The leaf of a cobra lily is remarkably shaped: it is tubular and contains a liquid used to digest captured insects. The upper part of the blade is modified for the insect catching function. There is a circular opening in the overhanging, rounded cap through which insects enter the hood. It’s easy to explain why they want to go there. Glands on the flag-like extensions of the leaf as well as inside the leaf produce sweet nectar. Nectar that insects love. The insect usually cannot find its way out.


  • botanischer Name: Darlingtonia californica
  • Other Names: Cobra Plant, Dracula Plant, Dracula Lily
  • belongs to the pitcher plant family (Sarraceniaceae)
  • carnivorous plant
  • Growth height: up to 40 cm
  • Flowering time: July to August (inconspicuous)

species and occurrence

The cobra lily is the only species in the Darlingtonia genus. It is endemic to bogs, streams and peaty pond margins in the southwestern United States and along the Oregon coast. The typical environment for a Darlingtonia californica is always associated with cold water flowing at the surface or just below.


When it comes to light requirements, the cobra lily is very adaptable. In its homeland it grows both in the hot lowlands and in the cool mountains on the north side. It mostly enjoys the blazing sun, but also tolerates locations in the shade that are quite poor in the sun.

  • Light Requirements: Very adaptable, from full sun to shade
  • Soil: poor in nutrients, good water storage capacity, acidic pH value
  • always cool roots
  • Temperature: around 20 degrees in summer

A Darlingtonia grows very slowly, especially if it is in a fairly sunny position. However, the plant develops beautiful violet coloring on the leaves in the sun. If you prefer a large Dracul lily, you should place the plant in the shade.


Mere watering to meet the plant’s moisture needs is not enough for the cobra lily. The water is also used to cool the roots during hot periods. Either rainwater or desalinated water should always be used for watering. Tap water contains too many salts and also lime. The Darlingtonia tolerates both badly. In cool temperatures, the soil only needs to be kept slightly moist. Watering is always plentiful and with cold water. Waterlogging and drought lead to the death of the plant.

Protection from warm roots

The adaptability to the light conditions in its natural range might make the cobra plant appear easy to cultivate, but this is clearly not the case. What all these wild growing locations have in common is cold spring water that constantly flows in their surroundings. A condition that is difficult to provide in the home or in the garden. The main difficulty is keeping their roots cool in warm or hot weather. When temperatures rise, you should take the plant out of the blazing sun, from about 25 degrees the Dracula plant needs additional cooling.

  • Place the plant with the planter in a bucket of cool water
  • Put ice cubes made of low-salt water on the ground and let them melt
  • often pour water from the refrigerator over the pads during the day
  • remove any leaves older than a year
Tip: In practice, it has proven useful to hang the plant in a clay pot on the wall of the house, place a saucer underneath and pour the water into the pot frequently throughout the day. The wind ensures good evaporation and thus cooling.


The Darlingtonia californica does not need to be fertilized. The plant meets its nutrient requirements by digesting the insects that have entered the leaf trap. Adding extra nutrients and salts through the roots does more harm than good. The plant is very sensitive to high levels of salt or lime in the soil.

Propagation by stolons

Older cobra lilies send out lateral stolons to reproduce. At the end of these rhizome-like offshoots, new plants will form. As soon as these shoots have formed their own roots, they can be cut off with a clean knife and planted in peaty substrate. Disadvantage of this method: The plant has to stimulate the offshoots itself, but this is rarely the case.

Propagation from seeds

The technique for propagating carnivorous plants growing in wetlands is a little different than typical methods for garden plants. For example, the seeds of Darlingtonia californica, which are only about 3 mm in size, need a cold period (stratification) before they can be sown in the ground.

Step 1: Stratification

Place the seeds in the bag of moist peat moss and place in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator for at least four to eight weeks.

Step 2: Materials for sowing

It has proven to be very practical to plant the seeds of the cobra lily in suitable pots right away, because the seedlings are very filigree, so that they are often damaged when separated.

  • clean flower pots (plastic), diameter about 10 cm
  • some weed fleece (a square of about 13 x 13 cm per pot)
  • Mixture of washed peat and sand
  • washed peat moss, finely chopped and mixed with sand
  • Sandblasting sand (grain size 0.12-0.16 mm)

Step 3: Sowing

One square of the weed fleece is placed on the bottom of the seed pot. The peat is mixed with the sand in a bucket and moistened with water. You should make sure that the substrate is relatively sterile, as the seedlings are very sensitive to mold. The seed pots are filled with this mixture (about 80%), followed by a 1 cm layer of sandy, moistened peat moss. It is best to fill this in with a teaspoon and smooth the surface a little. After the pre-treated seed has been placed, a fine layer of sandblasting sand is spread over it.

4. Propagation/germination

The pot is placed in a plastic bag to reduce evaporation.

  • put some water in the ziploc bag
  • put the pot in
  • seal bag
  • bright but without direct sun
  • even under a fluorescent tube
  • Temperature: around 20 degrees
  • Check humidity weekly
  • Germination period: a few months

Substrate for older plants

Whether the cobra lily grows well enough to really grow in the pot depends primarily on the choice of substrate. The substrate must be able to store a lot of water without rotting, rotting or moulding. Normal potting soil is extremely unsuitable for this.

  • Mixture of peat and sand is the simplest mix possible
  • Specialists swear by a self-created mixture
  • 2 parts long fiber peat moss, chopped
  • 1 part fine orchid soil (bark)
  • 2 parts washed pumice gravel
Tip: A classic clay pot is recommended as a planter for older plants, as it creates a cooler root environment through the evaporation of moisture.


If you live in regions where it freezes severely for a few weeks in winter, you should definitely place your Dracula plant in a cool, frost-free greenhouse. Alternatively, a bright garage or a sheltered cold frame in which to place the plant in a deep layer of pine needles or mulch will do.

  • cool but frost-free
  • older plants also tolerate light frosts
  • hell

diseases and pests

If the cobra lily is ailing, care mistakes are usually to blame. The most common care mistake is a root ball that is too warm in summer. Usually, after a short time, the first signs of drying appear on the leaves. Outdoor plants are occasionally visited by snails, which radically graze all above-ground parts.

The cobra lily is a great plant that is worth cultivating. But if you can’t keep to the urgently needed – and not always easy to maintain – growth conditions, namely constantly cool roots, you should rather leave the cultivation. It’s not worth the trouble.

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