Devil’s tongue (Amorphophallus bulbifer) gets its scientific name from the bulbils or stem buds that it produces. Patience is required with this unusual tropical ornamental species, since it takes several years until it begins to produce the spectacular pink flowers with tongue-like central spikes for which it is known, although their beauty more than justifies the wait.
Amorphophallus bulbifer is one of the prettiest of the Voodoo Lilies and the inflorescence doesn’t smell that bad compared to others of the genus. Amorphophallus only blooms when mature and even so it doesn’t bloom every year. The unpleasant smell that the flower omits is only present for a few hours after the flower opens. If the flower is pollinated (normally by flies if the plant is outside) it will take 1 year for the plant to mature its seeds. The seed stalk is very pretty with the seeds changing colors from green to red. During this time the tuber will not produce a leaf.
The Voodoo Lily likes shade and sheltered locations. Outside in the shade is best. The plant normally starts to go dormant around September. I prefer to keep the plant in the pot and bring the pot inside when it gets too cold. A little bit of water once a month is beneficial to the tuber, but remember to keep the soil mostly dry. Around the end of February it is time to dig up the tuber, separate the offsets if any and repot the older tuber to a bigger pot if necessary. Amorphophallus bulbifer gets its name due to the bulbis that form on top of the leaves. The bulbils are like “little bulbs” and when the plant goes dormant they fall to the ground and start new plants the next spring.
These are quite easy to grow. Amorphophallus will go dormant in the winter. Plant the tubers in pots at least 4″ wider than the tuber. The depth for planting the tubers will depend on its size. Small tubers should be buried around 2″-3″ deep. Large tubers around 6″-10″. Use a good quality potting mix. Make sure that the top of the plant is facing up. When dormant, don’t give it too much water, let the soil dry out. Keep it dry for a couple of weeks and then water it again. Don’t fertilize. Repeat this process until the tuber wakes up in the spring. At that time you can start watering regularly and fertilizing the plant.
In the spring, if the tuber is mature enough, you will see the flowers, otherwise a leaf will sprout. Very often they form clumps with the flower appearing between the leaves. They should start going dormant again in the fall. The tuber can be dug up by late winter if necessary.
FAMILY : Araceae
ORIGIN : Himalayas, India, Burma
SIZE : 4′
LIGHT REQUIREMENTS : shade
WATER REQUIREMENTS : keep dry during dormancy,
keep moist during growing period
MIN. TEMP. : low 30’s
FLOWER : in the spring on mature plants