Wednesday, January 20, 2010

List: Houseplants With Mostly-Chartreuse Foliage

This list differs from some of the previous ones in that most of these plants will be particular cultivated varieties, not species. I don't know exactly when or how it happened, but at some point in fairly recent history, somebody decided that the houseplant market was ready for this color, and then all at once, bam, every plant had a yellow-green twin. I've been wondering for quite a while whether there was some kind of explanation for this sudden proliferation -- some kind of genetic engineering manipulation that could generate a chartreuse version of anything, perhaps? -- but as best as I can tell, this was a change of fashion, not of genes. It appears that nature's been pitching us chartreuse sports for forever, and there's only recently been a market for them.

As with some of the previous lists, this list is true only for certain values of "houseplant," "mostly," and "chartreuse." You may disagree with some of my choices. It also probably goes without saying that we're (for the most part) talking about plants that are yellow-green when healthy, not yellow-green due to disease or nutrient deficiencies. Withhold magnesium long enough, and you can turn almost anything yellow.

Asplenium antiquum, the Japanese bird's-nest fern. (Possibly not technically chartreuse, but at least a very very light yellowish-green. This also goes for Asplenium nidus, the . . . um . . . "regular" bird's-nest fern.)

Dracaena deremensis 'Limelight.' (D. d. 'Lemon-Lime' and 'Goldstar' are sometimes close, but the amount of actual chartreuse varies a lot with them.)

Epipremnum aureum 'Neon.' (pothos)

Pelargonium x hortorum 'Vancouver Centennial.' (geranium)

Philodendron 'Golden Emerald.'

Philodendron hederaceum 'Lemon-Lime.' (heart-leaf philodendron)

Solenostemon scutellarioides 'Quarterback.' (coleus) Other varieties are available which contain some chartreuse in the leaves.

Spathiphyllum cv., maybe 'Golden Glow.' (peace lily)

Vanilla planifolia, variegated. (vanilla orchid)

Vriesea ospinae var. gruberi.

Which of the ten do I like? I'm a huge fan of Philodendron hederaceum 'Lemon-Lime,' in large part because the new leaves come in as a pinkish-orange color, mature into yellow, and then eventually settle down into a light yellow-green with time. Since all three ages are present at any given time, this makes the plant a lot more colorful than similar plants like Epipremnum aureum 'Neon,' and I also find it way easier to grow than Epipremnum, so it's win-win for me.

Dracaena deremensis 'Limelight' is another plant I really like. But I don't think I've ever met a D. deremensis that I didn't like. So that explains that.

The Spathiphyllum-that-might-be-'Golden-Glow' is my third choice in this group. I'm not ordinarily that thrilled with spaths. A well-grown one is, it's true, a thing of beauty, but they're still so common that it's hard to get excited about them. But this particular one, whatever its name might be, is pretty darn different, and it's just as well-behaved as all the others: treat it well and it will look fine.

I like the Vriesea too, but it is so far kind of undecided about me, so it doesn't make the top three list.

Any chartreuse houseplants I've left out?

Not pictured:
Some Asparagus spp. (asparagus ferns) are a very light yellowy green, particularly the new growth, and especially A. densiflorus sprengeri and A. d. myersii.

Dieffenbachia 'Rudolph Roehrs;' possibly some other Dieffenbachia cvv.

I've seen a few Dracaena sanderiana (ribbon dracaena, "lucky bamboo") cultivars around that had the same basic coloration as D. deremensis 'Lemon-Lime,' with a green center and chartreuse margins. I don't have a cultivar name for them, but they were pretty striking, as D. sanderiana go. Asiatica has a solid-chartreuse variety called 'Lucky Gold.'

A few chartreuse cultivars of Ficus maclellandii (long-leaf fig) and F. microcarpa are known, though I've never seen them in person, only on-line at places like Asiatica. Asiatica also sells a Ficus benjamina it calls 'Monique,' which supposedly has chartreuse or yellow leaves with a green center, but I've seen 'Monique' before and it does no such thing, so they may be mistaken about the name. Or I am. One of us is clearly very confused.(UPDATE: I've seen a plant like this where I used to work which was tagged 'Margo;' Googling for it didn't actually turn up anything conclusive, but there was a page about a company called "Margo Nursery Farms," which had just patented a chartreuse variety of Ficus benjamina it was calling 'Golden King.' So it may be that the names got crossed at some point, and the plant I saw was 'Golden King.' The pictures which came up for the name 'Golden King,' though, were different from the plant I saw, though, and looked more like the standard variegated Ficus. But the point is: I have seen a chartreuse Ficus benjamina, in person. I'm just not sure what it's called.)

There's a Hedera canariensis variety, the name of which escapes me, where the new growth is light green to chartreuse. It sounds cooler than it is, though.

Asiatica Nursery sells a Homalomena lindenii 'Lemon Glow,' which resembles H. 'Emerald Gem' except for the color.

There are some chartreuse or chartreuse-and-green cultivars of Nephrolepis exaltata (boston fern), like 'Rita's Gold' and 'Tiger Fern.'

Pandanus veitchii (Veitch's screw pine) probably shouldn't be chartreuse, but sometimes is anyway, perhaps due to nutrient deficiency. The reason I'm including it anyway is because the plant doesn't otherwise appear to suffer when this is happening, I haven't definitively proven to myself that fertilizer fixes the problem, and there is also a cultivar with chartreuse edges that stay chartreuse even if the rest of the leaf comes in green. So it's borderline, but close enough.

