Pattern Plants as Indoor Decorations

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Pattern plants (here, peace lilies) add a vibrant, earthy aspect to any home. Think too about choosing pots that suit the decor. Source: http://www.flowercouncil.co.uk

A Guest Blog by Vicky Layton

Decorating your home is always an exciting opportunity for you to add your personal touch, particularly if you’ve just moved house and you’re starting with a blank canvas. Your home design should reflect your family daily life as well as being a comfortable and practical living space. Greenery can add a vibrant, earthy aspect to any home, as well as providing you with cleaner air due to its filtering properties.

Pattern plants, in particular, bring another dimension to your home as a stylish accessory. What is a pattern plant exactly? They’re essentially plants with an extra something special, whether that’s patterned leaves or unusual flowers; they look great around the home.

So, whether you’re decorating from scratch or rejuvenating a tired room in your home, here’s a guide to using pattern plants as indoor decorations:

In the Lounge or Conservatory

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Add greenery to a lounge for a finishing touch. Source: Shabd Simon-Alexander, http://www.gardenista.com

The lounge and conservatory are living spaces where all the family congregate at the end of a busy day. Conservatories are a relaxing area that your guests are likely to spend a lot of time in whenever they come over, especially in summer, so the interior design of the room is important. Complement your conservatory furniture with a dash of greenery. Greenery can add life and color to an otherwise minimal room. The best part of greenery in a lounge or conservatory is dotting them around to create a subtle yet beautiful overall aesthetic. Pattern plants that work well in a lounge or conservatory include: watermelon peperomia, zebra plant and peace lily.

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Watermelon peperomia (Peperomia argyreia). Source: shop.pistilsnursery.com

  • Watermelon peperomias (Peperomia argyreia) have a gorgeous reddish tint on the stems and underside of the leaves, ideal if your lounge color palette includes warming colors.

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    Zebra plant (Calathea zebrina). Source: hortology.co.uk

  • Zebra plants (Calathea zebrina) are aptly named because of the zebra pattern running down the leaves, a beautiful art deco style plant that looks wonderful in the living room.
  • Peace lilies (Spathiphyllum) are dark green with white “flowers” (which is actually a white leaf that grows hooded over the real flowers). They look sensational against a bold wallpaper or places in the middle of a coffee table for a touch of sophistication.

Bedroom Decoration

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Plants in the bedroom clean the air and give extra oxygen. Source: www.houseandhome.ie

Your bedroom decoration doesn’t need to please everyone’s tastes: it’s your own private retreat. When it comes to delicate pattern plants in your bedroom, the options are endless.

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Satin pothos (Scindapsus pictus). Source: pistilsnursery.com

Satin pothos (Scindapsus pictus) looks smart and polished. The leaves have a silvery pattern and a beautiful teardrop shape.

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Prayer plant (Maranta leuconeura). Source: carlosbato-arte.blogspot.com.

Similarly, a prayer plant (Maranta leuconeura) has interestingly shaped leaves, as well as symmetrical dark green patterns running through them. Don’t forget that the pots the plants grow in can also be an opportunity to add color and style.

For the Bathroom

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Succulents won’t live forever in most bathrooms, too dark for their taste, but you can switch them with other plants regularly, moving them into bright sun. Source: Nooches, Hannah Jackson

Many people don’t consider a bathroom as a prime place to include greenery in the home, but it’s a wonderful opportunity to add come character and color to the space. Bathrooms are typically white, mostly due to the white fixtures, so the contrast of green colors works particularly well. Low-maintenance plants are ideal for the bathroom, as it’s likely you’ll want to focus most of your attention on the main rooms in the house. Succulents such as cacti are popular choices as bathroom plants, as they require very little upkeep but look quirky and interesting placed on a bathroom shelf.

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The snake plant (Sanseveria trifasciata) tolerates low light better than most other succulents and is an ideal choice for the windowless bathroom. Source: www.waitrosegarden.

Snake plants (Sanseveria trifasciata) also need little attention, but the shape of the leaves and striped patterns will give the bathroom a boost of color and style.

Pattern Plants Around the Home

The next time you’re taking on a design project in your home and you’re gathering together the ornaments and finishing touches for decoration; consider a pattern plant as an unusual alternative.

20181002I Vicky Layton.jpgVicky Layton

Hi! My name is Vicky, I’m an interior designer, running enthusiast and occasional model. Fashion and design are and will always be my passions and I also love sports. I am currently doing an internship but I would love to open my showroom soon!

