Thursday, October 6, 2011

Walkaways Part 15

A few interesting plants I have declined to buy recently. ("Declined to buy" mostly in the sense of "was incapable of buying.")

Orthophytum gurkenii.

This was tagged "ORTH. GERKIANA." Googling found the correct name. Wholesalers aren't obliged to care, I guess.

This was unusually expensive for a 4-inch plant at the ex-job; I don't remember the precise number but I want to say $13. (A normal 4-inch plant is $7.) This has been happening a lot there, which concerns me because it seemed to begin with the Anthuriums.

What I know about the Orthophytum genus is that there is one, it's in the Bromeliaceae, and one of the species is called O. gurkenii; beyond that, I have nothing. I suppose if I had one, I would probably try to treat it like a Cryptanthus and see how that went, but I'd never even heard of them before, so that's totally a guess.

Striking-looking, though.

Codiaeum variegatum NOID.

I'm not particularly fascinated by crotons, normally, but this was a new type of variegation to me, and I do like it. It didn't make me want to buy the plant -- it's still a croton, whatever flashy new patterns it may be sporting -- but it works for me aesthetically.

Cyclamen persicum NOID.

Not a new plant, and not a particularly new variety of an old plant, either, but I was struck by the leaves; they seem more intricate than the usual Cyclamen leaf.

Cyclamen persicum NOID, close-up of a leaf.

I actually would have bought this -- I've decided that I like Cyclamens, even if they do look crappy for a while after they've bloomed -- but it was still a little pricey ($10, I think), and I don't have a good spot for one right now. But it's not like I'm not going to have other opportunities.

Ficus microcarpa (?), variegated.

I had to look hard at this plant several times before I decided that it probably wasn't a Ficus benjamina. The leaves were too thick and stiff, and the leaf tips seemed wrong in some hard-to-define way.

Ficus microcarpa (?), variegated, close-up.

I think what I was seeing was that the leaf tips are blunter on this plant than on most F. benjaminas, and the branches are less weeping than benjaminas usually are, but investigation in the photo archives shows that it's not quite as clear as that. Microcarpa isn't always blunt-tipped; benjamina isn't always pointed; there's overlap on both ends, and I actually have some plants that grew one type when young and a different type when old. And there's even more variability with the branches, depending on the environment. So I'm left with nothing but my own suspicion that this isn't a benjamina. (I did ask, but the person I asked didn't know.)

It'd either be the first microcarpa I've seen grown to full tree-size and the first variegated microcarpa I've ever seen, or it's the first big variegated benjamina I've seen in a few years. I didn't buy it because I wasn't really interested in buying it, and also because it was $120 (!), but it was interesting.

Philodendron martianum 'Gordo.' (Sold as P. cannifolium 'Gordo.')

I've seen these for sale very occasionally -- Wallace's, in the Quad Cities, has had them before -- but I've been leery about trying one because I didn't know anybody who's tried to grow one.

But! WCW was working the day I visited, and she actually has tried to grow one: apparently hers was just kind of miserable all the time. She said she couldn't figure out when to water it. It seemed to complain whether she did or didn't, and eventually it died, or was discarded, or something. (She didn't actually say what happened to it.)

Steve Lucas's page on P. martianum (warning: much taxonomic discussion at the link; not for the faint of Latin) suggests that she was probably keeping it too wet. They can be grown terrestrially or epiphytically, but prefer to be epiphytes (which might explain the need for the enlarged, water-storing petioles), so in theory they'd be accustomed to drying out relatively quickly and then having to wait for more water. I won't be testing this theory, because they wanted $50 for it, but it's a cool-looking plant either way. Maybe someday.

Finally, I don't have a photo, but I saw a Spathoglottis NOID in a hardware store in Iowa City for $10 something. It was in at least a 6-inch pot, too, which a 6-inch pot of anything for $10 is pretty good outside of a big box store. It didn't have any flowers, or an ID, but its leaves were all still dark green and healthy-looking. I thought about it.

In the end, I wound up buying something else, mostly on the grounds that although the Spathoglottis was an incredible deal and I would likely never ever see one that cheap again in my entire life, I've also never really had any desire to own a Spathoglottis. The ones at work always got bleached, black-spotted leaves after they'd been around a while. (My theory was too much sun or heat or both, but we didn't have them around regularly enough to test that.) Orchids and I are getting along much better since people told me about them needing ammonia-based nitrogen instead of urea-based nitrogen, but I'm not quite ready to open my home to any more of them just yet.


Plowing Through Life (Martha) said...

A lot of nice plants to walk away from. I do love the Orthophytum gerkenii most of all.

Pat said...

Orthophytum gurkenii according to the Plant List.

Having a "straight plant" would be a nice irony, for different reasons for both of us.

Jenny said...

