Sunday, December 30, 2012

Pretty picture: Dendrobium Green Wonder

"Green" is a stretch. Actually now that I think about it, "Wonder" might be too. The plant comes by both names more or less honestly, though: it's a cross of Dendrobium Wonder Nishii and D. Green Elf, therefore Green Wonder. I might have preferred Wonder Elf, but them's the breaks.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Unfinished business: Coffea arabica

Okay! The process of propagating Coffea arabica by seed has officially begun. Not that I'm trying to germinate them now or anything. Judging by the information I've found on-line, this is going to be a fairly long (potentially eight months?!) process, and we've only just begun. But, we're at least officially underway now.

First, I cut the cherries off the plant. Got ten of them in all; nine had two seeds, and the tenth had one seed, plus a tiny stunted seed that I threw away because it was obviously not going anywhere, for a total of nineteen.

Then, I cut through the skin and peeled it off of the seeds.

As I'd heard that coffee cherries were edible, I was excited to taste one for the first time. It was . . . disappointing. The husband and I agreed that the experience basically goes like this: first there's a brief initial mild pleasant sweetness that doesn't taste like anything in particular. Then there's a much stronger, longer-duration taste that strongly resembles a bell pepper, or bell pepper combined with freshly-mown grass. Then at the very end, there's a strong bitter aftertaste that doesn't last very long. The experience overall isn't terrible, but it didn't leave me with a strong desire to keep eating them, either. Schlumbergera fruits are better. (Though still not very good.)

The texture's also sort of a problem: the skin is tough (a little tougher than a cherry's skin: it might be closer to a plum), and just inside the skin there's a layer of stringy stuff that I can't think of a good comparison for. Then there's a clear thicker layer under that, with the approximate consistency of the interior of a grape. I don't know if you're supposed to eat that part too or not: I didn't try, because it was pretty firmly attached to the seed.

Top: skins without the seeds. Bottom left: fruits with seeds still inside. Bottom right: seeds separated from skins. The stunted not-quite-a-seed seed is at the top left of the pile of seeds.

The next step involved soaking them in water for two days. The grape-like stuff either partly dissolved in the water, or the seed inside expanded, because the layer got thinner. It didn't disappear entirely, though I think it was supposed to?

A lot of the seeds had some stringy bits attached; I don't know what it was, but it ran in between the two seeds in each fruit, and because the seeds were really slippery (also similar to the inside of a grape), I didn't bother trying to get it off of them. It came off after they soaked anyway.

After two days, I washed them off again (losing one seed down the sink drain in the process). The next step is apparently to let them dry, out of direct sun, for eight weeks, so nothing further will happen until 19 February.

The seeds stuck to the paper towel when I put them on, and some of the paper towel came off when I pulled them free so I could group them together for the picture. It looks like fungus, but it's not. Just so you know.

On 19 February, I get to pre-soak them in water again for 24 hours and plant them in damp vermiculite on the 20th. If any of them are going to germinate, they should do so somewhere between May 1 and late August, though a lot of people report very low germination percentages. I'm trying not to get my hopes up. This all feels like an awful lot of trouble to go to (If I want more small Coffea plants, they're easy enough to find, and not terribly expensive.), but . . . well, actually, I don't have anywhere to go with that: it's just an awful lot of trouble to go to.

This is all based on the recommendations of a page I can't find anymore, and may or may not be the best way to do this. It's apparently more standard for people to separate the seeds from the fruit, clean them up, and plant them more or less immediately. I'm going the long way around partly because the person who recommended this way said that they got better germination than the people who do it the other way (many of whom complained that they don't get much germination at all). We'll see.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Pretty pictures: Masdevallia Tortoise 'Plum Petite'

Image search confirms the "Tortoise" part; I couldn't find evidence that 'Plum Petite' exists. Though I suppose now I'm providing evidence that it exists, for anybody else who's searching Google, even though I'm not sure about it myself. Tricky how that works.

According to the tag, Masd. Tortoise is M. uniflora (solid pinkish-purple) x M. angulata (dull red-brown, variously spotted or solid depending on the specimen).

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Rerun: LOL Cactaceae

This was the hiatus announcement photo two years ago. Every year, I intend to do another one -- last year was going to be the bromeliad family (Bromeliaceae), but I didn't have a good place to set up for the photo, and wasn't sure what I'd do to make them festive (having done bows already, in 2008). This year, it was going to be the fig/mulberry family (Moraceae), and we had the decoration part of it covered, because we threw lights on the giant Ficus benjamina. But, the lights are "white" LEDs, and actually photograph kind of blue,1 and not particularly clearly, and we don't have lights for all the Ficuses in the house, and so it was just not possible this year. Again. Even though I'd started thinking about it in, like, September.

Therefore, a repeat.

Back row, L-R: Schlumbergera x buckleyi, Pachycereus marginatus, Echinocactus grusonii, Pilosocereus pachycladus, Astrophytum ornatum, Myrtillocactus geometrizans, Stenocereus pruinosus.
Middle row: Epiphyllum oxypetallum, Stenocereus thurberi, Isolatocereus dumortieri.
Front row: Cereus peruvianus, Rhipsalis teres var. heteroclada (?), Schlumbergera x 'Caribbean Dancer,' Browningia hertlingiana (?), Leuchtenbergia principis.

