Allure of the Tropics

The Mysterious Black Bat Flower Plant

Author: Jane Jordan
Jane Jordan is a horticulturist and has studied and worked at the RHS botanical gardens in Cannington, England.
She now lives in Sarasota, Florida. Alongside her passion for horticulture, she is also a novelist.

Quick Facts:

Botanical Name: Tacca chantrieri
Common Names: Black Bat Flower, Devil Flower, Devils’ Tongue, Voodoo Lily, Black Tacca, Bat Head Lily
Origin: Southern Asia
Zone: 10 - 11
Exposure: Shade
Growth Rate: Fast, when conditions are just right
Soil: Well drained
Water: Most soil, but not wet
Flower Color: Black, Purple (White Bat Flower - Tacca integrifolia)
Bloom Time: Summer to fall once established, and up to twelve times in one season, although maybe it’s a fluke, but I have owned my Black Bat plant for two years and it has flowered continually.
Mature Size: 3 – 4 feet
Propagation: Division & Seeds
Fertilizer: Treat as an orchid
Pests/Diseases: Mostly pest and disease free, occasional slugs and snails

Growing a black bat flower plant (Tacca chantrieri) will be a unique addition to your plant collection. It’s a plant that gets attention. It may even make you the envy of your gardening friends when the cluster of dark purple, almost black flowers emerge, to be followed by large bracts that mimic wings. Numerous purple, threadlike filaments make it resemble a flying bat with long whiskers. Its large lance-shaped leaves can grow over 2-foot-long so it needs some room to spread.

The key to this plants success is the right environment. Similar to orchids it needs good air flow and to be placed in bright light to shade, direct sunlight will burn the leaves. Well drained soil should remain slightly moist on a continual basis, but not wet.

This is a great container plant, but the soil should be replenished each year. Treat the black bat plant as you would an orchid, and feed with orchid fertilizer every 3-4 weeks to keep it looking its best. This plant requires humidity to thrive, making Florida an ideal environment for its longevity. Propagation is through division and seeds.

Often considered to be a collector’s plant, the black bat plant it can be hard to find in regular garden centers, occasionally they are available at plant fairs, but on the whole, they are quite a rare plant.
The most common variety has the black bat flowers, although there is also the white bat flower (Tacca integrifolia). Even though this species does not flower as much as the black variety, both plants would be a fitting addition to a Halloween garden, as the black bat flowers give the impression of being dark and mysterious, while white flower bat plants have ghostly white wings.

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