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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Saturday - October 20, 2007

From: Cleveland, OH
Region: Midwest
Topic: Non-Natives
Title: Care for non-native indoor plants
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

My cousin in Pa. asked me to see how to care for 2 plants in the winter. The first is a Voo Doo Lily and the second is a Bengal Tiger plant. If you would please help I would be able to pass it along.

ANSWER:

Neither of these plants is native to North America, which is what we really care about here at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. However, when we can, we do try to help out with non-native house plants. Most indoor plants are non-native because of the need for less light, etc.

The Voodoo Lily, also known as Amorphophallus with a number of sub-species, originated mostly in the Far East, including China and North Vietnam. It would seem that the best thing about the voodoo lily is that it is dormant in winter, when it would need to be brought inside in Pennsylvania. When it blooms (in warm weather), it STINKS. This is apparently to attract flies, who act as pollinators to the plant. The plants are very striking and sometimes huge when they bloom, so perhaps that balances out the bad smell of the flowers.

As it happens, there are cannas native to North America, but they have been so extensively hybridized that it would be difficult to trace their origins. However, the Bengal Tiger Lily is a a subtropical. North of USDA Zone 7, it must be treated as an expensive annual or dug and wintered over indoors.

 

 

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