For the record, all the plants in the photo are still with me two years later, except for the Schlumbergera x buckleyi, which may or may not be (it was one of four or five plants, of which I still have two: the others have been sold or traded away, and I have no way to know which one was in the photo), and the Echinocereus grusonii, which just couldn't hack the low light, and I couldn't provide it with more light, so I wound up throwing it away in May. All the rest are still here, and a few of them are doing so well lately that you'd hardly recognize them, even. So.

Unlike in 2010, this isn't a hiatus announcement: there will be an orchid on Christmas. I just don't really have anything very interesting happening with the plants right now, so this was the best I could come up with for a blog post.


1Though it sort of coordinates nicely with the new blog colors:

Friday, December 21, 2012

Pretty picture: Paphiopedilum Jade Dragon?

I didn't see a tag for this while I was at the show, but when I got home and started looking through the photos afterward to pick the best one, I saw the sign in the background and wondered whether or not that sign was maybe supposed to go with this flower.

When I checked images on-line, that seemed plausible, so Paph. Jade Dragon (Paph. malipoense x Paph. fairrieanum) is my best guess. But maybe it's not.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

List: Missing From Retail, Part 5 of 5

The explanation and background for this post can be found here, at part 1. (Part 2) (Part 3) (Part 4)

So here we are at the end. It's been fun, right?

Russelia equisetiformis Photo by Eurico Zimbres, via Wikimedia Commons.

I have seen Russelia equisetiformis (firecracker plant, coral plant) for sale in Iowa once, maybe twice. The ex-job has had them. I don't know if they sold, or if they died really fast, but either way, they weren't around for very long. I have no idea what they'd be like to grow indoors, but they do get a lot bigger than I expected from the (mostly close-up) pictures in the books. I'd think providing adequate light would be a problem.

Salpiglossis sinuata cv. Photo by Hephaestos, via Wikimedia Commons.

I've never seen Salpiglossis cvv. (painted tongue) plants for sale, nor can I recall seeing the seeds anywhere. The seeds part could just be me not paying attention, but I know I would remember seeing the flowers.

The commenters at remark a couple times on the plants' tendency to wilt suddenly for no apparent reason, so it could be that it's difficult for growers to maintain a healthy-looking stock. Where they are sold, they are apparently typically marketed as annuals, though I believe they are actually perennials if protected from cold (USDA zone 8-11).

I encountered one reference to Salpiglossis that suggested its unavailability is mostly a matter of fashion, not a matter of difficulty. Fern also claims that Salpiglossis has come "roaring back" into fashion recently. I can't say I've seen any evidence of that here in Iowa.

Schizanthus wisetonensis 'Angel Wings.'

While researching this post, I've had a tough time keeping Schizanthus cvv. (butterfly flower, poor man's orchid) distinct in my mind from Salpiglossis; the two names both begin and end with "s," are nearly the same length, and are alphabetically close to one another, so I guess my brain would like them to be the same plant. Having now seen several photos of different varieties of each, though, I believe I can finally tell them apart. If nothing else, there's a clue in the name: schizo- means "split," so that'd be the one with the split petals.

I've never seen Schizanthus around here either, though there are a number of websites referring to growing them from seed, or growing them indoors, so apparently this really is something that people do. I couldn't swear I've never seen seeds for sale.

They're typically sold as annuals, but in mild climates may be short-lived perennials, so maybe it's the "short-lived" part that's the problem? They also need a lot of sun, are slow to start from seed, and at least one site said they prefer cool, humid conditions. Any of those could be a problem; all of them together seems like it would definitively rule them out as indoor plants. And yet, there they are in the books (Crockett and Kramer) anyway.

Senecio confusus 'Sao Paulo.' My photo.

I've only seen Senecio confusus once or twice; the first time (photographed above) was at the ex-job, and I can't recall for sure whether there was a second time or not. Its identity may be somewhat in flux: I found some sites claiming that it had been changed to Pseudogynoxys chenopodioides. Plant List says that both Pseudogynoxys chenopodioides and S. confusus are accepted names for (I assume) different species, so I don't actually even know what plant we're talking about.

It's another vining plant, that has the potential to get big (vines to 10-12 feet / 3.0-3.7 m long), which is possibly the only reason one needs not to grow it in one's house. That said, it's apparently also really easy to propagate, so it could probably be restarted regularly, whenever it gets too large. It also needs a lot of light.

Solanum pseudocapsicum? My photo.

Solanum pseudocapsicum (Jerusalem cherry; winter cherry; various botanical synonyms including S. capsicastrum) has never interested me that much, even when I saw it in books, but while I was reading through them in preparation for these posts, I noticed that it seemed to come up quite a bit (Kramer, Crockett, Powell). I've only ever seen it at the ex-job. If I remember correctly, that only happened a couple times, and they dropped a lot of leaves shortly after arrival on both occasions.

The consensus at is that they need cool bright conditions in the winter. They're possibly also not helped by their fairly plain appearance when not bearing fruit (though that doesn't stop people from growing Citrus), their appeal to bugs (not personally experienced, but that's the claim here) or the poisonous foliage and fruit.