Re: Ficus Microcarpa

I got a few of these in at work a couple of months ago and there has been zero leaf-drop. I'm really impressed with this plant.

orchideya said...

Cyclamen leaves are exceptional. I never had luck reblooming them, but this one I would buy just for leaves.
Who is WCW?
Off-topic(please remove if not appropriate): Do you have any experience/suggestions on how to keep Tacca chantrieri alive in the house?

Jeane said...

That cyclamen is a beauty. I love the leaves. I would have bought it!

Han Keat Lim said...

The variegation of the "Ficus microcarpa" looks quite like my Ficus benjamina - Starlight. Here is my photo,

mr_subjunctive said...


Damn it, I was pretty sure I'd checked with Plant List. Maybe I did and I just didn't notice the spelling. I changed the spelling in the post.


See the Infrequently Asked Questions, #s 8 and 9, for WCW.

I don't really have any suggestions about Tacca; I've never tried to grow it, and haven't actually read about it that much either.

Han Keat Lim:

It's possible the plant I saw was 'Starlight' (though your plant, and the plants I've seen before, have purer white coloration than this one did -- it was more of a creamy yellowish-white); like I said in the post, the plant had sort of ambiguous qualities that seemed to indicate F. benjamina and F. microcarpa about equally.

Chris said...

P. martianum is one of my favorite Philodendrons. I've had mine for almost a year and a half now. I did have a couple incidents of root rot, but I now grow it in 1/4-1/2" lava rock. The last time I repotted it, it was completely root bound, so it seems to be liking the extremely porous soil. The leaves still seem a bit stunted though, so I may have to make some more changes.

Paul said...

Hmm, well since WCW's may have been in that peat crap, and since Chris found it did okay in lava rock but not quite as awesomely as ideal, and since you (Mr.S) mentioned it can grow as an epiphyte, then perhaps a more orchid-like mix would work well. Something like 50/50 lava rock & orchid bark mix.

Thomas said...

My book on bromeliads lists Orthophytums (though not gerkenii) makes the genus sound more terrestrial, growing rock crevices, and states they require high light. Shame, nice plant. And I like that philodendron.

I can offer my experience with Tacca chantrieri. They need high humidity, don't let it dry out, good light but protect it from intense sun. They get big with long leaves, and need room to look good; mine even bloomed a couple of times. The leaves always crisped and browned off on the ends; the head gardener at the local conservatory (where I bought it) said they had the same problem. I wonder if they need RO/rainwater?

So Mr Subjunctive, what did you buy?

Kenneth Moore said...

Oh oh oh oh oh!! Orthophytum gerkenii has been on me "Me Want" list for about a year, once I found it on some random plant website for much too much money. I <3 Cryptanthus-like plants!

Jordan in Oregon said...

Man I hate seeing a plant you really REALLY want, but it's beyond your price range. I bought 4 Agaves at work when they were on sale for $6 ea, about a 5" pot. A good deal, especially since we hardly see any Agave in the Northwest. However, last week they got in a variety that wasn't on the previous shipment, but the price bumped back up to $10. Now it's one of my walkaways. But the good news is, when all of our 4" perennials went on sale, a few non-hardy succulents were on that SKU as well, so I picked up 3 more Aloes and a couple of Crassula for $1.74! Perfectly healthy and I'm definitely okay with that price!

Unknown said...

I've noticed houseplant prices going up quite a bit too! Now that it is the rainy season I am just going to try even harder to deal with what I have, but I am sure that revisiting your blog all winter is going to ruin that, right? So it goes and the houseplants grow.

phantom_tiger said...

Seeing plants I should not buy is becoming a kind of hobby!

I would have said crisped leaf edges is a lack of humidity. My calathea roseopictas only get rainwater but still get crisp. I am already fighting off the effects of central heating.

There is a page for taccas here which was interesting.

mr_subjunctive said...


These pictures are from two different trips; on the Orthophytum trip, I didn't buy anything, and the trip where I saw the others, I bought another red Aglaonema ('Sapphire Suzanne') at the hardware store that had the Spathoglottis.

These days, I'm averaging about three or four trips to stores between purchases; it's one of the down sides of not really having an income.

phantom_tiger said...

Curse of the chopped off link...the tacca page is here:
tacca.htm or just search the top tropicals site, because they seem to know what they're talking about and there's a lot of nice pictures.

Sad, as I saw a vriesea splendens in a supermarket florist shop stuffed on top of a dark cupboard and it was $35 (too much especially if it is predestined to snuff it). Happy, because the plants I wanted in a different store turned out to be on sale. No sale sign, but got an aloe, an agave and sempervivum for $5 each, in quart sized pots. I was supposed to give up buying plants this year about four plants ago. My first agave ever. He's been there a long time and I caved, because he's beginning to look unloved.