Pedilanthus tithymaloides (devil's backbone) is ordinarily solid green, but the variety I have is mostly yellowish, with a little flame of green in the leaf centers.

A 'Golden Xanadu' Philodendron exists, though I've never seen it in person. Asiatica has one called 'Xanadu Gold,' which is more or less what I imagine 'Golden Xanadu' to be.

Asiatica has a Philodendron 'Hammerhead Gold,' which looks like a chartreuse P. bipennifolium.

Also from Asiatica: Philodendron 'Jungle Fever,' 'Malay Gold,' 'Ring of Fire,' and P. bipinnatifidum 'Gold Satin.'

Philodendron 'Moonlight.'

Asiatica also has a few chartreuse or chartreuse-and-green Rhapis excelsa varieties. They are all appallingly expensive, as both Rhapis and Asiatica tend to be.

There are a few Soleirolia soleirolii cultivars which are chartreuse; we had trouble keeping them going at work, though.

I know of one Syngonium podophyllum cultivar that's about half chartreuse and half green, with the basic pattern of 'White Butterfly,' though I'm not sure what it's named.

Xanthosoma 'Lime Zinger' is also only a partial houseplant, but it's so vividly chartreuse that I'm willing to let that slide. And you probably could grow it indoors, if you really wanted to.


Anonymous said...

Ironically I've had a lot of these plants in my house over the years. Nice choices.

Aaerelon said...

I really like the Vriesea ospinae var. gruberi. towards the end.

Anonymous said...

While I get really excited about gray (silvery) green, or blue-green, I have this instant response to the yellow/chartreuse sorts of leaves. Years of reacting to the yellow as a sign of ill health must have me too conditioned to even accept the idea. OK - sort of - in stripes or patterns but not as entire leaves. On the other hand, there's a white form of the Sanseviera that I absolutely lust for.

Liza said...

That seems like a pretty comprehensive list, I can't think of any to add. I like that Philodendron, too, it's beautiful.

Anonymous said...

These lists are so cool.
Now I'm wanting a chartreuse Soleirolia, though if you had trouble with it, I'd probably kill it outright. But.. but.. pretty!

That vanilla orchid is super cool. Gonna have to do some research on that.

Melanie J Watts said...

it's not surprising that plant colours would follow fashion colours. Designer trends in the home decorating business view plants as accessories to complement their colour schemes.

Diane said...

I'm ambivalent about chartreuse plants but I would be willing to try that philodendron. Do chartreusies need any more light (or fertilizer) than their green cousins?

mr_subjunctive said...


The color does take some getting used to, absolutely.


I guess what surprises me more is that before the color was fashionable, nobody (apparently) was growing the plants. I mean, it seems like even if nobody liked chartreuse in 1976, the novelty value of having a chartreuse Dracaena in 1976 would have been worthwhile. But I guess not.


Weirdly, no. Or at least mostly no. The Pelargonium won't get the red coloration without good light, and I think the Vanilla may need more light than the unvariegated kind. But the Philodendron, Dracaena, Epipremnum, etc. all need basically the same care as the dark-green varieties of the same plants. I have not figured out yet how this could be so.

Ivynettle said...

I have cuttings of a chartreuse [i]Philodendron hederaceum[/i] (a sport from one of the Brazils at my last job which kinda... fell into my pocket shortly before my contract there ended) - they've been sulking all winter. I don't know if it was a light issue or if they're just slow growers, but I've had them since October, and I only just saw the tiniest hint of growth a week or so ago.

I kinda miss that job (lots of working with houseplants) but I wouldn't go back there even if I could because of the people. Though right now, any sort of job would be nice.

mr_subjunctive said...

"Term Papers:"

You are not welcome here. Your stupid-ass comments parroting part of my posts will be deleted on sight.

I know you're probably only a bot and therefore can't understand the warning, but I'm warning you anyway. Begone.


Mine have always seemed to grow reasonably quickly if given good light; if they were cuttings to start with, though, and they've gone through steadily-shortening days until a couple weeks ago, then maybe they were just having trouble getting started.

Anonymous said...

I don't think I have ever seen a chartreuse vanilla planifolia before, variegated or not. Generally the variegated version is green-green with yellow-green stripes and while the normal is sort of yellowish, it is not light enough to be considered chartreuse(opinion may vary). Are you sure the plant in the picture is healthy? Or is it just a cultivar I have never seen before?

mr_subjunctive said...


It may be that I was having a looser definition of "chartreuse" than you do, and/or that the photo made it look more yellowish than was actually the case. The photo is very old, so I don't remember for sure, but I believe that it was taken fairly soon after the plants came out of the shipping boxes; i.e., the plant should be as healthy as they ever got.

Anonymous said...

Philodendron "Moonlight" is really fantastic. The plants are just beautiful and have a very interesting growth pattern. Everyone always gloms onto mine and wants to know what it is.

I had poor luck with the one Draceana "Limelight" I tried to grow. Looked great in the shop, but it never thrived and eventually just died in a darkish northern window where I've had other Draceanas growing contentedly for years. More light might have helped, since it usually does with colored varieties that are shortchanged on chlorophyll.