Sonerila pulchella. Photo credited to Alexey Yakovlev, kind of obviously. Found via (and owned by?) Used in compliance with the non-commercial use guidelines on this page.

Only the Kramer book mentioned Sonerila cvv. (sonerila), and there's remarkably little about them on-line either, so it's entirely possible that they're not missing from retail so much as not yet arrived in retail. I had to go through four pages of Google results to find a single mention of them as a cultivated plant, and that (WARNING: autoplay video/audio) wasn't really what you'd call informative. (, on page 5 of the Google results, covers most of the same information in a much less chaotic context, and page 6 gives us the French version, which I can't read but possibly some of you can.)

There's near-universal consensus that they're attractive plants (many of the Google results are links to sonerila drawings, paintings, or photography), so I have to assume that there's a problem with them being too slow, or too touchy, for mass production. They do apparently demand a lot of warmth and high humidity, if nothing else.

Stanhopea radiosa. Photo: Orchi. Found via Wikimedia Commons.

(I'm fairly certain that I've seen Stanhopea spp./cvv. (no common name?) on the blog of at least one person I follow, but I can't remember who, or where. If I could remember that, I'd link to you, so if you think you might be the person I'm remembering, say something in the comments.)

I've never seen a Stanhopea for sale around here, even from specialty sellers or at the orchid show. Why not? No clue: they're apparently cultivated all the time. The short life of the flowers (~3 days, per Wikipedia), need for cooler temperatures (according to this care sheet, anyway) and odd growth habit (the flower spikes typically grow down instead of up, requiring plants to be hung for best display, and necessitating the use of special pots with holes in the sides) might all be factors.

Trachelospermum jasminoides. Photo by Wouter Hagens, via Wikimedia Commons.

Trachelospermum jasminoides (confederate jasmine, star jasmine) doesn't seem to be sold around here, though some of the true jasmines (Jasminum spp.) are. Not sure why this would be: a quick look around the internet didn't turn up anything especially damning. They can get to be big, heavy plants, but they restart easily from cuttings, so that shouldn't be a problem, and unlike a lot of the plants on these lists, Trachelospermum doesn't appear to require a cool winter (though cool winters are apparently not a problem, either). And I can't even remember the last time I heard so many people gush so hard about a single plant. (Not that the people are reliable gushers: they think Aspidistra elatior is a nice plant too.) So there's no huge, obvious reason why Trachelospermum wouldn't sell in Iowa. I might even be interested in a little one, if only to see why it's such a big deal.

Tolmiea menziesii. My photo.

I really, really tried with Tolmiea menziesii (piggyback plant, youth on age), but . . . no. Just no. At least some of my problem is that it's too warm in here -- they do prefer cool, humid air -- but I was never able to get watering right either.

It's not like they're even pretty; I'd gotten one because I'd been under the impression that they were fairly easy plants. They grew well in the greenhouse at work, so I figured they'd grow well for me too.

I do still see Tolmiea occasionally -- the ex-job has had large hanging baskets once or twice, and I'm pretty sure I've seen 4" plants at one other place in Iowa City as well -- but it's pretty rare. Fine by me.

Veltheimia bracteata 'Lemon Flame.' Photo by BotBln, via Wikimedia Commons.

Veltheimia cvv. (forest lily, cape lily, bush lily) do still get sold, if you know the right places. Unfortunately, none of those places seem to be in Eastern Iowa. V. bracteata is apparently a very nice houseplant, for people who can provide enough light, and who don't panic at a short summer dormancy. (Which rules me out, twice.)

The Bulb Maven attributes their disappearance to the whims of fashion,1 rather than difficulty providing the right growing conditions. Could be, I suppose, though I have no memories of them ever being widely available.

As I noted, I'm mildly curious about Trachelospermum jasminoides, unless someone can provide a compelling reason for me not to be. Schizanthus or Stanhopea would be my wouldn't-it-be-cool-if plants, from this group, but I don't anticipate ever actually trying them.

Not pictured:
  • Rechsteineria cardinalis (cardinal flower): have never seen.
  • Reinwardtia indica (syn. R. trigyna, yellow flax): have never seen.
  • Rivinia humilis (pigeonberry, rouge plant): have never seen.
  • Ruellia makoyana (monkey plant, Mexican wild petunia, trailing velvet plant): have never seen in person, though I see photos all over the place.
  • Schizocentron elegans (creeping princess flower): have never seen.
  • species Schlumbergeras: have never seen in person, though I'm pretty sure I've run into Schlumbergera gaertneri (now possibly Hatiora gaertneri) for sale a few times on the internet.
  • Sprekelia formosissima (Aztec lily, Jacobean lily): have never seen, but I ran into a few sellers on-line while writing this.
  • Streptosolen jamesonii (marmalade bush, orange browallia): have never seen.
  • Tabernaemontana divaricata (crepe jasmine): have never seen for sale. No idea if I've ever seen them in person.
  • Tetranema roseum (Mexican violet, Mexican foxglove): have never seen.
  • Tetrapanax papyriferus (rice-paper plant): have never seen for sale, though I've seen it on blogs, Danger Garden in particular, so I know they're out there.
  • Tibouchina semidecandra (princess flower, glory bush): have never seen.
  • Tulbaghia fragrans (sweet garlic, pink agapanthus): have never seen.
  • Vallota (apparently Cyrtanthus now; no common name?): have never seen.
  • Zephyranthes candida (rain lily, zephyr lily, fairy lily): have never seen.

