoo Lily Flower scape Drancunculus vulgaris flower scape

This spring the tulip, crocus and allium foliage emerged and so did the foliage for my Voodoo Lilies. I didn't think much of it because the foliage always grew. Then one day I noticed that this year the foliage was different, it was larger, taller and there was one stem that had a blood red tint to it. That stem turned out to be a flower scape. My Voodoo Lilies were actually going to bloom!

Voodoo Lily flower scape. Smelly plants

A couple of days ago the scape unfurled and revealed this exotic bloom that is right at home in any gothic garden. It reminded me that I once wanted a garden consisting of all black flowers, where this gothic-looking plant would've been right at home.

Voodoo Lily Flower Drancunculus vulgaris flower

Voodoo Lily is a common name for a various plants, but I think this Voodoo Lily is properly known as Dracunculus vulgaris. Other common names it goes by are: Dragon Arum, Black Lily, Dragon Flower, Dragon Arum, Snake Lily and Stink Lily.

Dragon Arum, Snake Lily, Stink Lily flower

Perhaps you've heard that these plants are suppose to stink like rotting flesh, it is true--they smell something awful. The smell attracts flies that pollinate them and beetles.

Dragon Arum Flower, Snake Lily flower Stink lily flower Dragonwort flower

I think I lucked out because my Voodoo Lily bloomed during a couple of days of rain that kept the flies from visiting. A few flies couldn't resist the pungent aroma and visited when the rains let up, as you can see by the garden video below, and today I spotted a beetle covered in pollen walking up and down the spadix, the purple stem in the center.

Words can't convey how excited I am that my Voodoo Lily bulbs finally decided to bloom. When I'm not gagging because of the smell I'm grinning like a fool, making myself sniff the flower to see how the smell changes over time. What is it with me and stinky plants?

You can see more of my gardening videos on YouTube.


  1. That IS so exciting! I had one years ago, but the winter killed it off, and since then I've never been able to find more bulbs. I'm jealous of your horribly stinking flower.

    1. Anonymous6:26 PM

      They grow great here in PNW. Blooms every year from same plant.

  2. Kelly,

    Haha. I know the feeling. I used to be jealous of all the pics I saw online. I had no idea I could grow it here in Chicago. I'm hoping some bugs did their pollinating magic and I get some seeds out of this.

  3. So cool. Like the "Wild Kingdom" feel of the video... kept expecting the lily to pounce on the flies or something... I like stinky plants (skunk cabbage) *and* stinky cheese! ;-)

  4. The stink puts me in lind of Stapeliad blooms!!! I liek the color of thins lily bloom...quite large and lovely! It goes well with your other dark blooming plants, Mr. BT!!! How cool! Thanks for the to see!!!

  5. Can I spell or what??? Geeze! Sorry for all the typos!!!

  6. Don't worry Julie, I can't spell either. I go through my posts/comments like 4 times before committing to them.

    I don't know what I think about Voodoo Lilies. They're fun but I don't think I'd ever want one. Nice to see occasionally but not really worth owning. That's what blogs are for!

  7. Magical MBT! Congrats, congrats. Love both the colour and shape of the bloom very much :-D Thanks for the video as well. I really enjoyed watching/admiring the bloom. Sorry for the smell he he...

  8. I've seen photos of these before and thought they looked SO cool. I remember reading about the rancid smell too. Looks just as beautiful as in the catalogs, especially before it unfurls.

  9. Cool! And sniffing at it on purpose? You are very dedicated!

    There are compounds in perfume that really stink at high concentrations, but smell good at low concentrations. Maybe your Stink Lily actually would smell good if it was diluted enough. Just a thought...

  10. Monica,

    The flower does look like it should do something, right?


    No worries, even with the typos I was able to read and understand it.


    What? Voodoo Lilies are definitely worth owning. They're hella cool plants.


    Thanks Stephanie.


    I think I like it best before it unfurls. I can't exactly describe why I like it more, but I do.


    That's interesting. I didn't know that. You're probably right there is a certain "spicyness" to the scent that probably wouldn't smell bad all by itself.

  11. Congrats to the proud papa. It is gorgeous, but you lost me on the stink part. I AM looking to add more fragrance to the garden, but I had in mind that it should be nice fragrance!

