Thursday, December 20, 2012

List: Missing From Retail, Part 5 of 5

The explanation and background for this post can be found here, at part 1. (Part 2) (Part 3) (Part 4)

So here we are at the end. It's been fun, right?

Russelia equisetiformis Photo by Eurico Zimbres, via Wikimedia Commons.

I have seen Russelia equisetiformis (firecracker plant, coral plant) for sale in Iowa once, maybe twice. The ex-job has had them. I don't know if they sold, or if they died really fast, but either way, they weren't around for very long. I have no idea what they'd be like to grow indoors, but they do get a lot bigger than I expected from the (mostly close-up) pictures in the books. I'd think providing adequate light would be a problem.

Salpiglossis sinuata cv. Photo by Hephaestos, via Wikimedia Commons.

I've never seen Salpiglossis cvv. (painted tongue) plants for sale, nor can I recall seeing the seeds anywhere. The seeds part could just be me not paying attention, but I know I would remember seeing the flowers.

The commenters at remark a couple times on the plants' tendency to wilt suddenly for no apparent reason, so it could be that it's difficult for growers to maintain a healthy-looking stock. Where they are sold, they are apparently typically marketed as annuals, though I believe they are actually perennials if protected from cold (USDA zone 8-11).

I encountered one reference to Salpiglossis that suggested its unavailability is mostly a matter of fashion, not a matter of difficulty. Fern also claims that Salpiglossis has come "roaring back" into fashion recently. I can't say I've seen any evidence of that here in Iowa.

Schizanthus wisetonensis 'Angel Wings.'

While researching this post, I've had a tough time keeping Schizanthus cvv. (butterfly flower, poor man's orchid) distinct in my mind from Salpiglossis; the two names both begin and end with "s," are nearly the same length, and are alphabetically close to one another, so I guess my brain would like them to be the same plant. Having now seen several photos of different varieties of each, though, I believe I can finally tell them apart. If nothing else, there's a clue in the name: schizo- means "split," so that'd be the one with the split petals.

I've never seen Schizanthus around here either, though there are a number of websites referring to growing them from seed, or growing them indoors, so apparently this really is something that people do. I couldn't swear I've never seen seeds for sale.

They're typically sold as annuals, but in mild climates may be short-lived perennials, so maybe it's the "short-lived" part that's the problem? They also need a lot of sun, are slow to start from seed, and at least one site said they prefer cool, humid conditions. Any of those could be a problem; all of them together seems like it would definitively rule them out as indoor plants. And yet, there they are in the books (Crockett and Kramer) anyway.

Senecio confusus 'Sao Paulo.' My photo.

I've only seen Senecio confusus once or twice; the first time (photographed above) was at the ex-job, and I can't recall for sure whether there was a second time or not. Its identity may be somewhat in flux: I found some sites claiming that it had been changed to Pseudogynoxys chenopodioides. Plant List says that both Pseudogynoxys chenopodioides and S. confusus are accepted names for (I assume) different species, so I don't actually even know what plant we're talking about.

It's another vining plant, that has the potential to get big (vines to 10-12 feet / 3.0-3.7 m long), which is possibly the only reason one needs not to grow it in one's house. That said, it's apparently also really easy to propagate, so it could probably be restarted regularly, whenever it gets too large. It also needs a lot of light.

Solanum pseudocapsicum? My photo.

Solanum pseudocapsicum (Jerusalem cherry; winter cherry; various botanical synonyms including S. capsicastrum) has never interested me that much, even when I saw it in books, but while I was reading through them in preparation for these posts, I noticed that it seemed to come up quite a bit (Kramer, Crockett, Powell). I've only ever seen it at the ex-job. If I remember correctly, that only happened a couple times, and they dropped a lot of leaves shortly after arrival on both occasions.

