Sunday, November 25, 2012

Meet the Houseplants: Part 3

Welcome back to Lost In the Farmer's Market where today the discussion focuses on some house plants you may not be familiar with. This is the third post of a series that could give you that critical gift idea for the gardener in your lives. 

Today we're taking a step away from succulents towards the Philodendrons and Monstera, both of which belong to the Araceae family which respectively is more commonly called the Arum family. For those not familiar with the Arum family, the arums are best known for the Malanga, Taro and Mexican Bread fruit. The family is also known for the staggering variety of plants under it's group of which a significant number are house plants or are famous horticultural curiosities such as the Titan Arum. For note the Titan Arum (Amorphopahllus titanium) by technicality is the largest cluster of flowers in the world, it common name is the 'Corpse Flower' due to it smelling like, well something died. From prior posts you might recall the Voodoo Lily (Amorphophallus) and, Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema), both of which are in the Arum grouping. Some other commonly seen relatives include Caladium (Elephant Ear), Calocasia (Taro), Xanthosoma (Malanga), Calla Lilies (Zantedeschia), Skunk Cabbage, Dieffenbachia (Dumb-Cane), Dracunculus (Dragon Arum) Syngonium (Arrowhead Plant) and finally, Spathiphyllum (Peace Lily).

In short the number of members in the Arum Family is quite incredible but perhaps what is more amazing is that under the same heading both the monstera and philodendron groups are also noted to reside. They look nothing like the above list of plants and yet, there they are under the same family heading, talk about natural selection and adaptability! With all that said Monstera and Philodendron are both here because they are related from several points of perception. Today we will take a brief glance at several philodendrons and a rather unique example of a Monstera.

Philodendron cordatum – Heart Leaf Philodendron

The philodendron itself is best typified by its most common representative, Devil’s Ivy or Epipremnum aureum. Devils Ivy is an incredibly common garden center house plant but talk about that would be far too easy. For today’s post the focus are is on three philodendrons you may not be familiar with. The first and most durable, is the Heart-Leaf Philodendron which is a plain green Philodendron who can tolerate heat drought cold drafts and neglect with ease. Sadly it is not seen in the trade as much is should be given its durable qualities. All you have to remember is to not over water, and should this happen cuttings can be grown in water with ease. A regular potting soil mix and filtered light is all this houseplant asks for and in return you get a neat trailing plant that has deep green heart-shaped leaves and no pest problems. Heart-leaf philodendrons are probably the most forgiving of the philodendron family as they can thankfully can survive in pots long after the soil has become depleted even without extra fertilizer, for years without any sign of distress.

Philodendron erubescens – Blushing Philodendron

The blushing philodendron demonstrates that not all members of this large family are vine-like in growth. In this case the blushing philodendron is roughly upright growing with large arial roots that brace it as it gains height. Perhaps specimens such as this one demonstrate how closely related the Monstera and Philodendrons are as the growth habits of this Philodendron absolutely resemble those of Monstera Deliciosa or the Mexican Bread fruit plant. As far as care goes, regular potting soil is  acceptable with no real provision for special drainage, but you will need a tall pot as the roots dig deep. Cuttings can be had by cutting a 3” long section of stem with one leaf in the middle and the stem ends being dipped in rooting hormone. This cutting should be inserted into a pot preferably about 6” diameter filled with any basic potting medium. Cuttings can be rooted in water also for ease of propagation. The plant in the picture is just a few months old, and was propagated in the stem cutting method. As you can see in the picture it’s decent for a recently propagated plant and will likely make a nice houseplant at some point. This philodendron might be seen in as part of winter time collections of house plants in places like bLowes and Home Despot. No special care is needed and for note this species of philodendron got it’s common name for it’s reddish tinged leaves and red stems.