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15 Easy Houseplants for Beginners

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Start with easy houseplants before you move on to the more complicated ones. Source: Darlene Taylor, YouTube

Why do novice gardeners always seem to start with the most complicated houseplants? Gardenias, bonsais, carnivorous plants, living stones and, in fact, flowering plants in general (hibiscus, azaleas, etc.) are the ones even the most experienced gardeners often struggle to grow. Ideally, if you’re a beginning gardener, you’d start with easy plants, ones that can put up with both a bit of neglect and overly enthusiastic care.

Once you’ve successfully kept a few easy plants alive and in reasonably good shape for a year or so, consider your thumb to be getting green. Then you’ll be ready to move on to more difficult varieties.

The following 15 plants are about as close to unkillable as any plant could be and will succeed in almost all indoor conditions. In particular, they’ll tolerate low light and irregular waterings, always the leading causes of houseplant death, and will also put up with dry air, another major problem in many homes.

  1. Aspidistra or Cast Iron Plant (Aspidistra elatior)
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Aspidistra (Aspidistra elatior). Source: www.palmaverde.nl

This old-fashioned houseplant is back on the market. It gets the common name from its cast-iron constitution. Or maybe it’s slow growth is what gives the impression it’s made of cast iron. In fact, though, it does grow, only very slowly. An aspidistra looks rather like a giant clump of lily of the valley, but without the flowers. Its dark green leathery leaves are sometimes spotted or striped yellow or white. It’s very tolerant of low light and in fact, doesn’t much appreciate full sun.

  1. Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema)
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Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema). Source: http://www.homedepot.com

This is an upright-growing plant with short, thick stems and fleshy lanceolate leaves, often marked with silver and sometimes, in newer cultivars, with pink or red instead. Its growth is extremely slow … but it tolerates all but the darkest corners! It may even bloom one day and produce attractive red berries … but that can take years! It’s best to consider it as being a foliage plant.

  1. Dieffenbachia or Dumbcane (Dieffenbachia)
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Dieffenbachia (Dieffenbachia). Source: www.homedepot.com

This is a strongly upright growing plant erect with a thick “trunk” and huge broad leaves usually spotted with white. When it reaches the ceiling (and it will over time), just cut off the top and reroot it as a cutting. A new stalk will also appear from the base of the mother plant. The name dumbcane refers to the fact that it’s toxic sap can render the chewer temporarily incapable of speech, but don’t ever chew on this plant, even as a joke: it’s poisonous! This is an old-time favorite, often found in dark churches and office hallways where it has apparently been growing since forever.

  1. Dracaena or Dragon Tree (Dracaena spp.)
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Dracaena (Dracaena fragrans ‘Massangeana’). Source: http://www.homedepot.com

There are several species of Dracaena, but the easiest to cultivate is the so-called corn plant (D. fragans), the one with a thick, woody trunk and large, arching, lanceolate leaves, sometimes with a yellowish band in the center. It does indeed look like a corn plant! D. deremensis, often just called dracaena, is similar and indeed, is now considered simply a variety of D. fragrans (yes, change your plant label!). Just as easy to grow as the original D. fragrans, it has narrower, darker green leaves, sometimes striped white or yellow.

  1. Dwarf Schefflera or Dwarf Umbrella Tree (Schefflera arboricola, syn. Heptapleurum arboricola)
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Dwarf Schefflera (Schefflera arboricola). Source: http://www.plantandpot.nz

Much easier to grow than the other commonly grown schefflera, the one with larger leaves (S. actinophylla), the only truly dwarf thing about the dwarf schefflera is its leaves, as it can become quite a sizable indoor tree over time. It has dark green palmately compound leaves, definitely a bit umbrella like. In some cultivars, they are variegated with white, cream or yellow markings. Its branches tend to arch out at awkward angles: don’t hesitate to prune them back to stimulate denser, more attractive growth. A classic plant for banks and malls because of its indifference to neglect.

  1. False Shamrock (Oxalis triangularis, syn. O. regnellii)
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False Shamrock (Oxalis triangularis). Source: hop.harros-pflanzenwelt.de

No, it’s not a true shamrock (Trifolium), but it does bear three leaflets, each triangular in form. They can be green or purple, often with a silver or pink mark. Oddly, they close up at night. This is probably the easiest houseplant to bloom and indeed, flowers quite readily and pretty much all year, with pink or white flowers. It’s very easy to grow and can go fully dormant if you neglect it long enough, then sprout anew from its underground rhizomes when you start to water again. That said, it’s certainly not maintenance-free, always needing a bit of grooming, as there always seem to be a few dried leaves or dead flowers to remove.

