Codiaeum variegatum III

The title of the post is a bit of a pun. It is my third post on C. variegatum (I like them), and since I last mentioned them, we’ve bought two more so we now have three.

I just took this photo which shows the original one (on the left) and the second one (in the corner of the windowsill). The plant between them is an Acer palmatum ‘Atropurpureum’; more about that in a later post. The window faces Southwest and gets about six hours of direct sunlight a day this time of year, more at midsummer.

This being the UK, the sun doesn’t shine every day… but they still get a lot of light and it’s motivating them to grow.

This is the plant on the left, and it has four new leaves. One of them is still pretty small and may be a bit hard to spot, but it’s there. I’m chuffed with this; it already grew two nice new leaves in December(!) and I think it’s doing pretty well.

The plant on the right is also at work; here’s a close up of the top of the stem.

It’s harder too see what’s going on here because the shoots are much smaller, but I think it also has four. I could be mistaken, but we’ll find out soon enough.

Our third C. variegatum is not on the first photo above, but here it is on its own.

It may not be evident from the photo, but it’s considerably smaller than the other ones. I got this a week ago from a local garden centre, and as always, they gave no information at all about which cultivar it is (I asked, but no cigar). I think it may be an ‘Iceton’, but it’s hard to know; there seem to be hundreds of C. variegatum cultivars about.

This plant wasn’t actually for sale when we were at the garden centre. They’d checked it recently and it still only had the roots it had grown in its previous pot; it wasn’t ready to be sold.

I persuaded them to sell it anyway, and it seems to be happy enough so far. As you can see here, enlarging part of the previous frame, it also has a couple of shoots.

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Acacia dealbata

This was sold to us as a Mimosa, but it’s not.

It does look like one, though — I’ve seen the genuine article in a botanical garden, and apart from the leaflets being somewhat larger on a Mimosa, they’re close kin.

Each leaf on A. dealbata is divided into two long rows of tiny leaflets, as you can see.

On a real mimosa, the leaflets close when something touches the leaf — it only takes a few seconds and it’s an extraordinary thing to witness. A. dealbata doesn’t do that, but equally surprisingly, it does close its leaflets during the night.

This photograph was taken in the morning. It appears that the leaflets open from the base up — they’re open further down, but closed at the top.

I’ve seen A. dealbata referred to as “fast growing”, and our specimen certainly is that — the second photograph in the post shows a new leaf, and with the days growing longer, they now appear with an impressive frequency. I would imagine this plant can become quite large in a short span of time.

The botanical garden with the Mimosa also had a mature A. dealbata, and it was an interesting plant. It had a real, wooden trunk, but still the same leaves, divided into tiny leaflets. A somewhat incongruous sight, or perhaps it just doesn’t look like the sorts of plants I’m used to.

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Pachira aquatica

This is one of our specimen plants so it’s quite big and hard to photograph.

As you can see, it’s not actually one plant but several, with braided trunks. It appears that all P. aquatica which are sold look like this. I’m no great fan of the idea which I’m told comes from Taiwan, but I find the plant so beautiful that we bought one anyway.

It’s yet another tropical plant (there’s a reason they’re mentioned in the tag at the top) which belongs to the wetlands of Central and South America. The leaves are typically found in groups of six, like this.

It is, however, interesting that they also come in fives.

And sevens.

During the winter we’ve had our P. aquatica and our Fatsia japonica ‘Variegata’ standing next to each other. I think they look good together — there’s a structural resemblance between the two plants which makes the combination appealing.

However, P. aquatica needs much more light than F. japonica so it seemed like a good time to separate them — the light is beginning to pick up and there’s no shade in the conservatory except what the plants provide for each other. So the F. japonica has been moved to a position where it’ll hopefully be protected a bit from the sun, while the P. aquatica is still on a table which is bound to get lots of sun.

Some of the plants next to it are our two Codiaeum variegatum; I believe they also need lots of sunlight to thrive. The P. aquatica has done very little all winter — I think it has yet to drop a leaf, but there’s been no new growth. However, things are beginning to happen.

This is not a great photograph; it was hard to get the camera to focus on this tiny new leaf. But as you can see, the plant is now growing which makes me very happy.

