Sunday, November 30, 2014

Scars Can be Beautiful

Philodendron selloum
I recently had surgery to fuse some vertebrae in my neck. I have just recently gotten up the courage to look at the scar. It is not attractive, but I have been assured this will fade. It has been under wraps which includes a neck brace and usually a scarf to cover the brace. If you watch this #gardenchatter, you can see the cover up here.  
I have to tell you though, I have always had a fascination with the leaf scars on houseplants, especially philodendrons. I love the look of them. 
What is a leaf scar, you may ask? A leaf scar is the mark left by a leaf after it falls off the stem of the plant. It is where  the petiole was attached. 

You can see on this plant above, the places where the petioles attach.

Close up of  a leaf scar from a Philodendron selloum.

In the picture above of the close up, (sorry it is a little blurry) you can see the vascular bundles. Another definition is in order-vascular bundles are, as defined in the dictionary:

a longitudinal arrangement of strands of xylem and phloem, and sometimes cambium, that forms the fluid-conducting channels of vascular tissue in the rhizomes, stems, and leaf veins of vascular plants, the arrangement varying with the type of plant.
Too technical? All those spots are the scars of the tubes that carried the water and nutrients from the roots to the leaves. That is the simplest way I can explain it. 


Heart shaped leaf scar


 I saw this philodendron at the New York Botanical Garden. Most of the scars look round, but the one was shaped like a heart.

Philodendron at Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh, PA
 This plant above is obviously very old. These plants climb trees. Philodendron comes from the Greek words philo or "love" and dendron "tree".  The plant starts out on the jungle floor, scrambling across it until finding a tree to climb. The older the plant, the more leaf scars it has. Makes sense, right? The older we get, the more scars we have, too. Emotional, physical.....Anyway, back to plants. 
Most of these pictures were taken at botanical gardens. Most of us couldn't support something this big in our homes. Mine is getting quite large but I doubt it will ever be as large as these.  The scars are starting to prominently show though, and I love it! 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Polynesian Vines

Pellionia pulchra April 2013
There are a couple of  varieties of Pellionia available in the houseplant trade. Pellionia pulchra, common name watermelon vine or Polynesian vine and Pellionia repens also common name Polynesian vine. (See why its best to go by the Latin name?) The major difference I see is the leaf markings. These plants are native to SE Asia, mostly Vietnam, and Burma. They were named in honor of A.M.J. Alphonse Pellion (1795-1868), a young French naval officer. 
Pellionia pulchra today
I have both of these plants and find them very interesting. I love anything variegated, as has been stated before in this blog. Even though the flowers aren't really anything to write home about, I always think any flowers on my houseplants are something to be happy about and ups the amazing plant factor.

Pellionia repens

The Pellionia repens picture above is of a new plant I purchased in September. I couldn't remember which one I didn't have and it turns out I already had both. Duh! The picture below is of the same plant and I have had it for years. It resides in a West window and is blooming right now.
I don't know why there is such a difference, other than the new plant had just come out of a greenhouse and so naturally the leaves are bigger. You would think it would be the other way around. Less light, bigger leaves to get more photosynthesizing area, but apparently not. 
Pellionia repens
Both are ground covers where they naturally grow. As houseplants they are typically found in a hanging basket. I have one in a hanging container, but the other is on a shelf in my West window and has plenty of room to trail. I have found them easy plants to grow. I have had mealybugs on one of them, but have since rid the plant of them. 
Pellionia repens
If you find these plants to buy, do so. They are easy plants and attractive as well. They aren't plants I see all the time, but they are out there.
Pellionia repens flowers

Friday, November 7, 2014

Stars on Earth

Cryptanthus bivittatus
Cryptanthus or earth stars are having a resurgence in popularity. These bromeliads are related to pineapples and Tillandsias or air plants. Unlike the Tillandsias (I talk more about those here) which are epiphytes, Cryptanthus are terrestrial bromeliads, meaning they grow on the ground. They are native to Brazil, growing on the rain forest floor. They receive diffused sunlight and would like bright indirect sunlight in your home. Too much light will cause their leaves to bleach, but too little light will make the leaves less colorful. These rosette-forming plants need to grow in a well drained soil. Keep them moist, but not sitting in water. They also have shallow root systems, so grow them in containers that are wider than they are deep. Fertilize with a balanced fertilizer at 1/4 strength every time you water from March-September or while the plant is actively growing. (I always say that, as here in Michigan March-September is the active growing season for houseplants. That may or may not be true where you live.)
Cryptanthus 'Elaine' leaf up close

Cryptanthus 'Elaine'
Cryptanthus bivittatus

The popularity of these plants comes from their versatility. On the right, they are being used in wall planters. I saw these at a trade show last summer.