  1. Fiddleleaf Fig (Ficus lyrata, syn. F. pandurata)
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Fiddleleaf Fig (Ficus lyrata). Source: http://www.homedepot.com

Probably the easiest of the many figs or ficuses sold as houseplants, it doesn’t drop its leaves when you move it like the more commonly grown weeping fig (Ficus benjamina). The large dark green leathery leaves are indeed fiddle-shaped, as the common name suggests. It becomes huge over time: don’t hesitate to cut it back when it goes too far.

  1. Heartleaf Philodendron (Philodendron hederaceum, formerly P. scandens, P. cordatum and P. oxycardium)
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Heartleaf philodendron (Philodendron hederaceum). Source: http://www.amazon.com

This climbing aroid bears dark green heart-shaped leaves. Its shade tolerance is legendary: I know of plants over 50 years old that have not seen a single ray of direct sun since they were purchased! You can grow this plant up a trellis or moss stake or let it dangle attractively from a hanging basket. Note that this plant has gone through several botanical name changes over the years and is now Philodendron hederaceum. Let’s hope this name sticks!

  1. Hoya, Wax Plant or Porcelainflower (Hoya carnosa)
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Hoya (Hoya carnosa). Source: Yvan Leduc, Wikimedia Commons

The hoya is one of the few plants that blooms well even in the shade. On the other hand, the growth of this climbing plant is terribly slow: it can take 5 to 10 years before producing its first umbels of pink or white perfumed flowers, each with a darker crown in the center. In the meantime, fortunately, its foliage is attractive: thick and waxy, sometimes variegated or curiously twisted. It’s a climbing or hanging plant whose stems tend to get out of hand, so you may need to do a bit of pruning.

  1. Ponytail Palm or Elephant’s Foot (Beaucarnea recurvata)
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Ponytail palm (Beaucarnea recurvata). Source: http://www.ikea.com

Succulent plant with a surprising tolerance of dark corners (most succulents require intense light). The trunk of this small tree is swollen at the base, like an elephant’s foot, while its long, narrow, often wavy leaves hang down like a pony tail, the source of its common names. It’s a tough, easy plant, but very slow growing.

  1. Pothos or Devil’s Ivy (Epipremnum aureum)
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Pothos (Epipremnum aureum ‘Marble Queen’). Source: http://www.instagram.com

Very similar in appearance and habit to the heartleaf philodendron, but with leaves not as distinctly heart-shaped and always streaked or marbled yellow or white. Like the philodendron, you can grow it either as a climber or a trailer.

  1. Snake Plant or Mother-in-law’s Tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata)
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Snake plant (Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Laurentii’). Source: http://www.homedepot.com

This succulent has long, leathery, lance-shaped, dark green leaves with gray mottling that rise from the soil in tight clumps. There are also both dwarf varieties (bird’s nest sansevierias) and cultivars with various kinds of leaf coloring, from entirely dark green to highly variegated. It’s one of the most shade-tolerant houseplants, although in fact it prefers intense sunlight.

  1. Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum)
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Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum ‘Vittatum’). Source: brightside.me

Always popular, with a rosette of thin, arching, ribbon-like leaves often streaked with creamy white. It’s usually surrounded by countless “babies” on trailing umbilical cords (actually, stolons) and is popular as a hanging basket plant. It will tolerate most indoor conditions, but will stop producing plantlets if it doesn’t receive at least medium light.

  1. Syngonium or Arrowhead Vine (Sygonium)
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Syngonium (Syngonium podophyllum). Source: http://www.homedepot.com

Another obvious philodendron relative, just as resistant to low light. Young plants produce a compact rosette of arrow-shaped leaves sometimes marbled or streaked with cream, pink or red, but the plant completely changes its habit over time, developing long climbing or trailing stems and deeply cut leaves. You can prune it back to keep it in its juvenile appearance.

  1. ZZ Plant or Aroid Palm (Zamioculcas zamiifolia)
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ZZ Plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia). Source: http://www.homedepot.com

This is plant is an aroid (as plants in the philodendron family are called), but it’s a very unusual one and it certainly couldn’t look less like a philodendron! Instead, it bears pinnate fronds with shiny leaflets and a distinctly swollen petiole, making it look like a palm or cycad, but without a trunk. It’s perfectly at ease in the shadiest spots and very tolerant of neglect.