1 (Also known as "plant obsolescence.")

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Random plant event: Gasteria bicolor

Got to sleep late on Sunday night, so I had a headache for most of the day yesterday, which had a predictable effect on my productivity and coherence of thought. So. Um. Here are Gasteria bicolor seedlings?

At this point, they're all just single leaves, the longest of which is about 0.3 in / 8 mm long. I'd intended to get a photo of the seeds also, but somehow failed to do so even though I'm pretty sure I took photos. I dunno. The seeds are interesting only in terms of how nondescript they are: matte black, shriveled, elongated things that you can perhaps barely make out in the photo. They didn't look promising at all, but there you go.

It's possible that these are hybrids (the seeds were from the ex-job, and weren't pollinated on purpose); it'll be a while before we know. It's possible we'll never know, in fact: my record with Gasterias is that they always eventually fall apart on me, probably because I overwater.

As long as you're here anyway, here's what the Spathiphyllum seedlings look like at the moment:

(The circle of vermiculite is roughly 2 in / 5 cm in diameter. This is not to be confused with the circle of life, which moves us all through despair and hope, through faith and life, 'til we find our place on the path unwinding.)

I'm not sure if I should pot them up individually; they seem crowded in the vermiculite, but the individual plants are still really tiny and probably wouldn't do well in a 3-inch pot. (Probably I'll wind up procrastinating on this for a while, and I'll pot them up when the weaker, smaller ones get crowded out and start dying off.)

It feels really odd to be worrying about Spathiphyllums like this. Gasterias too, actually, now that I think about it.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Unicorn chaser

It is customary at BoingBoing, and a couple other places around the net, to follow depressing, gruesome, hopeless, or otherwise unpleasant posts with something upbeat, just so the whole readership doesn't completely slide into incapacitating despair or whatever. Unicorns are traditional, but I only have this one unicorn-related image on my computer, so you get what you get.

It originally came from Pandagon; I don't know where they got it.

Pretty picture: NOID NOID orchid

Obviously something Oncidium-related. No tag, though.

wrong tags: 8.5
incomplete tags: 1
missing tags: 13

I'd like to write more about the orchid, but since I don't have an ID for it, and it's not my personal plant, there's not much to say. And anyway I'm sort of preoccupied by the mass shooting in Connecticut. (Also the mass shooting in Oregon last Tuesday. And the fourteen others in 2012 before those two. And the one that happened yesterday in Alabama but didn't kill anybody except the gunman.)

I tried for a few hours on Saturday to come up with something to say about all that. But I failed. Wrote lots of stuff, deleted lots of stuff. The Onion has it pretty well covered anyway.

Friday, December 14, 2012

List: Missing From Retail, Part 4 of 5

The explanation and background for this post can be found here, at part 1. (Part 2) (Part 3) (Part 5)

Medinilla cv. My photo.

WCW said she'd tried Medinilla cvv. (rose grape, medinilla) indoors before, and it hadn't done that well for her, but I don't remember any details beyond that. I also know that they tend not to do that great in the ex-job's greenhouse in the long term,1 though that hasn't stopped them from ordering them more than once.

When I googled Medinilla, I found a lot of photos of them indoors in containers, usually in pristinely clean and expensive-looking surroundings, accompanied by breathless, over-caffeinated ad copy about what wonderful, wonderful houseplants they are. So it's possible that we'll be seeing a lot more of them in the future. I'm not sure how I feel about this.

Nandina domestica. Photo by KENPEI, via Wikimedia Commons.

I can't say I've ever had any strong urge to try growing Nandina domestica (heavenly bamboo, sacred bamboo), so I haven't been terribly bothered by not being able to find one. It's my understanding that they're not particularly beloved outdoor plants, though most of the objections raised at have to do with their rapid spread and drought tolerance, both of which would be a positive indoors. ("Tacky-looking / cliched," "I think I'm allergic," "ecologically disastrous," and "poisonous" are also represented.)

Although Nandina is an FLEPPC Class I (has produced documented ecological damage) invasive plant, it's not illegal to produce it or sell it in Florida. Since there's no legal barrier, I expect that they're unavailable in the north due to a lack of demand.

Neomarica caerulea. Photo by Denis Conrado, via Wikimedia Commons.

Neomarica spp. (walking iris, apostle plant) are apparently mostly passalong plants, so there's no money in producing them commercially. I don't know what they're like to grow indoors, and I haven't personally seen anybody growing one, but by most accounts they're pretty easy. (I'm somewhat interested in getting a Neomarica, eventually, someday.)

Osmanthus fragrans. My photo.

When my Osmanthus fragrans (sweet olive, tea olive) first arrived, I had it in the house, hoping for ongoing blooming so we'd get to smell the flowers all the time,2 but it didn't bloom. And then it got spider mites. So it spent the summer outside. It seemed to like that well enough, though it didn't grow very much, and it didn't rebloom out there either.

