Thursday, August 6, 2009

The houseplant tournament: quarterfinals

When I started the whole houseplant tournament figuring, the first few rounds were kinda fun, because I didn't have very many difficult choices to make, and furthermore, I could punish plants I disliked by selecting the other plant. (Take that, you nasty, ungrateful Fenestraria rhopalophylla, you!) Once I'd whittled the field down to about 32, though, the decisions were occasionally tough. It's only gotten worse. Yesterday's reduction of 16 plants down to 8 was often somewhat hard, and this particular batch was pretty much agonizing on three out of the four choices, to the point where I feel like I may as well have been flipping a coin.

But don't worry, because I did come up with some rationalizations.

Also it has occurred to me that this could easily, and amusingly, have been advertised ahead of time as a Rumble in the Jungle, or maybe the Rumble Among the Jungle, and I have therefore squandered a valuable opportunity of some kind. Oh well.

Quarterfinal match #1: Euphorbia grandicornis vs. Yucca guatemalensis cvv.(#1)

I've known my current batch of Yucca guatemalensis longer than I've had any of my other plants, roughly 10-11 years now for the gray-variegated ones, and there are multiple cultivars of Yucca, both of which count heavily in its favor. On the other hand, Euphorbia grandicornis is a faster grower, and has a much more striking appearance. I've had no care problems with either one.

In the end, I have to give it to Yucca guatemalensis. Possibly if Euphorbia grandicornis and I have the same sort of enduring, many-year connection, this could go differently, but for the time being, at least, Yucca wins.

Quarterfinal match #2: Dracaena deremensis 'Lemon-Lime' / 'Goldstar'(#3) vs. Vriesea splendens

I've been really fond of 'Lemon-Lime' Dracaenas for a long time, too; my oldest one has been with me for about four years now. Vriesea splendens, on the other hand, is relatively (though not terribly) new: the older of the two has been with me for almost two years.


Neither one has given me significant problems: the Dracaena has sometimes dropped leaves and gotten brown edges and tips, and Vriesea has failed to root for me once or twice, but both are basically fine. So it basically comes down to appearance, and on that basis, Vriesea splendens wins. Even if there were a question w/r/t foliage (which there's not -- I love Vriesea's foliage), the fact that Vriesea splendens blooms would put it over the top. So Vriesea wins in an upset.

Quarterfinal match #3: Aglaonema cvv. vs. Anthurium andraeanum cvv.(#2)

I've had both for a fairly long time: my oldest Aglaonema has been with me for three years, and my oldest Anthurium for two and a half years. Both have occasionally been problematic w/r/t care (Anthurium is slightly more demanding), and in both cases the problems have typically occurred when a plant got too old and needed to be cut back. I haven't really figured out, in either case, how to restart an old plant in a way that's not traumatic for both of us.

Both have fairly large leaves, which I like, and both are fairly slow-growing, which I don't.

What about the differences? Well, only one (Anthurium) has decorative flowers, which even if they're not hugely abundant are still very long-lasting, and come in a wide assortment of vivid colors. (Just in the house, right at the moment, I have Anthurium flowers in orange, red, red-violet, violet, white, and two slightly-different shades of pink.) Aglaonema will also flower indoors, but their flowers aren't terribly attractive and can actually lead to unsightly mold. Aglaonema do, however, have a wide assortment of different foliage colors (gray, white, green, yellow, orange/red, silver) and patterns (blotches, polka-dots, overlays, stripes, bands). I like Anthurium foliage too, which is shinier and larger, but it generally only comes in the one color. (In a few of the varieties I have, new leaves come in reddish or orangish and then turn green upon maturity.)

So the choice is basically between varied flowers and varied foliage, and since the foliage is more reliable than the flowers, I have to give it to Aglaonema, in another upset, even though I like both plants very much and it could easily have gone the other way if I'd been in a different sort of mood.

Quarterfinal match #4: Cordyline fruticosa cvv. vs. Dieffenbachia cvv.

I have a similar length of history with both plants. My oldest Dieffenbachia was acquired in May 2006, and my oldest Cordyline in July or August 2006. I've propagated both (always successful with Cordyline, only sometimes successful with Dieffenbachia, but dieffs have given me more opportunities), both are available in many different cultivars (broader range of colors with Cordyline, more varied patterns with Dieffenbachia), both have large leaves (Dieffenbachia's are, potentially, larger), both are susceptible to spider mites (Dieffenbachia less so), both have interesting histories (Cordyline's is more pleasant), both are moderately difficult to grow indoors (Dieffenbachia is easier).

Last night on Twitter, I had gone with Cordyline, but as I've been writing this, I've changed my mind, since most of the differences between the two seem to cut in Dieffenbachia's favor. So we'll say that this one was overturned by judges after the fight, and give it to Dieffenbachia instead.

Semifinals on Twitter tonight (if they get it fixed: I haven't been able to access Twitter yet today) and PATSP tomorrow morning/afternoon.

Match 1: Yucca guatemalensis cvv. (#1) vs. Vriesea splendens (As the plant profiles for these two are, respectively, Secret Agent Man and James Bond, this fight will be marketed as "Spy vs. Spy.")

Match 2: Aglaonema cvv. vs. Dieffenbachia cvv. (This will be the "Good vs. Evil" fight, in reference, again, to the plant profiles: Goody Two-Shoes, and Sadist)


Anonymous said...

Those are really nice. I battle spider mites all the time.

Peter said...

Not the Dieffenbachia! Nooooo!!!!!

Chris said...

Wow! Tough choices.

jodi (bloomingwriter) said...

OMG you're amusing! You should write a book, because you're one of the most informative yet entertaining bloggers I've encountered. I learn heaps when I have the chance to stay and read a few postings, but you're very prolific compared to me!
(I'm rooting for the Dieffenbachia, I think.

Water Roots said...

Great post!

And for me, Bromeliads rule!

Karen715 said...

Hoping for the triumph of good over evil. Dieffenbachia: Mama Said Knock You Out. Go Aglaonema!