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titanum update

  • Subject: titanum update
  • From: Clark Riley <drriley@mypcr.com>
  • Date: Tue, 4 Sep 2001 10:01:20 -0500 (CDT)

A few years back, I had the great good fortune to be part of the 
distribution of Dr. James R. Symon's Amorphophallus titanum seed. The 
seed sprouted in good percentage and the plants have proven quite 
reliable as house plants. I distributed the majority of those plants 
to botanic gardens across the states but kept three for myself. My 
experiences are for these plants grown in Baltimore Maryland, midway 
between Washington, DC, and Philadelphia.

1. The individual leaf lasts about two years under these conditions. 
The rest period between leaves is variable, but at least 3 months in 
my experience, regardless of watering conditions. I have yet to 
figure out if anything other than age triggers dormancy. I have the 
plants growing side by side and they enter dormancy when they please 

2. If I withhold water, it seems to prolong dormancy, but don't wait 
too long. I have lost the main bud on the tubers this way. I have yet 
to succeed with lateral buds, even when they were on a protuberance 
from the side.

3. I repotted the tubers this year and placed the pots outdoors after 
our weather was consistently hot. From previously reported 
experiments on my younger seedlings, I can say that Amorphophallus 
apparently hates even cool weather. From the time I started watering 
until the growths emerged was about two months. They were about 3 
feet/1 meter high after a month.

4. The length of the "trunk" of the leaf, the petiole, is quite 
sensitive to the intensity of light the plant receives during the 
elongation phase. Under the light of fluorescent bulbs, the leaf stem 
can easily reach 10 feet on young plants. Petiole length is an issue 
for me as I have been trying to grow the beasts in our basement where 
I have only about 5 feet from bench to lights. Even if the tubs are 
on the floor, I can only accommodate 7 feet. If growth begins in late 
Summer, I can coax the stem sideways, where it will be confined for 
its two years. Hence, I try to synchronize the beginning of growth 
for late Spring or Early Summer. Once the compound leaf has unfurled, 
the petiole will not elongate further and I have a stout 3 foot "palm 
tree." The leaf will then reside close to the lights through the 
Winter. I find that Amorphophallus titanum enjoys full sun, even full 
Maryland noon sun.

5. The tubers continue to enlarge each year and are now 3 - 5 pounds. 
Like many other aroids I have had the privilege of growing, the size 
of the growth seems dependent on the container size. It's not just a 
matter of potting on. The size seems to reach stasis if kept in a pot 
less than about twice the tuber diameter.

Hopefully some of these observations are helpful to those who have 
the privilege of obtaining these kings of the plant kingdom. Other 
observations are eagerly sought. For those who have bloomed this 
species, have you succeeded in setting seeds?

Clark Riley
Baltimore, Maryland, USA

Clark T. Riley

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