Dragon lily

Interested in growing the beautiful dragon lily? Fortunately, this plant is not as difficult to grow as it may seem.

Dragon lily (Dracunculus vulgaris) is a tuberous flowering perennial plant in the aroid family Araceae known for its striking dark purple flowers. Native to the Mediterranean, the plants typically flower in late spring or early summer with opulent but foul-smelling blooms. Dragon lily plants are hardy in Zones 7-10, need partial shade (especially in the afternoon), and generally reach 2-3 feet tall in the garden.

Dracunculus vulgaris

Introduction to the dragon lily

The dragon lily (Dracunculus vulgaris) is a perennial plant native to the Mediterranean region. It grows in clumps and can reach up to 4 feet tall, with long, slender leaves that are green on top and purplish-red underneath. The flowers of the dragon lily are large and showy, with a nearly-black skinny spadix surrounded by a purple curled decorative spathe.

Unlike true lilies in the garden, dragon lilies prefer a bit of shade, especially on hot afternoons and in drier climates. They need regular watering during their growing season (spring through summer) but should be kept relatively dry during winter months when they go dormant. Soil should be rich in organic matter and well-draining; adding compost or aged manure can help improve soil quality for this plant.

Dracunculus vulgaris plant

How to plant dragon lily

Dragon lilies are a beautiful and unique flower that can add an exotic touch to any garden. They’re easy to grow in general but can be a bit more difficult than the more common types of lilies (like most true lilies).

Where to plant dragon lilies

Dragon lilies prefer partial shade and well-draining soil. In terms of sunlight, they’ll flower best with a bit of direct sunlight in the morning if possible but should be sheltered from hot afternoon sun in warm climates.

If your soil is heavy or clay-like, consider adding compost or other organic matter before planting. You may also want to amend the soil with fertilizer for extra nutrients in the form of a slow-release natural fertilizer.

When to plant dragon lilies

Plant dragon lilies in late spring or early summer when temperatures are warm enough for root growth. This is usually about a month after planting the hardier true lilies. This will give the plants plenty of time to establish themselves before winter arrives.

How to plant dragon lily plants

When planting dragon lily bulbs, make sure they’re planted at least three inches deep and six inches apart from each other. The roots should be spread out evenly around the bulb so it has room to grow without overcrowding its neighbors.

Watering & mulching new plants

Once planted, water your dragon lilies regularly until they become established (about 4-6 weeks). After that, water should only be used during periods of drought or extreme heat; otherwise, let nature do its work. Also, remember to mulch around the base of each plant after watering—this helps retain moisture and keep weeds away from your precious flowers.

Pruning & deadheading

Prune dead leaves as needed throughout the growing season and deadhead spent blooms if desired (to encourage more blooms). Be careful not to prune too much, though, as dragon lilies don’t respond well if their foliage is cut back too drastically all at once.

Feeding new plants

Fertilize your dragon lily plants every few months with a balanced fertilizer (follow package instructions for amounts). Additionally, mulching the surface with an organic mulch can help provide a slow flow of nutrients to the roots over time.

Dragon lily (dracunculus vulgaris)

Plant care for the dragon lily

Caring for dragon lilies is relatively easy once you understand their needs. Caring for them is similar to caring for calla lilies, as these two flowering plants are related.


Dragon lilies need regular watering during the growing season (spring through fall). Water deeply at least once a week or more often if the soil is dry. Make sure not to overwater, as this can cause root rot. In winter, water only when the soil is completely dry – about every two weeks should be sufficient.


Fertilize your dragon lily with a balanced fertilizer twice during its growing season – once in early spring and again in mid-summer. Follow package instructions for dosage amounts and frequency of application; too much fertilizer can burn roots or foliage, so it’s important to follow directions carefully.


Pruning isn’t necessary but may help keep your plant looking neat and tidy by removing dead or damaged leaves throughout the year as needed. If you want to encourage more blooms, prune off spent flower stalks after flowering has finished for that season.

Dragon lilies are hardy plants that require little maintenance other than regular watering and fertilizing during their active growth period each year. With proper care, they will thrive in most gardens with minimal effort from you.

Taking proper care of your dragon lily is essential to keeping it healthy and vibrant. With the right knowledge, you can easily propagate more of these beautiful plants for years to come.

White dragon lily flower (dracunculus vulgaris)
White-flowering cultivars are available.


Propagating a dragon lily plant is relatively easy and can be done through either division or seed propagation.