Easy Peasy Plant Care

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Caring for these 15 houseplants is pretty basic. Source: clipart-library.com

Obviously, each of these plants has its preferences when it comes to growing conditions, but all of them are tolerant of a wide range of environments, from full sun to deep shade (with, I hope, at least some light: after all, the plants receive all their energy from the sun)! They also make great office plants, able to grow far from the nearest window, living strictly on light coming from ceiling fixtures. All are perfectly fine with normal indoor temperatures and will tolerate dry indoor air in winter … but most would still prefer good atmospheric humidity if you can supply it.

As for watering, simply apply the golden rule of watering: water deeply, enough to moisten the entire root ball, then allow the soil to dry before watering again. Really, caring for them couldn’t be easier!

You don’t even need to fertilize these plants! At least, not if you’re growing them in low light. Under good lighting, you can simply apply an all-purpose fertilizer at a quarter of the manufacturer’s recommended does from April to October.


And there you go! 15 houseplants that you can place almost anywhere indoors and that will decorate your home for decades. Practice using these very basic, hard-to-kill plants to build up your indoor gardening skills before you start experimenting with more complicated houseplants, such as flowering plants, bonsais, living stones and others.

Have fun!20180126A Darlene Taylor, YouTube

50 Houseplants That Don’t Mind Dry Air

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Most houseplants just don’t do well in desert-dry air! Source: pexels.com

Dry air is a major problem for houseplants in the winter… and indeed, any indoor plant (seedlings, cuttings, etc.). When the atmospheric humidity is less than 40%, certainly common enough in many homes, plants try hard to compensate by transpiring more heavily, that is, by releasing water to the air through their stomata (breathing pores). The drier the air, the more they transpire, and that can lead to their tissues losing water more rapidly than their roots can replace it. This can result in all sorts of symptoms of stress: wilting, flower buds turning brown, leaves curling under, brown leaf tips, even the death of the plant.

And if that weren’t enough, leaves stressed by dry air are also more subject to pest damage (red spider mites, whiteflies, thrips, etc.)

Some Plants Can Cope

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Plants with thick, waxy leaves cope better with dry air than those with thin ones. Source: davisla.wordpress.com.

That said, many plants, especially those native to arid climates or ones where they are exposed to long periods of drought, have developed ways of compensating for dry air. Cacti and succulents are usually very resistant to dry air and so are some epiphytic plants, like hoyas.

Some plants resist dry air by producing leaves with fewer stomata than normal, thus reducing water loss. Many have abandoned leaves altogether and breathe through their green stems (many cacti, for example). Others keep their stomata closed during the day, when the sun is hottest and water loss is greatest, breathing only a night. (This is called Crassulacean acid metabolism or CAM.) In other words, they essentially hold their breath 12 hours a day! Also, plants resistant to dry air often have extra-thick leaves or leaves coated with wax, powder or hair, all of which reduce evaporation.

Plants That Don’t Mind Dry Air

What follows are a few houseplants that don’t really mind it if the air in your home is on the dry side. Not that they will suffer if you increase the humidity to levels more acceptable to plants in general (most plants prefer a relative humidity of 50% or above) and that indeed is good for your health too, but if improving the atmospheric humidity something you just can’t do, at least these plants will pull through without a complaint!

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Aeonium arboreum ‘Atropurpureum’: one example of a plant that tolerates dry air. Source, Bernard Dupont, Wikimedia Commons

  1. Aeonium spp. (tree houseleek)
  2. Agave spp. (century plant)
  3. Aglaonema spp. (Chinese evergreen)
  4. Aloe spp. (aloe)
  5. Ananas comosus (pineapple plant)
  6. Aspidistra elatior (cast iron plant)
  7. Beaucarnea recurvata (ponytail palm)
  8. Cephalocereus senilis (old man cactus)
  9. Cereus peruvianus (Peruvian apple cactus)
  10. Ceropegia woodii (rosary vine)
  11. Clivia miniata (clivia)
  12. Crassula ovata (jade plant)
  13. Crassula spp. (crassula)
  14. Cryptanthus spp. (earth star)

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    The thick leaves of the dieffenbachia can generally cope quite well with drier air, but you can see just a bit of damage at the tip of this one. Source: Forest & Kim Starr, Wikimedia Commons

