My Amorphophallus konjac, "Voodo Lily"
starting into new growth in late June

     Amorphophallus is a large genus of tuberous perennial, mainly native to the tropical regions of Africa, Asia and the Pacific Islands. The tubers have a long dormant period from early fall to late spring. In late spring a single leaf appears at the top of a long stalk. The growth of the leaf nearly uses up all the stored nutrients in the tuber and it can literally dissapear. The leaf is divided into many smaller leaflets. Depending on species the leaf of a mature plant can vary from just a few inches across to several feet. This leaf serves only to feed nutrients to the new tuber and it eventually dies off and the plant goes dormant.
     In mature plants this is preceded by an inflorescense (flower structure) consisting of a large spathe, an envelope of sorts surrounding a flower spike called a spadix. The spadix bears the actual flowers which are hidden deep within the spathe. Some Amorphophallus inflorescenses emit an odor of decaying flesh which attracts the insects that pollinate them. For this reason they are often called "Corpse Flowers". Other species actually have a pleasant scent. After pollination (which must occur quickly as the flowers are only open a day or two) the inflorescense withers and dies and the plants enter their foliage period again. One species of Amorphophallus, Amorphophallus titanum, known as the Titan Arum, bears the largest inflorescense of any plant in the world. It can be over six feet tall and 4 feet wide. Click HERE for a link to a page from Huntington Gardens about this marvelous plant.
     I only have the one species of Amorphophallus, A. konjac, and don't anticipate acquiring any others so we'll discuss it here. Amorphophallus konjac is native to Southeast Asia. In mature specimens the tuber can be over a foot wide and the inflorescense 6 feet tall. I've seen pictures of very old ones with foliage 4 or 5 feet tall and wide. Even when not in flower the plant is interesting for its foliage and leopard spotted stalk. Mine is just a little 1-1/2 inch tuber so a flower is probably a few years away. Interesting to note, A. konjac is raised in China and Japan to produce a gelatinous food product known as Konjaku from the tuber. Hence the name.
     Amorphophallus konjac should be treated like a tropical when activelly growing. They like a lot of water but still should be planted in well draining but fertile soil. The tuber is normally planted a few inches below the surface. I exposed mine for the picture above. They are very cold hardy, supposedly to zone 6. Once dormant the tuber should be kept cool and dry as they are prone to rot in winter. Since I don't have any flower pics of my own, click HERE for a link to a page from the International Aroid Society with some nice flower pics. The pictures below document the growth of this unique plant.

August 1st 2006
lateral roots exposed

August 8th 2006
Leaf forming

August 10th 2006
Starting to open

August 13th 2006
Spreading out

All images and text are copyright 2005 to present, D.S. Franges, unless otherwise noted.