The consensus at is that they need cool bright conditions in the winter. They're possibly also not helped by their fairly plain appearance when not bearing fruit (though that doesn't stop people from growing Citrus), their appeal to bugs (not personally experienced, but that's the claim here) or the poisonous foliage and fruit.

Sonerila pulchella. Photo credited to Alexey Yakovlev, kind of obviously. Found via (and owned by?) Used in compliance with the non-commercial use guidelines on this page.

Only the Kramer book mentioned Sonerila cvv. (sonerila), and there's remarkably little about them on-line either, so it's entirely possible that they're not missing from retail so much as not yet arrived in retail. I had to go through four pages of Google results to find a single mention of them as a cultivated plant, and that (WARNING: autoplay video/audio) wasn't really what you'd call informative. (, on page 5 of the Google results, covers most of the same information in a much less chaotic context, and page 6 gives us the French version, which I can't read but possibly some of you can.)

There's near-universal consensus that they're attractive plants (many of the Google results are links to sonerila drawings, paintings, or photography), so I have to assume that there's a problem with them being too slow, or too touchy, for mass production. They do apparently demand a lot of warmth and high humidity, if nothing else.

Stanhopea radiosa. Photo: Orchi. Found via Wikimedia Commons.

(I'm fairly certain that I've seen Stanhopea spp./cvv. (no common name?) on the blog of at least one person I follow, but I can't remember who, or where. If I could remember that, I'd link to you, so if you think you might be the person I'm remembering, say something in the comments.)

I've never seen a Stanhopea for sale around here, even from specialty sellers or at the orchid show. Why not? No clue: they're apparently cultivated all the time. The short life of the flowers (~3 days, per Wikipedia), need for cooler temperatures (according to this care sheet, anyway) and odd growth habit (the flower spikes typically grow down instead of up, requiring plants to be hung for best display, and necessitating the use of special pots with holes in the sides) might all be factors.

Trachelospermum jasminoides. Photo by Wouter Hagens, via Wikimedia Commons.

Trachelospermum jasminoides (confederate jasmine, star jasmine) doesn't seem to be sold around here, though some of the true jasmines (Jasminum spp.) are. Not sure why this would be: a quick look around the internet didn't turn up anything especially damning. They can get to be big, heavy plants, but they restart easily from cuttings, so that shouldn't be a problem, and unlike a lot of the plants on these lists, Trachelospermum doesn't appear to require a cool winter (though cool winters are apparently not a problem, either). And I can't even remember the last time I heard so many people gush so hard about a single plant. (Not that the people are reliable gushers: they think Aspidistra elatior is a nice plant too.) So there's no huge, obvious reason why Trachelospermum wouldn't sell in Iowa. I might even be interested in a little one, if only to see why it's such a big deal.

Tolmiea menziesii. My photo.

I really, really tried with Tolmiea menziesii (piggyback plant, youth on age), but . . . no. Just no. At least some of my problem is that it's too warm in here -- they do prefer cool, humid air -- but I was never able to get watering right either.

It's not like they're even pretty; I'd gotten one because I'd been under the impression that they were fairly easy plants. They grew well in the greenhouse at work, so I figured they'd grow well for me too.

I do still see Tolmiea occasionally -- the ex-job has had large hanging baskets once or twice, and I'm pretty sure I've seen 4" plants at one other place in Iowa City as well -- but it's pretty rare. Fine by me.

Veltheimia bracteata 'Lemon Flame.' Photo by BotBln, via Wikimedia Commons.

Veltheimia cvv. (forest lily, cape lily, bush lily) do still get sold, if you know the right places. Unfortunately, none of those places seem to be in Eastern Iowa. V. bracteata is apparently a very nice houseplant, for people who can provide enough light, and who don't panic at a short summer dormancy. (Which rules me out, twice.)

The Bulb Maven attributes their disappearance to the whims of fashion,1 rather than difficulty providing the right growing conditions. Could be, I suppose, though I have no memories of them ever being widely available.

