Growing the Amorphophallus titanum

When the corm arrived at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh from Hortus Botanicus Leiden in 2003, it was the size of a small orange. In seven years, it grew to measure around 95cm wide, 42cm high with a circumference of 80cm. It subsequently developed into the heaviest recorded Amorphophallus corm in the world: weighing in at 153.95kg in August 2010. The previous largest recorded weight of a corm in cultivation was only 117kg, at University of Bonn Botanical Gardens, Germany.

As it grew, it was eventually placed into its current position in the humid Lowland Tropics glasshouse – a house which is always at least a balmy 18-21C, in a 1000 litre pot containing a mix of free draining bark, perlite, sand, and charcoal, aiming to recreate its jungle homeland.

In the summer of 2011, the Amorphophallus titanum produced its largest leaf at RBGE, growing at an incredible rate of 10 cm per day, and reaching a final height of over 4m after 109 days, hitting the roof of the glasshouse. After 18 months this huge leaf withered and the corm again went into a resting period. It repeated this again from August 2013 to April 2015.

It was on 11 May 2015, when the remains of the leaf stalk were removed from the corm, when a new bud was found. As this bud continued to grow it was noticeably different from previous ones and we discovered we, at long last, had our first flower bud.

In the late afternoon of Friday 26 June, a lingering smell started to emanate from the Lowland Tropics Glasshouse and Scotland's first Amorphophallus titanum flower bloomed! The flower lasted only until the 30 June began to flop on 1 July.

On 3 July, a small team representing Science, Horticulture and the Herbarium - eagerly observed by a larger crowd of visitors, press and in-house photographers gathered. They took the opportunity to collect important parts of the plant and preserve it for posterity. The resulting herbarium specimens have been mounted and will join our other 3 million specimens and  be available to study by both botanists here in Edinburgh and also around the globe.

In its 20 years at RBGE, the corm has produced 9 leaves and, until now, three flowers. The current bud emerged on 23 May 2022, not long after the previous leaf had detached, and we began to get ready for another round of New Reekie!