Blooming tropical plants are the Houseplants of the month for May 2016
Exotic shapes, jungle colours and pent-up natural power come together this month in three houseplants which bring a touch of adventure to any living room.
With the holiday season almost upon us, tropical plants offer a taste of sunny places to come. And with the right care they can bloom until well into late summer, so that you can still enjoy them then. What all three of these beauties have in common is their remarkable colour, which ranges from soft and flaming rose-red to yellow, orange and pink. The leaves are impressive: from dark green and rippled to corkscrew curls and proud lances. The most spectacular specimens from south of the Equator, just sitting around your home.
More = more
The distinctive foliage and spectacular flowers of Medinilla, Gloriosa (glory lily or climbing lily) and Anigozanthos (kangaroo paw) offer plenty of visual stimuli. That fits well with the revival of the cheerful Memphis style from the 1980s, with geometric patterns and playful picture puzzles. That in turn fits with the current constant flow of online updates and being permanently connected to everything. These houseplants provide an energetic and creative boost for an environment which is already in flux. Sometimes more really is just more.
Amidst elegantly rippling leaves, square stems grow in high arches bearing large pink bells. When they open, a cluster of deep pink flowers emerge. So there is always something to see with Medinilla. This majestic houseplant prefers a very light spot, but not in direct sunlight. The plant will tell you how it’s feeling: if the leaves and the buds are dark or black, the soil is too wet and/or the position is too dark. Slightly drooping leaves and buds require extra water. If you act in time, you will have a fantastic houseplant which can flower for 3 to 5 months.
- Medinilla grows wild in Southeast Asia, the Pacific and tropical Africa.
- The plant has been known since the middle of the 19th century, when it was first described by the English collector J. H. Veitch.
- On the Philippines the flower is the symbol of Lakapati, the friendly goddess of fertility, who has many manifestations, just like Medinilla.
- Medinilla has been described by leading plant author Rob Herwig as ‘the Rolls-Royce of houseplants’ because it is so unusual.
- Give this fabulous houseplant an appropriate spot: because the flowers hang low, Medinilla looks best in a high position.
Big, green and transparent, with corkscrew curls all around that want to climb (they can reach up to a height of two metres in the wild). Then there are the famous flowers: dark red, bright pink or orange with saffron yellow. With long stamens that are at right angles to the petals appearing to float. Gloriosa is not only fabulous to look at, but as a lily-like tuber plant which climbs it is also a botanical curiosity. A position in the morning sun helps to keep this houseplant looking good. The water must also be able to drain away: wet feet will affect the tuber. So opt for a tall pot in which the plant pot can be raised and do not allow the temperature drop below 16 °C.
- The plant originates from the temperate zones of Africa and West Asia.
- Eight weeks after the plant has finished flowering, leave the soil to dry out completely. The plant will die back, but will produce new tubers. Leave to overwinter in a cool, dry bedroom. Remove the new tubers from the soil in April and carefully replant. A fabulous new Gloriosa will emerge from them.
- Gloriosa symbolises fame and honour – what else could it be?
- The plant derives its nickname of ‘glory lily’ from the fabulous flowers. The other nickname – climbing lily – is inspired by the curling tendrils which readily wrap themselves around things.
- It’s the national flower of Zimbabwe, where the plant is protected and is called ‘fire lily’: all life is said to have originated from it.
Branched, leafless stems grow from a rosette of pointy, narrow green leaves. In the wild they can reach a length of two metres, but domesticated Anigozanthos maintain a manageable size. At the top of the stems are whimsical cylinders in red, yellow, orange or pink. No two are the same. The cylinders are covered in hairs, making them look like velvet. Each cylinder contains a flower like a fan with six petals on top of the cylinder: unusual, decorative and as ancient as the Aboriginals’ Dreamtime. Being a desert plant, Anigozanthos likes a warm, sunny spot in porous soil which can be left to dry out from time to time: it’s better to water too little than too much.
- Anigozanthos or kangaroo paw comes from Australia; the flowers resemble the marsupial’s front paws. The red and green variety is the floral emblem of Western Australia.
- The name Anigozanthos comes from the Greek ‘anises’ (uneven) and ‘anthos’ (flower).
- The shape of the plant determines its symbolism: it’s a houseplant that represents individuality and uniqueness.
- Some twelve species and fifty cultivars of the kangaroo paw have been identified since 1792.
For more information see: www.thejoyofplants.co.uk
Published on: 21 April 2016