As I noted, I'm mildly curious about Trachelospermum jasminoides, unless someone can provide a compelling reason for me not to be. Schizanthus or Stanhopea would be my wouldn't-it-be-cool-if plants, from this group, but I don't anticipate ever actually trying them.

Not pictured:
  • Rechsteineria cardinalis (cardinal flower): have never seen.
  • Reinwardtia indica (syn. R. trigyna, yellow flax): have never seen.
  • Rivinia humilis (pigeonberry, rouge plant): have never seen.
  • Ruellia makoyana (monkey plant, Mexican wild petunia, trailing velvet plant): have never seen in person, though I see photos all over the place.
  • Schizocentron elegans (creeping princess flower): have never seen.
  • species Schlumbergeras: have never seen in person, though I'm pretty sure I've run into Schlumbergera gaertneri (now possibly Hatiora gaertneri) for sale a few times on the internet.
  • Sprekelia formosissima (Aztec lily, Jacobean lily): have never seen, but I ran into a few sellers on-line while writing this.
  • Streptosolen jamesonii (marmalade bush, orange browallia): have never seen.
  • Tabernaemontana divaricata (crepe jasmine): have never seen for sale. No idea if I've ever seen them in person.
  • Tetranema roseum (Mexican violet, Mexican foxglove): have never seen.
  • Tetrapanax papyriferus (rice-paper plant): have never seen for sale, though I've seen it on blogs, Danger Garden in particular, so I know they're out there.
  • Tibouchina semidecandra (princess flower, glory bush): have never seen.
  • Tulbaghia fragrans (sweet garlic, pink agapanthus): have never seen.
  • Vallota (apparently Cyrtanthus now; no common name?): have never seen.
  • Zephyranthes candida (rain lily, zephyr lily, fairy lily): have never seen.

1 (Also known as "plant obsolescence.")


nycguy said...

In the paleophytic era, before the internet, a lot of your "missing from retail" plants were traditionally sold by mail-order nurseries, like Logee's in Connecticut or Kartuz in California. It was a different business model from that of the mass market plant growers of Florida.

These nurseries catered to hobbyists, as did the books by people like Jack Kramer and the Elberts. There were flourishing clubs of indoor gardening hobbyists who organized group purchases, or even bus trips to these specialized nurseries if the club was within driving distance of such a nursery. The club members exchanged cuttings at their monthly meetings (each meeting with an inspirational speaker who often just happened to be a vendor of such specialized plants also), or donated cuttings for sale at meetings in order to help finance the club.

The clubs (The Indoor Gardening Society, the Gesneriad Society, the Cactus and Succulent Society and many others) still exist, and have local chapters with monthly meetings, but they are a shadow of their pre-internet selves.

The plants were barely known in the garden center world, because the retail customers wouldn't buy something they weren't already familiar with, and the mass suppliers weren't about to bother growing stuff they couldn't mass market.

Ivynettle said...

Lots and lots of never-seen-and-never-read stuff this time!

Salpiglossis seeds are usually available here (though not common) - I've grown them once or twice. Had no idea that they could be grown as houseplants, but I have a feeling that they'd be bug magnets.

Schizanthus... I imagine that's as much a houseplant as a primrose or potted daffodil. At the ex-job, we grew them for the botanical garden's spring displays in the cooler greenhouses - tried to order them at the current job, because people are asking for them, but couldn't get any, I'm not sure why.

Tolmiea is available occasionally, but after having killed one (admittedly, it was in a bad spot), I haven't been tempted to try again. Maybe if I could get a leaf/plantlet for free. Would it be terrible of me if I asked my ex-coworker/now garden-centre employee to nick one for me?

I had a Ruellia once, from vocational school - one of our practical lessons was propagating about 50 different houseplants. My cuttings all rooted - and then I took them home, and all of them died. Still a little sad about the Ruellia, it was cute (hm, could I ask our apprentice to steal one for me when he goes to school?)