  15. Dieffenbachia spp. (dumbcane)
  16. Echeveria spp. (echeveria)
  17. Echinocactus grusonii (golden ball cactus)
  18. Epipremnum aureum (pothos, devil’s ivy)
  19. × Epicactus (orchid cactus)
  20. Euphorbia lactea (candelabra spurge)
  21. Euphorbia milii (crown of thorns)
  22. Euphorbia tirucalli (pencil cactus)
  23. Ficus elastica (rubber tree)
  24. Ficus lyrata (fiddle leaf fig)
  25. Gasteria spp. (ox tongue)
  26. Gymnocalycium mihanovichii friedrichii ‘Hibotan’ (red ball cactus)
  27. Haworthia spp. (zebra plant)
  28. Hippeastrum cvs (amaryllis)
  29. Hoya carnosa (wax plant)
  30. Kalanchoe (kalanchoe, panda plant)
  31. Ledebouria socialis (silver squill)

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    Few plants tolerate dry air as well as living stones (Lithops). Source: Dysmorodrepanis, Wikimedia Commons

  32. Lithops spp. (living stone)
  33. Mammillaria spp. (pincushion cactus)
  34. Opuntia spp. (bunny ears)
  35. Pachypodium lamerei (Madagascar palm)
  36. Pelargonium graveolens (rose-scented geranium)
  37. Pelargonium × hortorum (zonal pelargonium, zonal geranium)
  38. Peperomia obtusifolia, P. clusiifolia (baby rubber plant)
  39. Philodendron hederaceum oxycardium (heartleaf philodendron)
  40. Rhipsalis spp. (mistletoe cactus)
  41. Sansevieria trifasciata (snake plant)
  42. Schlumbergera (Christmas cactus)
  43. Sedum spp. (sedum, donkey’s tail)

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    The nearly round leaves of Senecio rowleyanus are designed to reduce evapotranspiration. Source: Forest & Kim Starr, flickr

  44. Senecio rowleyanus (string-of-pearls)
  45. Senecio serpens (blue chalksticks)
  46. Stapelia spp. (carrion flower)
  47. Streltizia reginae (bird of paradise)
  48. Syngonium spp. (arrowhead vine)
  49. Yucca elephantipes (spineless yucca)
  50. Zamioculcas zamiifolia (zeezee plant)20171227A pexels.com

4 Other Plants With Weird Foliage

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The curious leaves of Albuca spiralis ‘Frizzle Sizzle’ roll up as if someone had taken a curling iron to them! Source: www.palmenmann.de

I recently wrote a blog called 5 Plants with Weird Foliage and promised more. Here’s a second blog on the subject featuring four other plants with really strange leaves.

Corkscrew Albuca (Albuca spiralis ‘Frizzle Sizzle’)

Nobody knows why corkscrew albuca leaves curl up like corkscrews, but that’s what they do, both in the wild (South Africa) and in our homes. Perhaps curled leaves offer some protection against the very intense sun of its native land? But that’s just my guess. I’ve never heard of any study on the subject.

From Collector’s Object to (Almost) Everyday Annual

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The bulb is usually buried, but you can leave it partly exposed if you wish. Source: ingrijireaflorilor.ro

This plant was once a rare collector’s item, but has, over the last few years, become somewhat of a garden center star, showing up by the hundreds in nurseries and selling like hot cakes. You’ll mostly see it offered as an annual in the spring: a single plant in a small pot. However, it’s much more expensive than the average annual: you’re not likely to be willing to fork out the money to do mass plantings of it like you might a petunia! It’s best to think of it as a “horticultural curiosity” and to use it as such, giving it a starring role in a container rather than losing it from sight in a crowded flower bed.

I recommend using corkscrew albuca as a houseplant. You might want to put it outside for the summer, of course, but do bring it back indoors in the fall. Of course, readers from milder climates than mine (zones 8 to 11) can also experiment with it as a permanent outdoor plant. I’ve heard that it’s not hard to grow outdoors, especially if you can give it a Mediterranean climate: hot, dry summers and cool, rainier winters.

I don’t suspect this plant will remain popular very long, though. It’s definitely more a curiosity than truly pretty. Most people try it once, enjoy it, then go on to other things. It’s the kind of plant only plant collectors really love.

A Description

Albuca spiralis ’Frizzle Sizzle is a small succulent plant, about 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 cm) tall and 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 cm), from the Asparagaceae family. It sprouts from an underground bulb (although, if you want to, you could grow the bulb nearly completely exposed, with only its base and roots buried). It looks much a round greenish onion. (But don’t eat it: it’s poisonous.)

