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?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Random plant event: Billbergia nutans

I probably shouldn't be posting this so soon after the cribplants post, because I'm unable to stop calling it "Bizzlebergia nutans, also known as biatchz tearz" in my head. But: it's blooming. That counts as a thing happening. When things happen, you have to blog about them: those are the rules. So biatchz tearz it is.1

Billbergia nutans has very sneakily become one of my favorite plants, despite its relative dullness for most of the year. Part of this is because when it does decide to do something, it becomes very interesting -- seriously, five different colors on the same inflorescence! -- and part of it is because it's so undemanding to grow.2

This time around, instead of a single bloom spike, I've gotten at least seven. I'm not sure if this is all attributable to it being larger; I've also been fertilizing it pretty heavily since about August or September, and I repotted it in September. I noticed the first bloom spike in I think mid-November, so the changes could be connected to the blooms.

Ominously, the Cryptbergia x rubra has continued to bloom throughout all this: the first inflorescence is still producing flowers, and a second Cryptbergia rosette in the same pot is developing a new inflorescence, so that will continue for a while. Naturally, I have attempted to cross-pollinate the two. I'll let you know if fruits / seeds / seedlings happen.


1 As a side note, I looked at some lists of houseplants through gizoogle, just to see if there were any other particularly amusing name transformations to tell you about. Only a few worked for me, but that's probably just as well:
  • Aglaonema (Chinese everchronic)
  • Crassula ovata or Pachira aquatica (chedda tree)
  • Chamaerops (European hustla palm)
  • Cryptanthus (ghetto star)
  • Cyrtomium falcatum (phat-leaved holly fern)
  • Asplenium (birdz nest fern, mothafucka fern)
The search also yielded this, regarding the toxicity of poinsettias, which amused me:
A lil pimp took a dirt nap up in 1919 from smokin poinsettia. Currently, feedin experimentz indicate dat while poinsettia may cause a lil irritation, tha reportz of serious poisonings is pimped outly exaggerated.
There's something really wonderful about the sentence "A lil pimp took a dirt nap up in 1919 from smokin poinsettia."
2 It doesn't hurt that it grows really quickly, too. Yearbook photos:
May 2010. 4" / 10 cm pot.

September 2011. 4" / 10 cm pot.

January 2012? 6" / 15 cm pot.

September 2012. 6" / 15 cm pot.

December 2012. 8" / 20 cm pot.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Random plant event: Spathiphyllum

It took a bit longer than advertised, but the Spathiphyllum seeds have germinated.

There are a lot more than I initially expected to have; it turned out that even though only one of the bumpy things on the spadix definitely changed color, several of them, including the green ones, had been successfully pollinated. So a few days after I started the first batch of seeds, when I went to remove the flower from the plant, the spadix sort of exploded into more seeds. Since I am helpless to resist seeds, I went ahead and picked them all out and sowed them on vermiculite in the basement with the first batch.

I got 75% germination from the first batch (6 out of 8); I don't know about the others, because I didn't count the number I started with. Germination took about 11-18 days, only slightly longer than the 10 days predicted on-line.

The question of whether or not it is possible to grow peace lilies from seed, which once seemed plenty urgent, has now more or less been answered. (True, we'll still have to wait until they survive transplantation and get big enough to bloom and everything, but it seems like the biggest obstacles -- pollination and germination -- are out of the way.) We can now move on to why one would do this. Anybody? Theories?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Pretty picture: Paphiopedilum Londonlight

Paphiopedilum Londonlight is a cross of Paph. London Wall (seed) with Paph. Nulight (pollen), according to The International Orchid Register.

I don't really know anything about it beyond that, but the flowers sure are pretty.

For more important, up-to-the-minute orchid news, stay tuned to PATSP.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Music video: Adenium Anniversary

A reader e-mailed me a link to this, and . . . whoa. I don't understand a lot of what's going on, of course, not speaking Thai Korean. I don't think the music is related to the Adeniums, though I'm charmed by the idea that it might be. (The world needs more plant-themed dance pop.) But this is part of how Siam Adenium (WARNING: website has freaked out one reader's antivirus software, and contains autoplaying video and audio) has chosen to market themselves on-line.

