Dracunculus vulgaris is a species of aroid flowering plant in the genus Dracunculus and the arum family Araceae, native to the hillsides and rocky areas of the Balkan region, extending as far as Crete, Greece, Aegean Islands, southwest Anatolia, and the Mediterranean. The deciduous tuberous perennials plant has also been introduced in North America, including parts of Canada and the United States, and northern Europe. Common names include the common dracunculus, dragon lily, dragon arum, black arum, vampire lily voodoo lily, snake lily, stink lily, black dragon, black lily, dragonwort, and ragons. In Greece, it is called drakondia because of its unique shape, which gives the impression a small dragon is hiding inside the spathe. The dragon lily can cause skin irritation when touched, so be sure to wear gloves when handling it. It is also toxic to animals if ingested. However, animals do not typically approach this plant due to its noxious smell.
There, is an abundance of finger-like leaves with narrow lobes which are sometimes spotted silver that adds to the overall tropical feel of this plant. The dark purple colored pseudostems are stout and long and range from 1.5’ – 5’ feet in size. The leaves are dark-green, erect, and fan-shaped and get as big as 18” inches. The leaves usually die during the blooming season. Autumn and spring are the best seasons to cultivate “stink lily” vulgaris. It can take 2 to 5 years to reach the maximum height. The inflorescence of black dragon lily is a long, black-colored appendage, called spadix, enclosed in a large deep purple colored bract, known as a spathe. The black spadix can grow up to 4.5’ feet, and the spathe can reach up to 4’ feet, but in most plants, the inflorescence does not exceed 18” inches. While the spathe and spadix look like a flower, it is an inflorescence. The actual flowers are hidden inside the bulbous chamber within the spathe. This is to attract potential pollinators, which are mainly flies. However, the smell only lasts for a day. Each inflorescence contains both male and female flowers; female at the bottom and male at the top. The black arum blooms in early spring or summer and dies soon after flowering.
Table of Contents
4 - 6 feet
16 - 24 inches
6.6 - 7.5
Growing Dragon Lily
Growing in Containers
Though large, the dragon lily does quite well when grown in containers. When choosing a container for these plants, be sure it has a drainage hole to allow excess water to escape. Mix plenty of fertilizer, organic material, or compost into the potting soil and place the tubers a few inches deep. Water thoroughly and allow the excess water to drain away. Continue to give these plants fertilizer every month during the growing season. By keeping your plant in a sunny location and not allowing the soil to dry out, you will have a healthy potted dragon lily.
Dragon Lily Care
Despite its exotic appearance, the dragon lily is quite easy to care for. These plants are naturally found by rivers, ponds, and forest edges and grow from tubers under the surface. Plant the tuber about 3 inches deep into well-draining soil, making sure to place the pointed end up. It is best to do this in the early fall to give the plant enough time to establish before the cold winter months arrive.
Besides consistent watering, the dragon lily does not demand much maintenance. When they receive plenty of sunshine and water, these stunning plants will bloom abundantly. The dragon lily is not usually affected by common pests or diseases.
Dragon lily plants prefer full sun, but can also be grown in partial shade. Keep in mind, however, that plants grown in full sun will need more water than those grown in partial shade.
Rich, moist, well-draining soil is perfect for the dragon lily plant. Because they are naturally found by rivers and ponds, they do well in moist soil. However, it is quite tolerant of a variety of soil conditions and adapts well.
Water consistently and keep the soil damp, but not overly wet. Soggy soil can cause the tubers to rot.
Temperature and Humidity
However, even in hardy zones, these plants still need protection in the winter. Apply a thick layer of mulch to provide insulation during colder months. Because the dragon lily likes damp soil and can be naturally found near water sources, it does well with humidity.
To give your dragon lily the nutrients it needs to produce its unique blooms, you should provide it with rich, organic matter or compost. Mixing a healthy layer into the soil during spring will give your plant the boost it needs. Well-balanced fertilizer will also do nicely.
Propagating Dragon Lily Plants
Because the dragon lily grows from tubers, propagating is simple and most often done by division. It also self-seeds and produces offsets. It is best to divide the plant in either the spring or fall. Before you begin, make sure to wear gloves, as this plant is known to cause skin irritation. Here is how to propagate dragon lily plants:
Using a garden fork or shovel, slowly work your way around the plant to loosen the tubers.
Once the plant can be easily removed from the ground, lift it out and shake away the dirt.
Inspect the tubers, making sure to dispose of any that are rotten.
Using your hands or a sharp knife, divide the tubers, making sure to keep foliage on each division.
Move each division to its own area, adding plenty of organic matter or compost to the soil first. Water thoroughly.
Pests or Diseases
Dragon lilies are not susceptible to diseases or pets.
Dracunculus vulgaris is toxic for animals, but they stay away from the plant because of the strong smell.
The dragon lily relies on flies and other insects for pollination, and therefore emits putrid dung and carrion-like smell, to attract them.
The fruits (along with the seeds) and tubers of the plant have long been used in Turkey to treat hemorrhoids and rheumatism, respectively.
The root of the plant is known to be a skin irritant and is toxic.
According to folklore, the leaves or roots of the plants can offer protection from serpents and vipers.
Traditionally, the leaves of dracunculus vulgaris were wrapped around cheese to preserve it.
Legend has it washing hands with a liquor made from this plant enables a person to handle snakes with impunity.
Because of their beautiful colors, some people grow dragon lilies in their gardens to enhance the aesthetic appeal.
However, they should not be planted near sidewalks, doors, or windows due to the foul smell it gives off during the blooming season.