  12. I'm really glad you are loving your Voodoo lilies. They are striking . . . but I don't like the "stinking" part!! sorry. This was an interesting post, though. :-)

  13. That is a cool looking plant. Love the form and color.

  14. Hello MBT,
    3 Dragon Lilies in my garden. One bloomed yesterday, overwhelmed and like you - grinning from ear to ear. Took pics and videotaped a few times. The final video was around 8 pm, June 19, 2010. Felt something touched my hand and was very freaked about it. (There were no flies around because it was getting dark.) Do you know of any voodoo-ish story about this plant?
    When I showed this plant's picture to my aunt - she wanted me to throw it away. She said it looked very scary.
    Any odd story about it that you know off?
    Curious.... Burnaby, British Columbia

  15. How fun that it bloomed for you, MBT - cool video! I remember reading about Voodoo Lilies years ago when I lived in IL, but the author lived somewhere in zone 6 or 7 and back then even Zone 5 plants froze in my far Western suburban garden.

    It would probably hate the heat here, so guess I'll just hope my stinky Stapelia deigns to flower this year.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  16. Anonymous12:38 PM

    iv just bought 3 voodoo lily bulbs but not sure how to plant them are they frost hardy here in the midlands united kingdom or do i keep in the green house till the spring help please lyn

  17. Hi Lyn,

    I'm not sure what your climate is like, so I can't really advise you with 100% confidence since I don't know your Zone. Where I live we go through several months of winter, where the ground freezes and there's snow on the ground. If you live in an area warmer than Zone5 I say plant them in the ground. If you don't, then plant them in pots and keep them in the coolest part of the greenhouse.

  18. Elaine B - UK9:20 AM

    Hi, excellent, site I've just identified the mystery plant in my garden. I spotted the flies on the flowers today so gave it a sniff Dracunculus vulgaris, Yuck!! Although beautiful to look at.

    Anyway I want to redesign the garden and would like to keep these, do you have any tips on the best time of year to move the bulbs and how to do this please?

  19. Elaine,

    Transplant them after the flower has died down. If you transplant it before the flower has opened you could damage it or stress the bulb causing it not to bloom.

  20. Anonymous7:42 PM

    Oh wow... I've been searching for the name of this plant. I have some in my garden that blooms in clusters almost every year.

  21. Have a cream one in the backyard in Brisbane, Australia. Took a few photo's as it was a great flower. It has deposited bulbs from a pot into the garden so don't need to transplant. Would like to get some further colours though as they are strange plants.

  22. My voodoo lily just bloomed this week as well. Last year is just threw up some green branches with an interesting "golden ratio" kind of curve to them but no blossom ... and then the dogs trampled it and I assumed it was gone. Imagine my surprise when it returned this spring with serious vigor and the stape appeared about 2 weeks ago. Early yesterday it bloomed and when I walked outside I assumed from the smell that a hawk had dripped another dead rat nearby. Imagine my delight when I saw this amazing Game of Thrones worthy blossom! Worth noting, the neighbor that gave me the bulb and that lives nearby told me these "foul" plants had naturalized in her garden and she had to dig them out every year of risk having the neighbors call the sheriff to report buried bodies on her property. Point is I'm hoping this will naturalize and that I can share this storied plant with others.

    I snapped some pictures of flowers last night with my sunlight-emulating flashlight to get some high contrast pics. After I snapped some pictures of this bloomo I moved over to the calla lilies. What a difference! I plan to print a picture of each and place them side by side...for a kind of paradoxical good v evil, beauty and the beast effect.

  23. My voodoo lily produced two blooms this year and did not die back as it normally does. Instead I have a large seed head with 50 or more green berry type seeds. Does anyone know when these can be collected and how to grow them on in pots?

  24. My voodoo lily has left me with a large seed head this year with 50 or more green berry type seeds. Any advice on when to collect them and how and when I can grow them on in pots would be welcome. Cheers.

  25. Can you plant voodoo from seeds? How? My friend have these and they just popped up one day. Thanks.

  26. Anonymous8:08 AM

    my daughter has one a couple of these plants in her garden in Omeo victoria Australia. They came up by themselves she doesnt know where they came from. First appeared last year. She didnt say if they smell or npt it is cold up there they are near the snow.But it gets hot over summer. The plant has just flowered at mid November.

  27. Anonymous8:16 AM

    Are the Voodoo Lillies poisinous at all



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