I'm not entirely clear what anniversary this is supposed to commemorate; the website hints that it's the 8th anniversary of something, presumably the founding of the business? I suppose it's not important.

You know what, though: this makes me sort of want to try Adeniums again. Some of the stuff in the video is pretty awesome. The website is even worse: they've got Adeniums that appear to be about 10 feet (3 m) tall, they have "standard" forms with a crown of foliage sitting on a long, bare trunk, they have crested Adeniums, variegated Adeniums, Adenium seeds, fragrant Adeniums, doubled Adeniums, bonsai Adeniums, just everything. I didn't think there was anything that could get me to try Adeniums again, but the website might actually have done it.

And it gets worse. There's an Aglaonema page, which has me biting my knuckles in envy. Green ones, white ones, black, red, pink, contrasting midrib, contrasting veins, contrasting margin, spotted -- it's a little overwhelming. I kind of just want all of them. Though I already wanted to own all the Aglaonemas; this is just a reminder.

I don't know what the company is actually like to deal with, and there appears to be a minimum order on at least some products, so buyer beware, but they certainly do have plants I would want, if I had money and weren't trying to cut down on the number of plants I have to take care of and had space to keep more plants and had a dedicated staff of plant-waterers and so forth. Perhaps someday.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

List: Missing From Retail, Part 2 of 5

The explanation and background for this post can be found here, at part 1. (Part 3) (Part 4) (Part 5)

What other never-available plants do houseplant books try to get me excited about?

Camellia 'Sekidotaroan.' Photo by KENPEI, from Wikimedia Commons.

I know Camellia cvv. (camellia) are still out there, because I see them pretty regularly on the blogs of outdoor gardeners from the southern U.S. Less clear is whether they're growable indoors. The books say yes, but I've never seen them sold as such, and they're popular enough outdoor plants that I'd think there'd be an indoor market for them if it was at all possible.

Why would the books tease us like this? As commenters suggested in Part 1, it probably has to do with changes in new home construction: less drafty, no unheated sunporches, that sort of thing. There could be other, Camellia-specific things going on as well, but I'd bet that warmer, more energy-efficient homes explain a lot.

Caryota mitis. (My picture.)

There are several things about Caryota mitis (fishtail palm) that don't work so great indoors. They can get to be enormous,1 they tend to be buggy (my first attempt ended abruptly due to scale; they're also appealing to spider mites), they're expensive when you do see one for sale,2 and they need a lot of water.

However, I don't think any of those things are the reason why I don't see them for sale that often: I think the reason is that people don't like the ragged tips on the leaflets. I mean, that is how Caryotas are naturally supposed to be, but I bet people assume something is wrong with the plant and move on.

Cissus antarctica. Photo by Dinkum, released to public domain. Found via Wikimedia Commons.

I've never seen Cissus antarctica (kangaroo vine) in person, either for sale or in someone's home. Wikipedia provides a clue as to why: "It doesn't do well above 15°C, especially when exposed to central heating, which can cause the leaves to drop." It's not too hard to draw a line from warmer homes, to people having a tougher time growing them, to people buying fewer of them, to growers producing fewer of them, as with Camellia.

It's also probably relevant that C. antarctica isn't a particularly flashy plant. No variegation, no brightly-colored flowers, no fruit, not even a particularly interesting leaf shape (though I like it personally) or manageable growth habit.

Cobaea scandens. Photo by Michael Wolf, obtained via Wikimedia Commons.

Cobaea scandens (cup and saucer vine, cathedral bells) actually does have flashy flowers, and it's even weedy in New Zealand (according to Wikipedia), both things that ought to make it suitable for indoor cultivation. Also it is deliberately cultivated as an outdoor plant, so seeds are available. I mean, it's not like it's some super-rare thing that's only found in a seed bank in a single botanical garden somewhere. And yet, I'd never heard of until I bought the Kramer book a few weeks ago. Some of this, I'm sure, is just my natural adorable obliviousness asserting itself, but even so, it seems like a plant this unusual should be inescapable if it can be grown indoors at all.