Then, after it came inside, it dropped a lot of the new leaves it had just grown. So we don't seem to be getting along, is kind of the upshot. Some googling brought up this page from the Missouri Botanical Garden, in which it is said "In St. Louis, grow in containers which must be overwintered indoors in bright cool locations."

Which probably explains it, 'cause mine's in a warm dim location. So I'll try to fix that and then get back to you.

None of this explains why I never see them for sale. (I'd think they would sell really well, given the fragrance.) This Garden Web thread suggests that Osmanthus might be another plant that would rather have an unheated sunporch than central heating.

Pandanus utilis. My photo, from the Quad Cities Botanical Center.

I feel like I pretty well covered the reasons why Pandanus spp. (screw pines) might not be more available in their profile, but in case you don't want to read it all: both Pandanus utilis and P. veitchii can get huge; both have sharp, unpleasant spines along the leaf margins and on the underside of the leaves along the midrib; P. veitchii is so easily propagated that it's probably a passalong. These all seem like perfectly good reasons why they might not be found in retail very often.3

I'm still trying to get a P. utilis of my own, though. Someday.

Phoenix roebelenii. Photo by Forest & Kim Starr, via Wikimedia Commons.

I've seen Phoenix roebelinii (pygmy date palm, miniature date palm) at the ex-job once, I think, when I first started working there, and I've run into them at Lowe's occasionally since then, but they're not easy to find around here. Something that isn't always obvious from their photos in the books is, they're full of extremely sharp, long (to at least 3.5 inches / 9 cm!) thorns, especially near the base of the fronds. Worse, when I started working there, the ex-job's Phoenix was displayed underneath a huge Ficus benjamina, which dropped leaves into it all the time. Much blood was shed before I learned that there was just no safe way to get the Ficus leaves out of the Phoenix pot, and decided to move the Phoenix instead.

The thorns are bad enough that I'd never actually want to own one myself, but even if I did, Phoenix also gets too large for me, "pygmy" date palm notwithstanding. It probably also needs more sun than I have. Those might also be factors for other people.

Pilea microphylla. My photo.

Nobody seems to grow Pilea microphylla (artillery plant) on purpose anymore, and I've only seen it deliberately sold once (and that was a strangely-colored variety). On the other hand, I still run into it in stores on a pretty regular basis: they're weedy, and hitchhike in the pots of more desirable plants.

I've grown it once; I pulled it out of some other plant's pot and gave it its own. That worked fine for several months, and then it suddenly collapsed. I have no idea why. (The timing and location were such that scale might have been a factor. I don't know.) I wasn't that crazy about it in the first place, so I haven't tried to replace it.

Pittosporum tobira. Photo by Piotrus, via Wikimedia Commons.

I don't find Pittosporum spp. (pittosporum, Japanese mock-orange) very interesting. Apparently the flowers smell nice, but the look of the plants, even the variegated ones, do nothing for me. But hey, some people juggle geese.

I gather Pittosporum also prefers cool temperatures during the winter, and is therefore probably another victim of changing home construction, though I'm not 100% sure on that. According to Monrovia, they're only cold-hardy to USDA zone 8, so you wouldn't think they'd want a lot of cold in the winter. I don't know.

Portea petropolitana. Photo by BotBln, via Wikimedia Commons.

Portea spp. (no common name)4 aren't particularly common in the houseplant books, granted, but the Powell book lists a whole bunch of bromeliads I've never seen for sale, and this is one of them, so Portea is kind of standing in for all those (which also include Bromelia, Catopsis, Nidularium, and Quesnelia). The photo above was the best one I found for showing the leaves and inflorescence at the same time, but doesn't do a particularly good job selling the plant overall: it might be clearer why Portea would be desirable from some of the photos of inflorescences. (P. alatisepala, P. kermesina, P. leptantha, P. petropolitana. Don't skip that last one; the colors are particularly interesting.)

The leaf margins are heavily spined, which might explain some of the problem with Porteas (though it doesn't look any worse than some of the Aechmeas or Neoregelias I've seen for sale). Beyond that, there's no obvious problem. Poking around with Google turned up some evidence that they may need a lot of sun, and some of them do get large. They are sold here and there on-line as outdoor plants for people in tropical climates, so it stands to reason that they could be put on trucks and shipped north as easily as anything else could. I'd be interested in a Portea someday, too.

Punica granatum. My (terrible) photo.

I've personally met a couple people who grew Punica granatum (pomegranate) indoors, and the ex-job was selling them the last time I was there, so Punica isn't missing from retail as much as just exceedingly rare. (That's the only time I can recall seeing them in retail.) Not sure why that is; by one of those people's accounts, it wasn't particularly difficult, though I don't know how long he'd had it.

The Missouri Botanical Garden suggests that the species is probably not that easy to keep indoors, but the variety P. granatum 'Nana' is better suited to use as a houseplant. The comments at were all uniformly positive on 'Nana' as well, though it's not clear where they were all buying their plants.

I'm desperate to get a Pandanus utilis someday, even knowing that I don't have room for it. I could sort of understand why someone might want to own any of the others, too, but I'm only really interested in Pandanus, Neomarica, and Portea.