I've seen Tulbaghia for sale once or twice, but only T. violacea, and only at the seed-saving society's spring market - not exactly your typical retail setting!

ADC in NJ said...

Every year there are a couple pots of blooming Veltheimia in the horticultural competitions at the Philadelphia Flower Show. They're striking when they're in bloom, but I've never seen them anywhere else.

And there's a Rice Paper plant in the Ladies Garden at the NY Botanic Garden, but I can't imagine growing it in the house, it's huge.

I belonged to the Houseplant Society in NYC for a little while, and the best part of the meeting was the table of plants for sale. I still have some of the things I got there.

Anonymous said...

Trachelospermum jasminoides is frequently grown as an outdoor vine/shrub in the San Francisco Bay Area. I can't say I've ever seen it grown as a houseplant or sold as such; I've only seen it sold alongside other outdoor perennials (like Pittosporum and Nandina). When old enough, the vines form woody stems which are very hard to remove from whatever they've latched onto.

Pat said...

Trachelospermum is sometimes offered as Rhynchospermum.

I am growing a Tabenaemontana divaricata from seed but it was slowed a lot by chilly winters. Hopefully it will take off a bit faster now it is protected from cold.

Carmen said...

I bought a Solanum pseudocapsicum at a local grocery store about a month ago, thinking it wouldn't last long (I can never get anything in the pepper family to last long indoors, they always wilt within a week or two), but I love having holiday plants around my Christmas tree, and me and poinsettas don't get along. So when I saw a Solanum pseudocapsicum for sale for a small price, I decided to try... and so far it has done wonderful in my home (which is kinda dark this time of year and kept around 70 degrees). It's only dropped a very few leaves, maybe 5, and about 3 of the peppers have wrinkled up so I pulled them off when I first got it...but I relly like it so far, it's even still throwing out new flowers and peppers.

Also this last summer I found painted tongue plants at either Home Depot or Lowes (can't remember which) for around $3, and I transplanted it a few days later and it did wilt and die really fast...I followed the instructions on the tag and googled it, but it still died. It is a very pretty in an unusual way but I can't say I would try it again...$3 is too much for a plant that dies within a week.

Paul VA said...

I have some Trachelospermum jasminoides growing on a trellis in my back yard. If it does root as easily as its suppose to, i can send you a piece when i send the Euphorbia leuconeura seedlings in the spring. When in bloom the Trachelospermum jasminoides makes my whole backyard smell great.

Unknown said...

Many of these plants you've listed are freely sold and grown as bedding plants here in Southwest Florida. Some are noxious weeds as well.

I too remember the "good old days" when you could buy thousands of varieties of seeds from George W. Park Seed Company and I tried many of these as houseplants way back then.

I also used the Kartuz and Logee's mail order catalogs (and Merry Gardens in CT, I believe). Houseplant growing was such an exciting hobby way back then.

I still enjoy indoor gardening -- it's just not as exciting as it once was with mass marketing and cookie-cutter landscaping.

Jean Campbell said...

Russellia equisetiformis can be spectacular. A 3-gallon pot of that underplanted with Graptopetalum has bloomed red 'firecrackers' in the greenhouse since I brought it inside. It does love water. Recently it shot up a stem about 3 feet into the air, stiffer than the blooming stems. I think it is sending out little stems along the length. I put a smaller one in a 4" square pot with some bits of Ghost Plant, to see how it fares as a smaller container plant. No bloom so far but it thrived.

Solamnum pseudocapsicum -- I waste my time on real capsicum that can be eaten. Mama used to grow Jeruselem cherries because they were a novelty.

When I chopped up my list to try to match to the right posts I may have omitted something vital. Maybe not.

Lee said...

