Monday, June 20, 2016

Anthurium no. 0501 "Freddie Prinze Charming" / Question for the Hive Mind / New Plant

I have news and a question, so let's zip through the critique of Freddie as quickly as possible:

Freddie's pink/pink, which is boring, but still maybe worth a second look, since he appears to be more thrips-resistant than average, and is much more resistant than his siblings. This is particularly the case with the spathes,

but the leaves are less terrible than usual as well.

Don't know if this will be enough to keep him around over the long-term, but he'll survive the next purge or two.

The news: for reasons I may or may not ever explain, I've bought a new houseplant book last week, and in the course of reading it to determine whether I approve of it or not, the bit about calla lilies (Zantedeschia cvv.) jumped out at me. I've long admired Zantedeschias, but had been under the impression that they wouldn't be good plants for me to try, because of the dormancy period and general fussiness, so I've never attempted it, but the author of the new book is very enthusiastic and encouraging about them. And I've been doing okay with a few winter-dormant plants lately (Amorphophallus,1 Eucodonia), so when I saw one I liked at the ex-job last Friday, I went ahead and bought it.

Since the purchase, though, I've noticed a few things that make me wonder whether this was a bad idea. First, the author of the book is pretty enthusiastic and encouraging about everything. As far as I'm concerned, it's irresponsible to suggest that anyone grow Hedera helix indoors, and recommending Selaginella or (oh my goodness) junipers (!) is criminally so, so I probably should not have trusted the author's judgment on this to the degree I did.

On-line advice about growing Zantedeschia indoors comes from sources I consider questionable as well, but they can't agree on whether it's a good idea: advice ranges from yes, it'll live for years and produce breathtaking long-lived blooms every time you sneeze, they're wonderful, go for it to it's absolutely not worth the trouble, throw it in the garbage when it goes dormant.

So I'm looking for advice from people who have actually grown Zantedeschia before. Could you overwinter one and get it to resprout in the spring? What about reblooming? Will it work if they're indoors all year, or do they need to be outside during the summer? Was your plant(s) prone to pests?2 Rot? If it's dead, what killed it? Etc.

Whether it's a permanent resident or not, it's lovely. I just need to know how low to set my expectations.


1 Though I'm beginning to worry about the Amorphophallus bulbs now. I dumped them out of the pots a couple months ago to divide them, and there were five bulbs total, so I gave them each a pot of its own and have had them outside for a while, figuring that the heat would encourage them to get moving, but we're about a week late now, so I'm worried that they've all rotted.
2 My plant, unfortunately, has spider mites or thrips or both, because it did not occur to me to check inside the flower until I'd already brought the plant in the house. I have some optimism that it might be possible to end this with frequent soapy-water sprays, since the infestation appears to be pretty small and isolated to the bloom.
Then I remember how frequently I've been optimistic about thrips before, and how that optimism has never not even once been justified, and . . . well, you know.


TL said...

I tried to grow a zantedeschia indoors. Apparently it needed an enormous amount of light which my large south-east unobstructed window couldn't provide. It just stretched and stretched until it could stretch no more and fell to bits. So I chopped it down and dumped it in the garden. Looks dead so far. Possibly the problem was that I brought it home in February as it was rising from dormancy and Februaries are very dark here but even so I doubt I could ever give it what it wants indoors.

Jeffrey K. Funk said...

If you're talking about Tovah Martin's "The Unexpected Houseplant", then i'd say she's in a league of her own - my gardening skills pale in comparison to hers. I love the book, however - i just think she's way more attentive to plants than i'll ever be. I did try to grow calla lilies like she suggested - not sure the old fashioned type is worth it, tbh. The bloom was gorgeous, but overall the plant is just way bigger than i want and got all sorts of floppy and ugly so i'm kinda over it. One issue, though, is how do all of the new hybrids compare to the parent species? I'm not sure - i bought one of the new calla lily hybrids recently and so far it's growing well, but that's not really saying anything - anything will grow in the summer with the help of mother nature. I kinda think the new hybrids are just so different from the parent species that you really need to just try it with an open mind. (I will attest that her recommendations of plants to avoid is spot on, though... and if she says a plant is tough, then it's really tough to grow.)

mr_subjunctive said...

Jeffrey K. Funk:

You caught me; yes, I was referring to TUH.

I may or may not have more to say about the book later, so I shouldn't post a full critique here, but my biggest problem with the book is that Martin seems to be constantly encouraging the reader -- you can totally grow this, the difficulty is exaggerated, etc. -- while at the same time talking about plants very few people will be able to grow well.

She also skips entirely over certain major issues: in the Hedera helix and Codiaeum variegatum sections, she literally doesn't mention spider mites at all. Nor are mites in the index; I haven't read the whole book cover to cover yet, but so far, the only time she's gone into any detail about spider mites is on p. 313, and that's just a description of their appearance. Her pest advice (pp. 313-14) is basically sorry, I never get pests because I grow all my plants basically perfectly; on the rare occasions that I have pests, I just use a really mild organic spray according to the manufacturer's directions a few times and poof, they're gone. (Which is some bullshit.)