Division involves separating the root ball of an existing mature plant into two or more sections, each with its own set of roots. To do this, you’ll need to dig up the entire root ball and carefully cut it apart using a sharp knife or spade. Once divided, replant each section in well-draining soil at least 8 inches apart from one another. With proper care and attention, your new plants should take off quickly.

Seed propagation is also an option for propagating dragon lilies. To begin, collect ripe seeds from the flowers on your existing plants when they are ready (typically late summer). Then sow them directly into moist soil about 1/4 inch deep in a sunny location outdoors or indoors in containers filled with potting mix. Keep the soil consistently moist until germination occurs; then reduce watering frequency as needed once seedlings appear. Transplant young plants outdoors after all danger of frost has passed for best results.

Finally, if you have access to stem cuttings from an existing mature plant, these can also be used to propagate new dragon lilies by rooting them in water or planting them directly into moist soil. Cuttings should be taken during springtime when growth is most active for optimal results.

Propagating dragon lilies is relatively easy, but it’s important to be aware of pests and diseases that can affect them. Let’s take a look at how to identify and manage these issues in the next section.

Pests & diseases

Dragon lilies are a beautiful and hardy plant, but they can still be affected by pests and diseases. Common pests that may affect dragon lily plants include aphids, mealybugs, spider mites, slugs, and snails. Aphids are small insects that feed on the sap of the leaves or stems of the plant. They can cause yellowing or wilting of leaves as well as stunted growth. Mealybugs are tiny white bugs that feed on the sap from young shoots and flower buds, which can cause distorted growth in flowers or buds to fail to open properly. Spider mites create webs between leaves and suck out their juices, causing discoloration of foliage, while slugs and snails chew through tender new growth leaving behind ragged holes in their wake.

To prevent these pests from attacking your dragon lily, it is important to keep weeds away from your garden beds since many common garden pests use them for shelter during hot weather when temperatures become too extreme for them to survive outside. It is also important to check your plants regularly for signs of infestation, such as webbing between leaves/lobes or small insects crawling around on stems or undersides of leaves, so you can take action quickly if needed before an infestation becomes severe enough to damage your plants significantly.

Pests and diseases can be a major concern for dragon lily growers, but with proper care and attention, they can be easily managed. Now let’s take a look at the uses and benefits of growing this stunning flower.

Dragon lily

FAQs about dragon lily plants

Is dragon lily poisonous?

Yes, all parts of the dragon lily plant (Dracunculus vulgaris) are poisonous. This plant contains calcium oxalate crystals, which can irritate the skin and are toxic if ingested.

Are dragon lilies rare?

Dragon lilies are somewhat rare. They can be a bit tricky to find, but they are becoming easier to order online. Dragon lilies are easy to grow and require minimal care; they thrive in full sun or partial shade with regular watering during dry spells. With their showy blooms and long-lasting beauty, dragon lilies make an excellent addition to gardens where poisonous plants can be safely grown.

Where do dragon lilies grow?

Dragon lilies are native to the Mediterranean region. They prefer warm climates and thrive in full sun with well-draining soil. The plants can reach up to three feet tall and produce large purple blooms from late spring through early summer. Dragon lilies can be grown in USDA hardiness zones 7-10 and should be planted at least two feet apart for best results.

Is dragon lily a perennial?

The dragon lily is a perennial plant. It grows from underground rhizomes and can survive in winter in Zones 7-10. They can be propagated by dividing the rhizomes in spring or fall, but should not be disturbed too often. With proper care, dragon lilies can live for many years. In cold climates, they may have to be grown as an annual, as the plants will not survive harsh, frozen winters.

Before you go…

With the right care, it will thrive and reward you with its stunning blooms. Planting dragon lilies is easy as long as you follow the steps outlined in this guide. Properly caring for your dragon lilies will help keep them healthy and pest-free while also providing numerous benefits, such as adding interest and intrigue to your space.

Mary Jane Duford
Mary Jane Duford

Mary Jane Duford is a quintessential Canadian gardener. An engineer by trade, she tends to an ever-expanding collection of plants. In her world, laughter blooms as freely as her flowers, and every plant is raised with a dash of Canadian grit.

Mary Jane is a certified Master Gardener and also holds a Permaculture Design Certificate. She's also a proud mom of three, teaching her little sprouts the crucial difference between a garden friend and foe.

When she's not playing in the dirt, Mary Jane revels in her love for Taylor Swift, Gilmore Girls, ice hockey, and the surprisingly soothing sounds of bluegrass covers of classic hip-hop songs. She invites you to join her garden party, a place where you can share in the joy of growing and where every day is a new opportunity to find the perfect spot for yet another plant.

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