The spiral leaves are medium green, sometimes a little bluish. The drier the conditions are, the more the leaves curl, so don’t overwater. Ditto for fertilization. Rich soil means fewer swirls!

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The blooms on Albuca spiralis ‘Frizzle Sizzle’ are surprising enough, but not necessarily striking. Source: www.kukkala.fi

Flowers are borne on short, upright stalks 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 cm) tall;, with 10 to 20 flowers per stem. The flowers are rather modest in color: green and yellowish. They remind me of dangling trumpet daffodils. There are six tepals, three spreading outwards and three forming a trumpetlike tube. They’re pleasantly scented, but  you have to stick your nose into the flower to really notice.

This cultivar, ‘Frizzle Sizzle’, is a selection of the species made by Dutch nurseryman Gerardus Adrianus Maria Zwidgerst. While it’s said to be curlier than the species (a questionable claim, in my view), it’s true value is that ‘Frizzle Sizzle’ is less linked to a winter-growing season than the species. I’ve tried a few albucas in the past and they were all winter-growing plants. Unfortunately, the very short winter days and resulting low light in my climate didn’t suit them. They tended to remain spindly and were not easy to bloom.

The ‘Frizzle Sizzle’ plant you buy, though, is already primed for spring through summer growth and will likely bloom sporadically throughout the summer. Theoretically, it would then go into dormancy in the fall, losing all its leaves, and stay dormant through the winter before sprouting again in spring for another cycle. And you can grow it like that: you just have to withhold water from fall until you see new growth in spring. However, under most home conditions, I’ve found it will continue to grow all winter as long as you water it.

How to Grow It

Place your corkscrew albuca in a sunny location and water only when the soil is dry. Remember it’s a succulent and doesn’t want to be left soaking. Fertilize only lightly and even then, only while it’s growing. There is no need provide increased air humidity for this plant.

Regular indoor temperatures are fine and you can store it cool for the winter if you allow it to go dormant. It’s said to tolerate a bit of frost, but I wouldn’t risk it if I were you. Any well-drained potting soil will do when the time comes to repot it.

There is one obvious reason why this particular cultivar is widely available: it’s very prolific. It produces multiple offsets you can divide and pot up. They’ll bloom once the bulb is full size, often after only one year.

Titan Arum or Corpse Flower (Amorphophallus titanum)

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The so-called corpse flower does indeed smell of eau de rotting body. Source: Leif Jørgensen, Wikimedia Commons

This plant of the Araceae family is best known for having the largest unbranched inflorescence in the world, sometimes reaching over 10 feet (3.5 m) in height. Whenever it blossoms in a botanical garden, its flowering becomes a huge media event and people come in huge numbers, often lining up for hours to see and smell it (because the inflorescence gives off a nauseating odor, whence the name corpse flower). The flowering lasts only about two or three days, though, so when you hear one is blooming in your area, get over there fast!

The shape of the giant “flower” is also quite suggestive, as the botanical name Amorphophallus titanum means “giant deformed penis.” This “penis” refers to the columnar spadix in the center made up of thousands of tiny flowers. It is surrounded by a huge spathe (bract), green on the outside and a lugubrious deep purple on the inside. Definitely more curious than beautiful.

Leaf as Weird as the Bloom

In the average article about this plant, the story ends there. No one ever seems to mention that the leaf is just as weird and spectacular as the flower … but that’s the point of this particular article.

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Tain’t a tree, tis but a leaf: a titanic leaf. Source: botanistspicnic.blogspot.cab

A full-size leaf can reach 23 feet (7 m) in height and 15 feet (5 m) in diameter. Plus the leaf is around for a much longer time: months every year rather than just a few days. In the wild, it goes dormant annually for four to six months, but potted specimens often hold onto their leaf almost all year, until another leaf is ready to grow.

The leaf, in fact, looks more like an entire tree than a leaf. Its thick purple-mottled green petiole, up to a 8 inches (20 cm) in diameter, grows straight upward, like a trunk, and it’s topped with what appear to be leafy branches. However, all the greenery comes from just one single leaf so divided into hundreds of leaflets it looks like a tree top. Distinctly weird, for sure, but also beautiful. Yes, sometimes the two do go together!

You won’t see both flower and leaf on the same plant, at least, not at once. The plant retreats into dormancy in its huge underground tuber and blooms while it is leafless.