Can you see why they are called earth stars?  They do look like stars growing on the ground.


Above, a small Cryptanthus is planted in a hanging shell. Below, it is a focal point in a terrarium setting. As these plants really love the extra humidity that a terrarium affords, they are perfect candidates for them.


The name Cryptanthus comes from the Greek words, krypto meaning to hide, and anthos, a flower, referring to the flowers  being concealed in the center of the plant. As you can see in the picture below, the flower isn't really hidden, but just "tucked in". 

Cryptanthus 'Ruby'


As you can see in the picture above, there are many varieties of Cryptanthus. These easy, versatile, beautiful plants are a bromeliad that you need to add to your collection!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Amazing Aglaonemas

Aglaonema 'Creta' December 2010
In the last few years, the ubiquitous Aglaonema has made a resurgence in popularity because of its new amazing cultivars.  I acquired this Aglaonema 'Creta'  in 2010. It seems much less colorful in the picture above, but it is also about 6 feet from the west window. In the pictures below, it has a much brighter red color, as the plant is right on the windowsill. 

Aglaonema 'Creta' today
Aglaonema 'Creta'
Aglaonema 'Creta'
Aglaonema that most people are familiar with

These plants are known for being the go-to plant in the interior plantscape industry for low light areas. I don't mind them, but they all look pretty much the same to me. Most were variegated but just didn't float my boat. Now, with these plants with the pink and red accents, my mind has changed. Some of them really almost resemble caladiums with their spots, speckles, and stripes. They are beautiful! I've even found that some of the "old fashioned" ones are more attractive than I had originally thought.
These newer ones below I saw this summer at Cultivate '14, the trade show where a lot of the new introductions of annuals, perennials, and some houseplants are showcased. I really begged for some of these, but alas, to no avail.
'Pink Jade' Aglaonema
I'll be honest, at first glance, I thought this 'Pink Jade' was a new rubber plant (Ficus elastica). It does look like one with a pink midrib.

'Pink Jade' Aglaonema
In the past, the only way to get this much color in a houseplant, you would have to use a croton, but they only like full sun. With Aglaonemas, you get the color with much less sun needed. I really think with these colorful plants, you may need a little more sun than the with the old fashioned green ones. As you can see above, my 'Creta' definitely has more color with more sun, but it was still colorful even without so much sun. Any amount of color is a win in a dark corner. 
'Spring Snow' Aglaonema
'Emerald Holiday' Aglaonema
'Pink Passion' Aglaonema
How easy are these plants to take care of, you ask? Very easy in my experience. They really don't have a lot of diseases or pests that bother them. On occasion you may deal with a mealybug but not much else. They are easily reproduced by cuttings or by division, but remember propagating a named variety is illegal. Just sayin'. 
A friend asked if they were easier than crotons. I said yes, because crotons need full sun to keep their color and do not want to ever dry out. If this happens, they lose leaves and may get a bad case of spider mites. (Spider mites love dry plants.) Whereas, aglaonemas want to dry out quite a bit before they are watered again. Not bone dry, but don't water if you feel the soil and it feels at all moist. They also aren't bothered by low humidity levels that usually exist in out homes.  So in my estimation, taking lower light levels and less water makes it an easier plant to take care of. My very "brown thumbed" daughter has one in her apartment and has had it for over a year and it is growing by leaps and bounds. It was in her foyer at least 10-12' from an East window. Now it is in a North window, as she moved and it is still doing great. These plants have the ability to survive conditions other houseplants don't appreciate and react badly to.
'Pink Valentine' Aglaonema leaf
Aglaonema 'Etta Rose'
These plants are native to SE Asia and the Philippine Islands. Their name comes from the Greek words aglaos- "Bright"  and nema- "thread" referring to its "shining stamen".  People in these areas feel that growing them brings them luck.  I am not a big believer in plants bringing me "luck" but I think if you bring home one of these beautiful plants your home will be "lucky" to have one.

Aglaonema 'Etta Rose'