Not pictured:

  • Miltoniopsis spp./cvv. (pansy orchid): have seen very occasionally, in orchid-specialist contexts.
  • Myrtus communis (myrtle, true myrtle): have never seen.
  • Nerine bowdenii (spider lily): have never seen. (Wikipedia suggests some of the reason could be because they respond badly to being moved.)
  • Nicotiana (flowering tobacco): some cultivars seasonally available as annuals or as seeds, but I've never known anybody who was growing them year-round indoors.
  • Nidularium (bromeliad): never seen.
  • Olea europaea (olive): rarely seen, and super-expensive when they are seen.
  • Pentas (pentas, star flower): seasonally available as annuals.
  • Petrea volubilis (queen's wreath, sandpaper vine): never seen. (Images from Google show a huge, vining plant that I imagine doesn't stay contained for very long.)
  • Philodendron hastatum (silver philodendron): have seen occasionally at the ex-job.
  • Pleione formosana (Himalayan crocus, windowsill orchid): have never seen, though it's possible I've seen hybrids for sale at some point.
  • Plumbago spp. (plumbago, leadwort): as outdoor perennials; never as houseplant.
  • Primula (primrose, auricula, cowslip, oxlip): seasonally as temporary indoor plants.
  • Quesnelia (bromeliad): never seen.

As with the other posts in this series, readers are encouraged to leave comments about their experiences with seeing, buying, or growing any of the above, or speculating on why I don't see them for sale (especially if your speculation conflicts with mine).


1 From what I've seen, mostly what happens is that the leaves get burnt tips or margins, and then get torn. So maybe a humidity problem, or drought stress from underwatering?
2 (previous Osmanthus post here)
3 There's also the matter of customers not buying them even when given the opportunity. Oh how I tried, but customers are not that into four-foot-wide (1.2 m) plants where every leaf has three rows of hooked spines pointing in different directions, no matter how easy you tell them the plant is to grow.
4 And no, this is not a misspelling of the better-known plant Protea.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Pretty picture: Phalaenopsis NOID

A bit short on time again, but that's fine. This one didn't have a tag, so there's not a lot I could say about it anyway.

wrong tags: 8.5
incomplete tags: 1
missing tags: 12

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Random plant event: Coffea arabica

So we now have red berries on the Coffea arabica. Which possibly means that they're ripe. I've looked for information about how to tell the difference between ripe and unripe berries, and there don't appear to be any definitive signs. Obviously color is relevant, but beyond that, the only real clue appears to be that they get a little softer. Which since I have no frame of reference for the softness of coffee berries, I'm not sure how I'll know.

I couldn't get a photo of the plant as a whole. I repotted it in late September, and now it only fits in one place in the house -- a corner in the plant room -- and is way too big and heavy to be able to lift out easily. So getting pictures of the entire plant is going to be a very special-occasion sort of thing, at least until it outgrows the corner. (I have no plans for what to do with it after that. We're basically just hoping really hard that it will slow down.)

As for the eventual fate of the berries, there are really only two possibilities: one, I can try to dry, roast, and grind the seeds myself to make a very tiny amount of low-quality coffee, or two, I can plant the seeds and start more plants. I do love coffee, but if you didn't already know I was going to plant the seeds, you must not have been reading PATSP for very long.1

Either way, I'm totally eating the berries. I've wondered what they're like ever since I first read that they're edible. Report on the taste, etc. to follow eventually.


1 (How many new plants would I get from this? Not sure -- I have a total of 13 berries, I think, and normally each one contains two seeds, occasionally one and rarely three. So probably something like 24-27 seeds. Germination is supposed to be like 95% for seeds that have been allowed to dry for eight weeks, but since I don't know what I'm doing, let's figure 75% instead. That'd be 18-20 new plants.)

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Pretty pictures: Epidendrum Rose Valley 'Caribbean Dream'

Couldn't get to sleep on Friday night until very late, which kind of screwed up my whole Saturday. So limited commentary today.

A pink flower with the same name was posted in April. Searches for the name bring up flowers of both colors, so I'm not sure which color is "correct," or whether both are.

I also couldn't find the ancestry for this one.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

List: Missing From Retail, Part 3 of 5

The explanation and background for this post can be found here, at part 1. (Part 2) (Part 4) (Part 5)

Gibasis geniculata. My photo.

Gibasis geniculata (Tahitian bridal veil), honestly, is kind of annoying, and I don't blame any retailer for not stocking it if they don't want to. We had a few hanging baskets of it at the ex-job when I started working there, and they were forever getting tangled in one another, or other plants. The stems broke easily but remained tangled, so unless we put a lot of very careful, nitpicky work into it, they'd always have dead stems running through the mass of foliage, which didn't look good. The flowers were fine, I guess, and it was actually a pretty easy plant to grow, but it was messy, inconvenient, and not nearly pretty enough to make up for the hassle.

Gloriosa rothschildiana. Photo by Jean-Jacques MILAN, originally posted to Wikimedia Commons.