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Pilea peperomioides

Pilea peperomioides, apparently also known as the Chinese missionary plant, is an unusual plant with a colourful history.

I have no means of verifying the story (but no reason to doubt it), but one thing I do know is that the plant remains difficult to buy.

We saw it at a relative’s house a while ago and were offered a cutting, but forgot to take it with us when we left. Since then, I have been keen to get one of these nice plants, but have been unable to find anyone who sold it.

On a recent trip to the continent, I went to the glasshouse of a large botanical garden and came upon an ample, lush specimen of P. peperomioides. On the way out I visited their shop, and lo and behold! There was its small cousin, for sale at £7.

I wonder if it was propagated from the one in the glasshouse. I was apprehensive about bringing it back to the UK, but the lady who ran the shop had heard worse and wrapped it up very thoroughly. Indeed, as you can see, the plant survived the trip in my suitcase — it didn’t even lose much soil from the pot.

It’s only been a week since I came back, so it remains to be seen if it’ll thrive. But it does look happy enough so far and has found a place on the windowsill in the conservatory.

It appears that P. peperomioides can be propagated in much the same way as Chlorophytum comosum, the venerable Spider plant: From time to time, new, small plants are produced on runners and one merely has to detach them and plant them in a new pot. I certainly intend to try this if our specimen generates such offspring.

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Zamioculcas zamiifolia

This tropical plant, native to East Africa, is a recent addition to the conservatory, so I don’t have any experience of growing it yet.

Z. zamiifolia is a handsome plant whose thick, luxurious leaves look very glossy. It’s got a reputation for robustness: It’ll tolerate a variety of watering regimes, doesn’t require much light, and is pest resistant (very topical, seeing how we’re being constantly attacked at the moment).

One of the fascinating aspects is that this plant can be propagated by leaf cuttings. You cut off a leaf, stick it in some soil, and it turns into a new zamiifolia! Not only that, but from the leaf grows new tubers; these are bulbous growths in the soil which you can see in the photographs.

It’s evident that our specimen has been made by leaf propagation. There is more than one original leaf and one of them is now turning yellow.

The tubers have the same function as bulbs; they’re where the plant stores water and nutrition. Apparently they’re the reason it can survive for long stretches of time without being watered.

I don’t intend to put that to the test, though: I’d like this beautiful plant to thrive, so have placed it where it’ll get plenty of light and intend to water it accordingly.

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Canna II

We bought a Canna in October for a pound and I wrote a post on 20 October. Quite a lot has happened since then.

The first photograph in the earlier post shows the plant as it was, but all that is gone; only the short stub near the middle of the pot is left. But as you can see, there’s a whole new plant with four stalks! Three of them are quite close together in the photo so they’re not so easy to count.

As I wrote in October, it would be amazing if we could get it to flower, but I also find the leaves exquisite. They look a little bit like the leaves of our Ensete which I also wrote about in October, but that is presumably just a coincidence. Still, I’m looking forward to letting the two plants provide splashes of dark colour in the conservatory in the spring.

At the moment, however, the Canna is quarantined inside because of an insect attack. We had some problems like that in the autumn; a few plants had to be thrown out and I’m a little bit paranoid at the moment.

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Like many of our plants, the Diffenbachia is tropical. I’m not sure which part of the tropics, but one surprising aspect is that it’s quite happy in the shade. It does make sense when you think about it, since it would presumably be growing in the shade of larger plants in its natural habitat.

This is our modest specimen and I really think it’s gorgeous. They tell me it never flowers when grown indoors, but that doesn’t bother me since I’m in love with this plant for its lush leaves! Dieffenbachias grow to about one meter, and ours is smaller than that, although not that small — you can imagine it getting to a meter before too long.

One astonishing thing is that this plant keeps growing despite the short solstice days of Britain. I’ve mentioned it several times but it never seizes to amaze me that a tropical plant can do this well so far north. We do help it by keeping the temperature at 12+ degrees… but you might still think a denizen of the Equator would be a bit unhappy. Not so: Here’s the latest new leaf.

Leaves appear at the middle which seems to be a popular way for tropical plants to grow: Ensete, Monstera, and Spathiphyllum are the same, to mention three other species from our conservatory. The leaves on the outside die away as the plant grows and fresh new growth appears at the centre.

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