The Snake Plant aka Voodoo Lily
Blooming voodoo lily in my garden
I was invited to view a friend’s shade garden a few years ago, Paul Chase. Although he had lots of plantings there and everything was so lush, I was completely captivated by one strange looking specimen. It had a tall stalk and a deep green canopy of foliage at the very top. What was most unusual about these plants was the markings on the stalk and branches that looked like snake skin. I inquired as to the name of the plant, but Paul told me that he had no idea, and he did not plant them but they just started popping up as volunteers in his yard a few years ago. As we had no idea of what they were, we started calling them “snake” plants. I asked for and received a few of the plants. Paul just ripped out a few and gave them to me. I planted them in my garden and it seemed that they all died, but the following year they started popping up to my great delight. I took pictures of them and sent them to Dr. Dan Gill, of the Louisiana Ag Center, for a plant ID. He told me that they were Amorphophallus bulbifer aka. voodoo lilies.
As the season wears on, the snake plants develope brown bulbous growths near the leaf junctions that look like warts. Those sacks can be planted to propagate more voodoo lilies. There is one little caveat however when dealing with these strange fellows, they can be invasive and pop up wherever. The good news is they are not bullies in the garden and don’t require any care. I would suggest NOT planting more of them via the warts but just letting them repopulate on their own. You can harvest the sacks and plant them in starter pots if you grow plants to sell, or you can give them to your gardening friends.
My friend Paul also told me that his voodoo lilies would push out bizarre blooms that come straight out of the ground. My voodoo lilies had never bloomed but I was so happy to see them return each year. In 2017, I noticed a growth in my garden. I could see the markings on the stem were that of the voodoo lily, but the top was very light and wispy looking. I thought that because of a heavy rain the plant was withering, hence the pale color. A few days later I noticed this strange and wonderful bloom…yay! My voodoo lilies were finally blooming. I think it takes a few years before they bloom. That does make perfect sense because voodoo lilies are of the same genus of the Titan flower (titan arum), also called the corpse flower. The Titan is the largest unbranched flower in the world and only blooms after seven years. It is nicknamed the “corpse flower” because the bloom is stinky and smells like rotting meat.
Voodoo lilies grow in Zones 7b to 10; they will take part sun to shade, and get over three feet in height. I always forget about them until they start popping up in my garden. In zone 9B, where I am, the snake-like mottled stalks begin emerging in late May. Later the leaves form brown warts that can be removed and planted to make additional plants .The large thick mottled stalks are an amazing sight with a hand-like explosion of lush deep green leaves extending from the top.
I love voodoo lilies because they give you so much interest. First the strangle snake-like stalk, then warts, a bizarre bloom that keeps changing, and interesting leaf formations coming from branching that only comes from the top of the plant. Voodoo lilies really look like miniature trees. It is like God knew exactly how to show off this specimen. If there was branching all the way down the trunk then we would not see the wonderful snake-like markings on the along the stalk. Then all of a sudden the warts start to appear, and finally an amazing, crazy bloom. If you live in a zone that supports this wonderful plant, by all means add it to your garden repertoire because it will bring you so much enjoyment!
Remember, never get too busy to stop and enjoy the beautiful flowers!