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Gardening & More: Western New York gardener grows stinky voodoo lilies

CATCH A WHIFF — Fran Evans of Hamburg grows voodoo lilies. This interesting plant smells like garbage and attracts flies.
SPRINGVILLE — Some people grow flowers, like hyacinths, roses, marigolds and lavender, that have strong odors.

Then, there’s Fran Evans of Hamburg, who enjoys growing the voodoo lily, an unusual, Cambodian plant that smells like garbage.

I visited Evans last May, when his 6-year-old voodoo lily (the Amorphophallus konjac), a potted specimen, bloomed, for the first time. He said that he is not sure the flower will bloom again, this year, but he has two other bulbs that he said that he believes will flower.

The voodoo lily’s blossom has a cool, pitcher shape, decorated in regal colors of maroon and gold.

“It’s quite interesting, [but] it’s not beautiful,” Evans said.

I think that this lily is visually attractive, but it is hard to get over the smell. Here’s the best way I can describe it. One summer I threw some raw chicken skin into my kitchen trash can and forgot about it. Several days later, I flipped the lid open and got a whiff. That’s what the voodoo lily smells like.

It’s not a terribly strong smell, especially when the plant is outside, but it is definitely stinky. Flies are attracted to the plant’s smell, which is apparently exactly what the plant wants.

Evans’ plant budded in his screened-in porch, at the beginning of last May. The plant does not like frost, but the gardener scooted the pot onto his patio, anyway, because the smell was so nasty. Fortunately, the plant survived and thrived.

Everything about the voodoo lily is big. Evans’ plant was as tall as I am. The corm, or bulb, was larger than a softball and weighed approximately 4 pounds.

What is amazing to me about the voodoo lily is not just the size of the plant, but the relative size of the flower itself. The blossom accounts for half of the size of the plant.

Evans received the bulb from his son. The bulb was already 3 years old, when he obtained it. Evans then grew the bulb himself, for another 3 years.

In the fall of 2011, he placed the bare bulb in a paper bag and put the bag in a root cellar in his basement, to store it over the winter. The temperature was between 35 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit.

When the bulb started sprouting in March, Evans planted it in a pot. It finally bloomed, last May.

Over the past summer, Evans kept the plant outside and watered it well. During the fall, he brought the bulb inside again.

Evans has several voodoo lily plants and he is trying a little experiment, this winter. He will leave one of the biggest bulbs in its pot over the winter, instead of unpotting it and storing it in a paper bag.

When the bulbs begin to wake up in March, he will fertilize the bulb that is already in a pot. The bagged bulb will be planted in a pot. Evans will see which one does better.

“I just hope they don’t grow so fast that they open in the house,” Evans said.

Connie Oswald Stofko is publisher of, the online gardening magazine for Western New York. Email

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2013-03-14 | 21:28:09
i found one blooming right in front porch of my old home looking so strangely beautiful. I was picking it intensionally to put in the vase and place on the dining table: but as touched its stem the smell made me sneeze and i put my nose even close to its flower just to make sure its fragrance coming from this flower. And Oh! my God what'a a smell! peeeeww... i have to cut off from the ground and compose it. I can not stand to smell this thing anymore....I am sorry about my action.