Updated/Fact-Chacked on June 26, 2023 by Gareth James
This is one of the most named plants around: Dracunculus vulgaris (also known as Arum dracunculus) is also known as the Dragon Arum, the Vampire lily, Voodoo Lily, Vampire lily, Ragons, the Snake Lily, the Black Arum, the Black Dragon, Dragonwort, and Stink Lily.
Part of the Araceae family, its native Greece, it is called Drakondia, which makes sense when you consider the long spadix can be viewed as a hiding dragon or serpent, lurking in the maroon-lipped spathe.
Originally the plant was found in the Balkans, and right down to Greece, Crete and the Aegean Islands, all the way to Southwest Turkey.
What Does Dracunculus Vulgaris Look Like?
What does it look like? Well, the very odd and impressive deep purple-black spadix strikes upward in a shimmering purple-black lance which has been known to reach fifty inches, though a more commonplace height is around twelve inches.
This black spadix extends from the spathe a hooded flower in a lush pink colour. The leaves are pointed, heavily veined and very pretty in their own right.
“In botany, a spadix is a type of inflorescence having small flowers borne on a fleshy stem”
While the plant is beautiful in and of itself (if rather shockingly like the kind of man-eating plant featured in rather dodgy films of the fifties), that’s not the weird thing about it. Nope, to survive, the Dragon Arum needs to attract carrion-eating pollinators, which means that in the breeding season, it will smell of rotten meat for a few days.
However, it doesn’t eat the insects; it just inveigles them in and uses them to transfer pollen. It’s a certain fact though that you wouldn’t want to grow them too close to the house.
The vampire lily also has the ability to warm up its flower to 18 degrees to keep its pollinators happy.
How to Grow Vampire Lily
Dragon Arum is happy to grow in full sun or partial shade and like well-drained soil, they are not too fussy about soil PH. They are best planted in spring, planting Dragon Arum tubers around 20cm deep.
They can be planted in windy areas of your garden as they are hardy perennials, but they will grow better with a bit of shelter. We advise planting them away from any patio seating areas as they do attract a lot of flies due to their pungent smell.
In winter, mulch around the plant to give the roots some frost protection.
How to Care for Vampire Lily
Vampire lilies are low maintenance as long as they have a sunny spot. Water weekly in dry spells but make sure the soil is well-drained – dracunculus vulgaris roots do not like sitting in moist soil for too long.
How Do You Propagate Vampire Lily?
Dragon arum tubers will produce offsets (or pups); complete identical plants asexually produced from the mother plant. These can be dug up and pulled apart and planted somewhere else.
Vampire Lily FAQS
Is Dracunculus Vulgaris Poisonous?
Yes is toxic to plants and animals and is a skin irritant – handle with care.
How Tall Will Dracunculus Vulgaris Grow?
Dracunculus vulgaris can reach 1.5 M over a 5 year period with an equally sized spread. This plant is closely related to the titan arum, discussed in a previous article, the plant with the tallet bloom.
Are dragon lilies rare?
Dragon lilies, also known as Dracunculus vulgaris, are uncommon in the UK but can be grown successfully in the right conditions. While they may not be as popular or widespread as some other garden plants, you can still find them in specialist nurseries and online suppliers.
Is Dracunculus vulgaris hardy?
Dracunculus vulgaris is considered hardy in the UK, which means it can tolerate cold temperatures and frost during the winter months. It is suitable for growing in USDA hardiness zones 5-9. To protect the tubers from cold and wet conditions, apply a layer of mulch or straw over the planting area during winter.
Do Dracunculus vulgaris plants come back every year?
Yes, Dracunculus vulgaris is a perennial plant, which means it will come back every year. It grows from tubers that lie dormant underground during the winter months and then regrow each spring.
Can you grow Dracunculus vulgaris lilies in pots?
Yes, you can grow Dracunculus vulgaris in pots or containers. Choose a large pot with good drainage and fill it with well-draining, fertile soil. Make sure to place the pot in a sunny location, as these plants need plenty of sunlight to thrive. Remember that you may need to move the pot indoors or provide additional insulation during the winter months to protect the tubers from extreme cold.
What is the lifespan of Dracunculus?
Dracunculus vulgaris is a perennial plant so that it can live for many years, provided it is given proper care and its growing conditions are met. The lifespan of individual plants may vary depending on factors such as climate, soil conditions, and care practices.
Where to Buy Dracunculus Vulgaris
If you cannot find dragon arum bulbs at your local nursery, try one of the many only plant stores like JPparkers, the RHS shop and even Amazon.
John Green is a 46-year-old graphic designer living in Durham. John is RHS level 3 certified and owns an allotment in Durham.