Is the problem with Gloriosa spp. and cvv. (glory lily) that they're super-poisonous? Maybe. They're in a lot of the books, but I've never seen one for sale up here. Perhaps the growth habit is awkward: it's hard to tell from the photos I've seen (which are mostly close-ups of the flower, for obvious reasons). Maybe they don't flower reliably indoors. Maybe the United Nations is using their black helicopters to keep them out of the state of Iowa, because something-something one-world government.

I don't have any idea. It seems like if it had ever been a good idea to grow them in the house, it would probably still be a good idea to grow them in the house. And certainly the flowers are lovely. I'm baffled.

Grevillea robusta. Photo by Forest & Kim Starr, found via Wikipedia.

In each of the lists so far, there's been a Big Mystery plant, a plant that's widely described among houseplant books of a certain age, but has completely disappeared from the houseplant trade (at least in my personal experience). In the first list, it was Aucuba japonica, which turns out to be widely available, just not where I am or for the uses I would put it to. In the second, Geogenanthus poeppigii. My questions about that one were met with utter silence, so I conclude that either no one cares, or no one knows (perhaps because no one cares).

That plant for this list is Grevillea robusta (silk oak). Where did they all go? And why? Were there ever very many in the first place?

I know there are Grevilleas still being sold for outdoor use. Danger Garden grows a few of them (G. juniperina, G. lanigera, G. victoriae, etc.), and I'm pretty sure Far Out Flora has at least mentioned them once or twice as well. So it's not like the genus has suddenly gone extinct.

I've seen some references to G. robusta having skin-irritant properties similar to those of poison ivy, which could something to do with it. (The older books don't mention this, though.) Though that doesn't seem to be stopping anybody from growing them outdoors. Maybe they're another victim of the changing standards in new-home construction? If they can be grown outdoors in the Northwest U.S., that suggests that they probably don't mind cold too much. I don't know.

Haemanthus albiflos. Photo from a PATSP reader; addressed in this post.

Haemanthus albiflos (elephant's tongue, shaving-brush plant) and other Haemanthus spp. are probably not helped by their slow growth rates, but by most accounts H. albiflos is pretty easy to grow,1 and the flowers may not be gorgeous but they're at least interesting. If there's a market for Philodendron hederaceum, I'd think there would be a market for Haemanthus.

The only guess I can come up with is that maybe it's not sold very often because it's a passalong?2 That's how I wound up with mine; maybe that's how everybody gets them.

Heliconia psittacorum 'Bright Lights.' My photo.

I've seen Heliconia psittacorum 'Bright Lights' for sale a couple times at the ex-job, and I assume other Heliconia cvv. (lobster claw, false bird of paradise) are probably available further south. (The main appeal of H. psittacorum is, I think, that it's relatively small for a Heliconia; many of them get big.) Both I and WCW3 have tried them indoors, and neither of us was particularly satisfied. We both got spider mites; my plant also seemed to want more humid air than it was getting, and was either getting underwatered or overwatered but it would never tell me which.

So I wouldn't try this again, but it did do surprisingly well for several months after I first got it, so Heliconia might still work for some people. Even if it isn't a great choice for your average plant-buyer, the inflorescences can last for a long time, so I'd think retailers might still be able to display them profitably. I don't have any guesses as to why they don't.

I could find plenty of copyrighted photos of small container-grown plants, or I could find Creative Commons photos of full-grown adult outdoor plants, but I couldn't find any pictures showing a small containerized plant that I was legally able to reuse.

It is entirely possible that I see Howea forsteriana (kentia palm) for sale all the time and just don't realize it. I can't really distinguish between Chrysalidocarpus lutescens, Howea forsteriana, and Chamaedorea cataractum, in large part because I've never been able to directly compare all three. In fact, I've only actually seen Howea forsteriana tagged as Howea forsteriana once. This is despite several books' claims that they're either the best or second-best palm to have indoors. (Chamaedorea elegans generally being the other one.4)

The reason is that they germinate and grow so slowly that it's not really cost-effective for growers to produce them. People will buy the much faster-growing Ravenea rivularis (majesty palm) just as readily, so Ravenea can be sold for less than half the cost of Howea. Raveneas are also, of course, very poorly suited to indoor conditions, but the long-term fate of the plant is irrelevant to the growers (they already have your money either way), so they don't factor it in.

I don't know how to fix this situation. I can recommend that people ask for Howeas specifically, but I don't have first-hand experience that they're any better than Chrysalidocarpus or Chamaedorea, and I don't know how to tell the difference anyway. I could get first-hand experience, and learn how to tell the difference, if any producers ever sent them to the stores for me to look at, buy, and grow, but the producers can't do that because the consumers wouldn't buy them. The consumers might buy them, if only they knew that they wanted them. I could tell the consumers they wanted to buy them, if I were able to distinguish between the three species and had first-hand experience growing them. Wheeee!

Jatropha multifida. My photo, taken at the Quad City Botanical Center.

I've seen Jatropha podagrica (Buddha belly plant) at Wallace's once; we never got any Jatropha spp. at the ex-job, though they were on the availability lists occasionally. Pretty sure I've never seen Jatrophas for sale anywhere else, though the QCBC has J. multifida (coral plant, Guatemalan rhubarb), as you can see in the above photo, so I've at least seen the two most cultivated species.