I have read all 5 posts and found them very interesting, as most of the plants you mentioned are also hard to come by in Korea, yet most of them appear on my mother's old books on indoor gardening printed in 1970~80s(which were used as textbooks for horticulture courses for non-majors in university. I find it quite interesting that my mother had forgotten all of what she learnt and had no interest in plants until she somehow got a son obsessed with them). As for the reason why they are missing now is, it's because the contents of the books were usually copied from older Japanese books, and many of the plants described in the books were never introduced at all to Korea. However, I highly doubt that this was the case in the States.

Of course there are exceptions such as Camellia spp., Pittosporum tobira, Fatsia japonica, Nandina domestica, and Trachelospermum asiaticum(a relative of T. jasminoides, and if you search hard, you can get T. jasminoides in Korea too), which are actually quite popular in Korea as houseplants. I think this has to do with Northeast Asia being their native range(including Korea in some species), and maybe using underfloor heating systems instead of forced-air heating in houses.

However, there are plants that were widely grown as houseplant in Korea in past or native to Northeast Asia like Molineria capitulata, Aspidistra elatior, Aucuba japonica, and Ophiopogon jaburan that are hard to find or unpopular as houseplants nowadays. I guess the only explanation I have for them is that they are simply out of fashion.

Funny thing is, quite a lot of plants that were 'missing' are once again available recently, though not from usual florist's shops. They are handled by so called 'wild flower shops' which sells wide range of plants from native Korean plants to South African bulbs and thus better described as to be specialist nurseries for plant collectors. Unfortunately, their price is often hideously high, but I found that once certain plants are proven to be popular among customers and has no particular difficulties in their propagation or cultivation, those plants tend to find their way into retail shops in more affordable price, the examples being Tulbaghia violacea and Cyrtanthus mackenii.

Anonymous said...

I have seen Stanhopea (no, no common name) available from orchid nurseries but, no, they typically aren't found for sale at shows. If a person who was attending a show wanted one, they check if any of the vendors who would be attending the show had them and would bring one with them.

Because of the short bloom life of the flowers which -- in most species -- grow down through the bottom of their baskets (for this reason they are never grown in regular pots but rather baskets with large holes or spaces between slats), it can be hard to get them too a show while still blooming. And plants not in bloom do not sell well at shows. Furthermore, because they tend to be fairly large plants transporting them is an issue. You can't sent them on a surface without snapping off any flower spikes and hanging them in a moving truck obviously poses some obvious problems (buds snapping off if the plants fall or the flower spikes smack against plants below them, or even if the basket falls and crushes some other plants below.)

As far as temperature goes, it really depends on the species. There are species that do demand cooler temps but there are also others that like it hot.

If one is interested checking out more info on Stans, one can look here (scroll down until you get to the Stanhopea:

and here:

j rosenbower said...

Oh so many things! I'm from the central coast of California and many, many of the things on these lists are available and even very common here.
I think your biggest problem is that many of these plants are ideal outdoor plants for temperate regions. They need moderate temp.s year round, bright but not hot sun, cool breezes and some humidity. So they end up being more unheated porch rather than in the house plants.
If you were to try some of these inside I would suggest:
-Fatsia. Striking large leaves, some of the variegated ones are rather nice. Keep it bright and cool.
- Rusellia does quite well indoors if you pick a smaller one (which will still get big at about 2-3ft) and give it lots and lots of light and water.
- Fuchsia procumbens. Lovely in a hanging basket. Likes drafty east facing windows.
- Lachenelias have great flowers but be prepared for less than ideal foliage in an indoor setting.
- Star Jasmine is so common here its almost looked down upon, but its a sturdy little plant that blooms reliably if given a cooler spot (needs cool nights to bloom)

You probably can't find many of the orchids because a lot of the midwest growers have gone out as the owners have grown old and died.

Beyond considerations of weather I have to agree with nycguy about growers. Our area is graced with a large number of 'family' growers so we still see a lot of diversity. Mail order is making a come back though - the orchids you should be able to get easily, and if you want to check out a funky bay area grower try annies annuals & perennials.