A few of the comments at refer specifically to growing Cobaea as a houseplant. Some of the other comments mention it getting 20 feet (6.1 m) long outdoors, and being inclined to pull down large objects, so maybe that's the explanation? Another complaint is that there's a lot of foliage for not very many flowers, and that the flowers don't actually smell that great. All of which I will accept as an explanation until I find a better one.

Costus barbatus. My own photo (though not my own plant!).

I've never seen a Costus spp. (spiral ginger) for sale, though I always thought they looked interesting in pictures. Having seen some in person (at the Quad Cities Botanical Center), I'm less interested: I'd never realized how big they could get.3

I assume the size is the main problem, though finding out that they're related to gingers doesn't make me want a Costus much either.4 If they get burnt leaf tips even inside the humid, warm dome of the QCBC, there must be something touchy about them.

Cyperus alternifolius. Photo is mine; it was also taken at the QCBC.

I have no actual memories of seeing Cyperus alternifolius (umbrella plant, umbrella palm, umbrella papyrus, umbrella grass, umbrella-ella-ella-eh-eh-eh) for sale anywhere, but at the same time, I'm pretty sure I've personally seen someone growing one indoors (about 15 years ago, granted), so they must be available somewhere. My impression is that they need a ton of water and are really prone to spider mites; if anyone can confirm or refute that, I encourage you to do so.

Eriobotrya japonica. Picture is my own.

Eriobotrya japonica (loquat) leaves have a pleasant fuzzy texture, the plants grow slowly enough that they're not going to outgrow your windowsill immediately, and they're about average difficuly indoors. (I've had one for a couple years, due to the generosity of a PATSP reader, and aside from a brief and easily-corrected spell of spider mites, it's been fine.) So why are they not in stores? Couldn't tell you.

In theory, it's possible to get your own for free or mostly free, by buying a loquat and planting the seeds, so maybe there's no demand. (I don't actually see loquats for sale that often, but I don't spend a lot of time searching for them either. I'm sure I could find one if it were really important that I do so.) Or maybe they have some horrible characteristic that I haven't run into yet with my own plant.

Eucomis comosa. Photo: H. Zell, via Wikimedia Commons.

Eucomis cvv. (pineapple lily) is certainly visually striking, and I know they're sold in containers somewhere, for indoor cultivation, because I've seen people asking about them on the UBC indoor plant forum. I suspect they probably need more light than I could provide, but that wouldn't apply to everybody around here, so there must be some other reason.

Fatsia japonica. My own photo.

Fatsia japonica (Japanese aralia) isn't entirely unknown in Iowa -- the ex-job had them once before I started working there, and I've seen them at least a couple different times at Wallace's, in the Quad Cities. (The photo above was taken in Wallace's.) And I could be forgetting some occasions. But they're a lot rarer than the books would make you think. My own experience with them has been uniformly pretty negative: the one I had in 2009 lasted about six weeks before I found mealybugs on it and threw it away, and when I've looked at them since, I've generally found spider mites. Like with Camellia, Cissus antarctica, etc., I'm wondering if forced-air heating isn't in the process of driving them out of the houseplant trade.

Geogenanthus poeppigii. Photo by Cliff, uploaded to Wikimedia Commons by Magnus Manske.

I am completely unable to explain why I've never seen Geogenanthus poeppigii (seersucker plant, formerly G. undatus). Not even in a botanical garden. They were once widespread enough that all the books mentioned them, and they look neat enough that they would surely sell if offered. Hell, Geogenanthus is even in the Commelinaceae,5 so there's reason to think they could be produced in commercial quantities without a lot of effort. Also the sunporch theory wouldn't seem to apply; it's my understanding that Geogenanthus likes it warm.

Most sources that talk about G. poeppigii mention that it needs high humidity, so it's possible that it just doesn't do well enough for long enough in a store to be worth bringing in. But stores regularly carry any number of other plants that need high humidity and go downhill quickly without it: Calatheas, Selaginella, rex begonias, etc. Why is Geogenanthus special?

Again, this topic doesn't really lend itself to recommendations, though I can say Eriobotrya is fine indoors. The one I'd most like to try is Geogenanthus, even though I doubt it would do well for me.