I've never grown one personally; I understand they probably need more sun than I could offer. Other than that, I really don't have much to go on. As far as I can tell, temperature wouldn't be an issue. Maybe slow growth? Unappealing form?

Lachenalia aloides. Photo by BotBln, from Wikimedia Commons.

Holy crap, some Lachenalia spp./cvv. (no common name?) have some damn beautiful flowers. (There's a red one! And a turquoise-blooming one! And one with four-colored flowers!) And although one of the books which mentions Lachenalia has been in my possession for about a quarter-century, I had somehow never been consciously aware of them before now.

Now that I've noticed them, read up on them, and come to appreciate how pretty some of them are, I will have to forget them all again. Both books that mention Lachenalia agree that they need temperatures much colder than I'd ever be able to provide in the house (60-65F during the day, 40-45F at night). Which is a pretty obvious explanation for why I never see Lachenalia for sale.

Lapageria rosea. Photo credit: KENPEI, at Wikimedia Commons.

Lapageria rosea (Chilean bell flower) is another plant I know only from the Kramer book. Or almost, anyway -- Talking Plants did a post about Lapageria not too long ago as well, though he doesn't mention it being cultivated indoors.

Kramer calls it "a challenge," but doesn't include many specifics about the ways in which it might be challenging, and says it's "difficult to bloom," but also says "can tolerate abuse if necessary and still bloom." So no clues there. It's another climber, which is possibly significant: beyond that I don't even have a guess.

Manettia luteo-rubra. My photo.

I've seen Manettia luteo-rubra (firecracker plant, candy corn plant) for sale here as an outdoor annual, but not very often, and I didn't find them very impressive. I don't know of anyone who's tried to grow it indoors. The two books that mention it don't agree on the care it needs, though neither one makes it sound particularly difficult. Maybe it's just not interesting enough for people to care?

I understand Haemanthus is pretty easy indoors, and although I never did it personally, I'd bet Gibasis is very easy as well. I might be interested in Jatropha, in theory, even if I probably don't have the light it wants. And I would really like to try Howea at some point, if only to see what all the fuss is about, but it looks like the only way that's ever going to happen is if I start them myself from seed.

Not pictured:
  • Hedychium gardnerianum (kahili ginger, ginger lily): have never seen.
  • Hoya australis / bella (wax plants): I'm pretty sure I've seen H. bella around here occasionally; I don't recall H. australis, though.
  • Ixia spp./cvv. (corn lily): have never seen.
  • Ixora (West Indian jasmine, jungle geranium): the ex-job has them occasionally, I think. I have trouble distinguishing between Ixora and Pentas, for some reason, but I'm pretty sure they've had both.
  • Justicia brandegeana and carnea (shrimp plants): I've seen J. brandegeana once at the ex-job; not sure if I've run into them elsewhere or not.
  • Kohleria cvv. (kohleria): have never seen in retail. The ones I've tried to grow haven't done well.
  • Limonium (sea lavender, statice): the ex-job had one once, as an outdoor annual (?), but I think that was the only time I've seen any for sale at all, much less as a houseplant.
  • Liriope (lilyturf): sometimes available around here as an annual or tender perennial. One from the ex-job survived for me for a while indoors, but it never grew much, and spent its last year or so looking decidedly unhappy.
  • Lycaste spp. (lycaste): have never seen.
  • Malpighia coccigera (dwarf holly, miniature holly): may have seen as a faux bonsai, but the pictures that come up in Google don't look particularly familiar.
  • Malvaviscus arboreus (turk's cap mallow, nodding hibiscus): have never seen.
  • Masdevallia spp./cvv. (masdevallia): have seen at Orchids and Moore, the specialty orchid-seller in Iowa City, and possibly at the Quad Cities orchid shows (can't remember if any of those were for sale or not), but that's it.


1 I've only just gotten one myself, so I'll let you know eventually, I suppose.
2 (A plant that is so easy to propagate that offsets or cuttings or whatever get distributed from gardener to gardener directly, without ever being part of the commercial trade.)
3 (Remember her? I haven't seen WCW in forever, sadly.)
4 Which has not been my experience -- my best palm has been either Chamaedorea metallica or Rhapis excelsa, depending on the criteria you want to use for "best." But that's off-topic.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Question for the Hive Mind: Chamaedorea metallica

I don't remember why, but a couple weeks ago, I pulled on one of the Chamaedorea metallica's leaves and it pulled right off. For various reasons, I don't think the plant is sick -- there's no sign of bugs, the stem's not rotten, it hasn't been having any notable problems and its environment hasn't changed significantly compared to the last couple years -- but this was still odd.

Upon examination, the node from which the leaf came was growing what appear to be aerial roots. And this turned out to be true when a second leaf pulled off as well.

And this is a new thing, as far as this particular specimen of C. metallica is concerned, but I don't know what it means. The plant in question is getting sort of tall, and I've been wondering what happens when it gets to its maximum genetically-possible height: as far as I know, they don't offset, and I don't have a male plant, so I can't get seeds and start it over from seedlings either. But if it's going to, in essence, air-layer itself, then that could be useful, right? Maybe?

I guess what I'm saying is, does anybody know why it would suddenly start growing roots a foot and a half (46 cm) above the soil line? Is this something I should be pleased about?