Darlingtonia Plant Growing & Care Guide for Gardeners

In this Gardener's HQ guide, we'll explore cultivating Darlingtonia plants in your garden, indoor spaces, and other settings.

Cobra lily, California Pitcher Plant: Cultivation & Garden Use

Darlingtonia is a sole species genus of carnivorous plants. They are hardy perennials.

Common names for Darlingtonia include California Pitcher Plant and Cobra lily.

They can grow from 30 to 90 cm (one to three feet) in height.

Plants are named after their green tubular leaves, which are somewhat reminiscent of a striking Cobra. Leaves are hollow, with a bulbous end, and an extended tongue-like structure. These leaves function to trap insects. The hoods of the leaves are often shades of red, yellow, or purple.

Darlingtonia usually flowers from spring until the early months of the summer. Interestingly, their reddish-purple umbrella-shaped flowers extend from long stalks, so as to prevent pollinating insects being trapped by the tubular leaves.

Darlingtonia californica
Darlingtonia californica - Cobra Lily by alexlomas.

California Pitcher Plant
California Pitcher Plant by wlcutler.

Darlingtonia Growing and Care Guide

Common Names: California pitcher plant, Cobra Lily, Cobra plant.
Life Cycle: Hardy perennial.
Height: 12 to 36 inches (30 to 90 cm).
Native: North America (swamps and bogs of Northern California and Southern Oregon.
Family: Sarraceniaceae.
Growing Region: Zones 8 to 10.
Flowers: Spring through to early summer.
Flower Details: Green-purple. Veined. Pitted. Hooded.
Foliage: Upright tubular leaf of green with red veins; with a forked leaf of purple/green or yellow attached to the top.
Sow Outside: Surface. Spring. Spacing 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 cm).
Sow Inside: End of winter and early summer. Germination time: one to three months. Temperature 80°F (27°C) in the light. Use pots filled with sphagnum moss. Sit the pots in water. Wait one year before transplanting Darlingtonia outdoors towards the end of spring.
Requirements and care: Fully shaded. Wet soil, or at least always very moist. Cool, Peaty. Autumn mulch with leaf mold. Propagate: by dividing in the spring in cooler areas or autumn in warmer climates.
Miscellaneous: Carnivorous plant. May take five years for seed grown plants to bear flowers. The plant has the common name of cobra plant due to the leaves similarity to that of a striking cobra.

How to Grow California pitcher plant (Darlingtonia)

Darlingtonia, like many carnivorous plants, prefers to grow in swampy conditions. Therefore when sowing the seeds, the media should be kept saturated at all times by standing the pots in water.

Seeds should be sown on the surface of sphagnum moss in pots. It takes from one to three months to germinate.

California pitcher plants require constant conditions of about 26 degrees Centigrade (79°F), and light to grow as seedlings.

Once established, they can be transplanted outdoors into a shaded swampy part of the garden. Plant at a depth of about 2 cm (1 inch) in the water.

The soil that they are in should be kept saturated at all times.

Caring for California Pitcher Plants

It will take about four years until you will first see the seed sown California pitcher plant and other Darlingtonia members begin to flower.

If you require more plants, then they can be propagated by dividing the plants in the spring or autumn.

Common Questions

How many members does the Darlingtonia genus have?

The Darlingtonia genus has only one species (Darlingtonia californica).

Do members of Darlingtonia make a good garden or landscaping plant?

Darlingtonia californica can be a unique addition to a garden, particularly bog gardens or those with acidic soil.

Which Darlingtonia species are most frequently grown by gardeners?

The only species in the Darlingtonia genus is the California Pitcher Plant.

Are members of the Darlingtonia plant genus fragrant?

No Darlingtonia plants are not known to have a fragrance.

What is the perfect location to grow Darlingtonia?

The best location for Darlingtonia is in a bog garden or container with acidic, well-drained soil, and partial shade.

Is Darlingtonia invasive in the USA, if so in which states?

No, it is native to the USA.

How do I remove Darlingtonia plants from my garden?

To remove Darlingtonia plants, carefully dig them up, making sure to remove all root systems to prevent regrowth.


The Darlingtonia genus, also known as the Cobra Lily or California Pitcher Plant, consists of a single carnivorous species native to North America. It is fascinating for its uniquely shaped leaves, which resemble striking cobra heads. It traps insects for nutrition.

Darlingtonia Californica prefers cool temperatures, partial shade, and constant moisture. It can be grown outdoors in a bog garden or indoors in a terrarium. It requires a medium of sphagnum moss and sand. It enjoys being watered with rainwater or distilled water, as this will mimic its natural boggy environment.

I hope that you found this guide on how to grow Darlingtonia plants in your garden. You may also enjoy my gardening guides on how to grow Pitcher Plant, Arum plant, and Phacelia plants.