Not pictured:

  • Bougainvillea cvv. (bougainvillea): uncommon, but I see them occasionally in the independent garden centers.
  • Bromelia spp./cvv. (bromeliad; no common name): never seen.
  • Callistemon citrinus (syn. C. lanceolatus; crimson bottlebrush): I may have seen them occasionally as faux-bonsai; I'm not sure.6 Never a full-size plant.
  • Campanula isophylla (Italian bellflower, star of Bethlehem): have never seen.
  • Carissa macrocarpa (natal plum): have never seen.
  • Catharanthus roseus (Madagascar periwinkle): routinely sold as an outdoor annual here, but I don't know anybody who's tried to keep one going indoors, nor would I ever attempt to do so myself, after seeing how much spider mites like them.
  • Catopsis spp./cvv. (bromeliad; no common name): never seen.
  • Chamaerops humilis / Livistonia spp. (European fan palm, Mediterranean fan palm; Chinese fan palm): rarely seen.
  • Chirita / Primulina (chirita, primulina): have never seen. My personal plant died of unknown causes.
  • Clerodendrum ugandense (blue butterfly bush, blue glory bower): once or twice at the ex-job.
  • Crinodonna corsii (crinodonna, hybrid naked lady): have never seen?
  • Crinum spp./cvv. (crinum lily): never seen, though I do know more than one person who's tried growing them indoors.
  • Daphne odora (winter daphne): never seen.
  • Dyckia spp./cvv. (dyckia): never seen in retail in Iowa. My first died more or less immediately; a second one is luckier so far.
  • Eranthemum nervosum (blue sage): never seen, though I'm not sure I'd recognize it if I did.
  • Euonymous spp./cvv. (spindle, spindle tree, euonymous): probably as an outdoor plant, but I don't shop for outdoor plants so I wouldn't know. I've never seen one sold as a houseplant, despite the books' collective insistence that this happens all the time.
  • Faucaria spp. (tiger jaws): seen very occasionally.
  • Ficus deltoidea (mistletoe fig, syn. F. diversifolia): rarely, if ever.7
  • Freesia cvv. (freesia): very rarely, and so far only at the ex-job.
  • Fuchsia cvv. (fuchsia): seasonally as an outdoor annual; I've never seen them sold as houseplants.
  • Gelsemium sempervirens (Carolina jessamine, evening trumpetflower, woodbine): also never seen, but I don't know that I could recognize an unlabeled plant.
As ever, if you have other suggestions for the list, if you think I must have seen some particular plant somewhere, if you have an explanation for why they're not sold, etc., please leave a comment. Especially that explanation one. Or, again, plants that I talk about a lot that are never for sale where you live.


1 There are some pictures of a full-sized Caryota at this post, if you're interested.
2 (which has only happened to me a couple times in Eastern Iowa, both of them quite a while ago)
3 Sure, I know they probably don't all get as big as the one in the photo. But even the smallish plants in some of the Wikimedia Commons pictures are big enough that they're never going to be desktop or windowsill plants.
4 Costus is in the family Costaceae, while Alpinia, Kaempferia, and Zingiber are in the Zingiberaceae. Both the Costaceae and Zingiberaceae are in the same order, the Zingiberales.
I've tried growing Alpinia zerumbet and Zingiber malaysianum, and they did okay, but they clearly weren't that happy. One of the Alpinias got scale, which isn't its fault; the other Alpinia rotted out, which arguably is its fault; the Zingiber is still with us, though it died back dramatically one or two winters ago and has literally never been the same since. So the Zingiberaceae isn't a family I'm looking to explore right now.
5 Same family as Tradescantia pallida, Tradescantia spathacea, Tradescantia zebrina, Callisia fragrans, and Cyanotis kewensis. Of the group, only Cyanotis kewensis is at all difficult to grow or propagate, and it's not really that hard.
6 All the different species of faux-bonsai look pretty much the same to me, because they're all usually about 3/4 dead.
7 (There are a couple Ficuses I never completely identified from the ex-job, so it's possible this was one of them. I'm fairly certain I've not seen any for sale locally in the last three years.)