Not that sometimes one doesn't get lucky. It's been a long time since I've seen any aphids (April 2014) or mealybugs (August 2012) here, and since I throw out plants once they reveal a serious spider mite problem, I don't very often see bad mite infestations either. So maybe mites aren't an issue for her, personally.[1] But writing about Hedera, for other people to read, without mentioning spider mites, is like writing about all the fun things one can do at Disneyland without ever mentioning long lines: it's inherently part of the experience, and for some people, it's a big enough, bad enough part of the experience that it makes the whole thing not worth doing.

Martin also has enough room to put all of her plants outside for a third of the year, so the Zantedeschia is the very last time I'm going to let her book talk me into buying a plant. I mean, I assume she's describing her own personal experiences more or less accurately, but her situation is so far removed from my own[2] that I don't think her experience and recommendations are, or can be, particularly relevant to me.

(Which is not to say that the book is all bad or all inaccurate, just that I would only recommend it to someone in conjunction with half a dozen other books, as a perspective to be considered, rather than as particularly good advice in itself.)


[1] She does note that spider mites are potentially a problem on several other plants, though. So she's seen them before. Just, somehow, not on her English ivy or crotons. (!?)
[2] (not that I have a typical setup either)

Sana said...

I'm pretty sure I killed mine by overwatering during dormancy, but before that it did fine? I think? I repotted it after I first got it in leftover african violet potting mix, it seemed to do pretty well by a sunny window with occasional feeding.

Eric said...

I once had about 20 different ones that spanned most of the genus. Growing them was no problem, and nearly all grew well by putting them potted outdoors (zone 5b) in high partial shade (morning sun). I brought them in before frost and let them go totally dormant in their pots, except for a couple of large-leafed one aethiopicas that preferred staying green all winter; they will tell you whether they want dormancy or not, since most of them had floppy or dying foliage by October. The ones that clearly wanted to rest were left totally dry, dark, and dormant all winter. I found that Z. rehmanii and its descendants were shy bloomers, the darker the red, the less the flowering. (We're sometimes talking years between colorful spathe sightings.) Plus, I didn't like the rehmanii strappy, floppy foliage. I kept most of the varieties for at least 10 years, but eventually threw out almost everything except three or four (elliotiana, albomaculata, and pentlandii, I think), because of their decent flowering and I like their sturdy, maculated foliage that gives value for the 98% of the time they aren't flowering. None of the ones I have grown have ever had pests, so that's a big plus. If you wanted to know about purely indoor culture, though, I'm not your guy. Besides, I think I like yellow flowers a lot more than you do, so easy Zants that are yellow and difficult ones that are pink doesn't bother me that much.

Daniel McClosky said...

Are the buds of your Amorphophallus poking above soil? I think I read somewhere that they actually respond to longer day-lengths (actually shorter night-lengths) to wake up in the spring. I always keep mine above the soil level (so I haven't actually tested whether this is necessary) and mine always sprout.

mr_subjunctive said...

Daniel McClosky:

Still nothing above the soil. I dug into the soil a little bit a few days ago to see whether they had rotted, and all five bulbs are still present and firm. So they're still late, compared to previous years' average, but not dead.

In past years, I've left them in the previous year's soil in the house, and they came up just fine. In fact, I think they came up too early in 2014: I had a fully-unfurled leaf on A. konjac by June 13, and a leaf emerging on A. bulbifer on April 18. Which left the petioles too weak to support the leaves, and that caused all sorts of problems.

In 2015, I wasn't documenting the process well, so all I know for sure is that A. konjac had emerging leaves as of July 2, and both species had fully-unfurled leaves as of July 12. So they may not be late compared to last year, yet.

Perhaps the lesson to be learned here is that Amorphophallus bulbs will produce leaves whenever they damn well want to, and it's no use worrying about the timing because there's nothing you can do about it.

mr_subjunctive said...


I like yellow flowers fine. I'd be ridiculously happy about it if one of the Anthurium or Schlumbergera seedlings bloomed in yellow, since it's fairly uncommon in both cases. It just happens that the limited Schlumbergera genes I've been working with so far mainly result in orange blooms, and the Anthuriums default to red or pink most of the time.

I certainly can put the Zantedeschia outside for the summer if that's what it requires; I haven't done so yet partly because I like having the blooms inside where I'm more likely to see them, and partly because I worry about being able to keep up with the watering if it's outside. There's also only just so much room, but I'm not at maximum capacity just yet.

Saby said...

My Zantedeschia got too dry once or twice and although I did try to save her she never recuperated and just moped until she died. Second worst plant experience after the ti disaster.

Btw Freddie's not entirely unoriginal: his spathes are pale veins on pink and his calyx is pink "veins" on pale.