Philodendron hybrid ‘Duke of Orange’ -  Duke of Orange Philodendron

I got this plant at a supplier near Durham earlier in the year while looking for something else. I admit it was a complete impulse buy but then with such orange tinged leaves on something as easy to care for as a philodendron, it literally put most coleus out of business. I have to repeat that this guy is INCREDIBLY slow growing, having gained less then an inch over about four months, but then considering it’s new leaves are a sort of bronze-electric-orange color the growth speed is irrelevant. Like most philodendrons it seems to be soil insensitive, and is currently growing in basic potting soil.  It turns light green when exposed to a few hours of full sun a day but reverts back to that orange color when brought back inside and given filtered light. I have noticed it does respond somewhat to fertilizer but I would not suggest you go crazy feeding it. I imagine that if paired with the right pot this plant could be exceptional in any indoor setting as a striking centerpiece. In terms of availability I have seen this plant offered by numerous online green houses and though catalogs but surprisingly places like bLowes and Home Despot have not noticed it yet.

Monstera friedrichsthalii – Swiss Cheese Plant

Our last entry in today’s post is the botanical star of this year’s Urban Farm Day and a favorite in the plant giveaway at the Sustainable Neighbor’s Meetings.  Swiss Cheese plant as a common name can refer to a number of plants in the Philodendron and Monstera family however if you are to seek this plant out make sure to use the Latin name. As far as house plants go this one is relatively quick growing and quite respectable as far as durability and ease of propagation are concerned.  The plant pictured is the mother plant for all of the swiss cheese plants sold and or given away, and while it has lost something like 95% of it’s mass by next year it will make a full recovery at which I can take the same quantity if cuttings and let it regenerate itself again. Left to it’s own devices with ample fertilizer and regular water it can grow about a third of an inch a day. Propagation can be accomplished by rooting cuttings in water or by soil layering the stems. Soil layering is when you allow a plant’s stem to come into contact with the soil and weigh the stem down with a stone or pin to promote root formation at the point of contact.  As far as care goes this plant seems to be accepting of all but extreme cold and long dry spells.

As a final biological note for this post, both Devil's Ivy (Epipremnum aureum) and Heart-Leaf Philodendron (Philodendron cordatum ) are both known for the ability to exude excess water from the tips (apex) or edges (margins) of their leaves. From a biological stand point this may be a method to attract insects to protect the plant or a way to counter a long wet season. It is possible this ability developed to increase local humidity. Once thing is certain, if you find droplets of water on the leaf tips of your philodendron, and you also watered recently you are over watering and should ease off for a bit.

This brings another episode of LITFM to a close, I hope you found the plants discussed interesting, maybe they have given you an idea for a gift for someone you know. Next week which is the first of December will hopefully see the continuation of the food security topic and a few more ideas for house plants. As always Keep ‘em Growing and see you here next week!


  1. Hi, I really like these plants. Can I have a small cutting from your blushing philodendron? It looks very nice. I like the prince of orange as well!

  2. Thank you for reading, and I hope they gave you some cool ideas. The blushing is not that large but in spring I know it'll start getting size again, I can root you a cutting in March, and if your in the Fayetteville NC area you can pick it up or I can bring it to a sustainable neighbors meeting. Let me know what you would prefer.

    BTS I like your blog and nice pots for your houseplants, the plastic ones you've got are the same type I use. They're good stuff!

    1. Thank you, I do enjoy growing my houseplants. Do you currently have a small offshoot from your prince of orange? Sorry, I think that I'm very anxious for one. I have plants to trade. I have a split leaf philodendron to give to you in exchange. I can mail it out to you. Thanks for your help!

    2. You're welcome, and I agree, house plants are where it's at. In fact, I know where to get a duke of orange philodendron. I bring this up because mine seems to be very slow growing, I've had it for months and it seems to be the same size as when I got it even after re-potting. For note it was in a tiny 3" pot then, it may be big enough to try cuttings in the spring but I'm not sure.
      There has been talk at sustainable neighbors of taking a group expedition to the very supplier I got the duke of orange from some time in march. If you are in the area, you might be able to go on the trip and get a full out plant!