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Tuber of titan arum. Source: www.eiu.edu

The tuber is also a record breaker. It increases in size year after year and can reach the incredible weight of 340 lb (154 kg)! It takes a huge pot (I hear Kew Gardens uses 1000 liter containers) to hold it! After the plant blooms, the tuber will shrink back considerably and the next leaf will also lose its titanic size, reaching no higher than the height of the average man. Then both the leaf and the tuber grow in size year after year, storing energy for the upcoming flowering. It usually blooms every 7 to 10 years, depending on growing conditions, then the plant shrinks in size again … and the cycle starts anew.

Not Your Average Houseplant

Obviously, this plant is not a good choice for the average home or garden, at least not unless you live in a large tropical greenhouse or a torrid and humid jungle. While it only needs moderate lighting (it’s a woodland plant in the wild), it’s need for extremely high humidity (80% and above) and warm temperatures (21 to 25 ° C during the day and never less than 19 ° C even at night, at least during the growing season) make it nearly impossible to grow well … and there is also the question of space. Indoors, you’d need a three-story atrium to shelter it. That’s why this plant is usually only grown in botanical gardens.

Other Amorphophallus Species

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Devil’s tongue (Amorphophallus konjac), although a large plant , is small enough to make a reasonable garden plant or houseplant. Source: laidbackgardener.com

There are, however, smaller Amorphophallus species that would be more interesting for the average gardener, such as devil’s tongue, also called snake plant and voodoo lily, A. konjac (A. rivieri), which can be easily grown in pots either as a houseplant or a tender bulb. It can even grow outdoors year-round in mild enough climates (USDA zone 6/AgCan zone 7 and warmer). The single leaf still reaches a very impressive size: 4 to 6 feet (1.2 to 1.8 m) in height! Although this species has the capacity to bloom annually, it will only do so under ideal growing conditions. My plant succeeds no better than A. titanum does in most botanical gardens: it’s only bloomed twice in nearly 20 years … fortunately while it was outdoors for the summer, as the odor would be intolerable indoors. The patent leather purple inflorescence is still huge (and stinky), much like that of A. titanum in shape, although not nearly as large.

Note that the tuber of any amorphophallus must be well covered in soil, because the roots emerge from the top of the tuber, not from the bottom.

Finally, all amorphophallus species are toxic to humans, dogs and cats, although the cooked tuber of many species is edible.

Lettuce Leaf Begonia (Begonia x erythrophylla ’Bunchii’)

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Begonia ‘Bunchii’: a weird-leaved plant anyone can grow. Source: Gail G Taylor, Pinterest

Let’s move on to a more conveniently sized plant, a houseplant that any gardener could grow on a windowsill, but with leaves that are still in the “very weird” category: the so-called lettuce leaf begonia, Begonia x erythrophylla ‘Bunchii’.

This plant originally showed up as a mutation of the popular water-lily begonia (B. x erythrophylla) in 1914 and was named for its discoverer, Lloyd Bunch. Instead of having the smooth leaves typical of the species, the leaf margins of ‘Bunchii’ are strongly ruffled and curled, a bit like curly leaf lettuce as the common name suggests. In addition, the leaves are attractively colored: shiny dark bronzy green above and wine red below. Also, the plant blooms readily in winter (it’s a short-day plant), producing clouds of small pale pink flowers.

This is a true hand-me-down houseplant, grown for generations all over the world, but is rarely offered commercially … probably because it is no longer as fashionable as it was 100 years ago!

The lettuce leaf begonia is easy to grow. It forms creeping aboveground rhizomes that slowly cover the surface of the pot and eventually dangle downwards as the plant matures, making it popular for hanging baskets. It readily tolerates average household conditions, including medium light and typical indoor temperatures. It will even put up with fairly dry air! A little fertilizer from time to time and sometimes a bit of a prune to keep it in check can be useful. This plant is easy to propagate through rhizome cuttings or even leaf or leaf section cuttings.

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Begonia. ‘Crestabruchii’ has even more densely curly leaf edges than Begonia x erythrophylla ‘Bunchii’: . Source. Laurel Carlisle, http://www.begonias.org

That said, ‘Bunchii’ is not the curliest of the begonias. I feel that title belongs to B. ‘Crestabruchii’, a similar but larger plant with bigger, hairier leaves that are extremely ruffled at the edge. On the other hand, I find ‘Crestabruchii’ more difficult to grow well, notably because it tends to go dormant in the fall and can be slow to awaken again in the spring. So, maybe the leaf of ‘Crestabruchii’ is the weirder of the two, but ‘Bruchii’ is much easier to grow.

