This stinker blooms only once every several years, and you can’t miss the smell when it does.
IF YOU’RE A plant nut, you must try growing a few of the “fragrant” wonders of the horticultural world.
The big mama of them all is the corpse flower (Amorphophallus titanum). Although it blooms only once every several years, it consistently creates quite a stir in the Volunteer Park greenhouse. This Sumatran rain forest native produces the largest flower on Earth, with blossoms that can weigh more than 100 pounds. As is true of all plants in the Arum family, the giant flower consists of a vase-shaped structure known as a spathe, made up of modified leaves (bracts), which surround a central upright flower spike (the spadix).
The spathe on the corpse flower is striped green and white on the outside and a meaty red within. The yellowish-brown spadix can reach almost 6 feet tall. The combination, if not exactly beautiful, is a fascinating sight.
The attribute that makes everyone run for the door, however, is the overpowering stench of rotting flesh, emitted to attract carrion beetles. Sadly, the corpse flower isn’t hardy enough to grow in our gardens, and attempting it as a houseplant is guaranteed to lead to expensive relationship counseling.
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Fortunately, a few incredibly cool Amorphophallus are hardy enough to grow outdoors year-round in the Puget Sound region. The best, in my opinion, is konjac voodoo lily (Amorphophallus konjac). For the first few years after planting the tuber, the only growth you’ll see is a fleshy, mottled green-and-purple stalk topped by a large, tropical-looking, heavily cut leaf.
Keep the plant well-fed, and every year the stalk will grow taller, until it eventually reaches 4 to 5 feet. Once that happens, things get exciting: The tuber will have gained enough size to produce a flower. If all goes well, in the following spring, a…