Warty Echeveria (Echeveria gibbiflora carunculata)

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Strange warty growths on the leaves of Echeveria gibbiflora carunculata certainly give it an otherworldly appearance. Source: yandex.ru

Echeveria is a genus of succulent plants native to the arid regions of Central America and northern South America, named for the Mexican botanical artist Atanasio Echeverría. A member of the Crassulaceae family, it’s closely related to the genus Sedum. Typically, echeverias are short, stocky plants forming a dense rosette of thick leaves, often of a glaucous blue color or heavily covered with white hairs. In summer, they produce branching stalks bearing pink, red or orange bell-shaped flowers, often with yellow tips.

Echeverias look very similar to the well-known hen and chicks or houseleek (Sempervivum spp.) so often grown outdoors in rock gardens in cooler climates and indeed, they are essentially the frost-tender counterparts of the hardy European genus.

Weird Leaf Growths

Warty echeverias are variants or hybrids of E. gibbiflora, one of the largest echeverias. It normally bears smooth, thick, spoon-shaped leaves of a glaucous blue-green color highlighted in pink when the plant is grown in full sun. A variant with warty growths on the leaf top, E. gibbiflora carunculata, was brought into culture from Mexico and is the parent behind all the warty echeverias. The epithet carunculata means “bearing caruncles,” lumpy, bumpy irregular growths, much like the wattle (caruncule) of a turkey.

It’s not clear whether this form is really a subspecies found in the wild and therefore meriting the botanical name E. gibbiflora carunculata or whether it’s a cultivated variety, in which case E. gibbiflora ‘Carunculata’ would be more appropriate.

Whatever the plants’ origin, their leaves are truly weird, as if they were covered by lumps of molten lava. There are no two leaves alike and many of the cultivars have wavy or rolled leaves as well. These are large plants, with rosettes up to 12 inches (30 cm) in diameter. The summer flowers are usually thick red urns and of clearly secondary interest to the curious foliage.

With time, the lower leaves drop off, revealing a thick “trunk” … but most people judge this appearance unsightly and repot the plant occasionally, chopping a part of the bottom of the root ball off so it can be placed deeper in the pot. They then bury the bare part of the stem which soon roots into the surrounding soil. Or they simply cut the head off the plant and use it as a cutting. The “stump” left behind will then produce plantlets that you can remove and root.

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Echeveria ‘Etna’, with even more caruncles than the species, is probably the most popular warty echeveria. Source: worldofsucculents.com

Warty echeverias are quite readily found in garden centers, but usually bear no proper label, making exact identification almost impossible, as there are now many hybrids, including ‘Etna’ (probably the most common), ‘Cameo’, ‘Dick Wright’, ‘Mauna Loa’ and ‘Barbillion’ as well as the original E. gibbiflora carunculata. They can be very hard to tell apart, given the variability of their leaves.

Culture

Warty echeverias need full sun to do their best or if not, at least several hours of direct sun each day. Too much shade will cause the plants to decline, producing smaller and smaller leaves until they eventually die. In winter, when days are short and the sun is weak, you might want to move them to a spot under a bright fluorescent or LED light or at least keep them cool and very dry, nearly dormant, to stop any weak growth at that season.

Water relatively abundantly during the growing season, from spring until early fall. This is also the time of year to fertilize (any fertilizer would be suitable) at no more than 1/8th of the regularly recommended rate. In fall and especially the winter, try reduce watering to a minimum, only moistening the growing mix when the soil is thoroughly dry.

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Echeveria gibbiflora carunculata has undeniably weird leaves!. Source: archivo.infojardin.com.

Regular home temperatures are just fine spring through fall—warty echeverias tolerate even summer heat very well—but, again, unless you can provide plenty of light at that season, they’ll do best with a cool, dry winter. In theory, they can tolerate a touch of frost, but it’s best to avoid temperatures that cool.

The major concern of warty echeverias is high humidity: it can lead to rot. They prefer a well-ventilated spot. It’s especially important to avoid letting water form on the foliage in winter, as it tends to accumulate there and the rot it causes can be fatal. Always use a potting mix that drains well.

Warty echeverias are readily propagated by stem cuttings and offsets. They’re said to grow from leaf cuttings, too, but I’ve had no luck with that.


There you go! Four plants with remarkable and even weird leaves. Keeping visiting the blog even for more plants with weird foliage over the coming weeks and months.20171211A www.palmenmann.de