While gardeners have always been rather partial to flower plants, there is certainly a quiet charm about plants whose foliage is their chief attraction.
One foliage plant that I particularly enjoy for its bold shape and veining pattern is Nephthytis triphylla or Syngonium podophyllum. Small plants grow relatively slowly.
But when they do start to reach up, they grow and climb rapidly, preferring a sunless location. As soon as they begin to vine, they can be trained against the window frame.
Little Light Is Needed
While I have always grown mine on a north window sill, I have seen them used for decorative purposes in hotels and businesses, sometimes a long distance from strong light. There are several varieties of nephthytis, all have arrow-shaped leaves in some variation, and they are either plain green or variegated.
Nephthytis triphylla’s markings range from white to greenish-white, but all are in the exact shape of the leaf. While moisture is preferred, this plant can adapt to considerable neglect and is not fussy about the potting mixture used.
When one looks for Aralia balfouri in the horticultural cyclopedias, they are referred to the genus Polyscias. Still, all the catalogs I have seen are satisfied to use the aralia classification.
Hence, I call this plant with its cool-looking foliage by its old listing; the rounded green leaves with irregularly-shaped white margins are coarsely toothed. The descriptions say variegated, but the few plants I have seen have had the white only on the very edge.
The texture of the leaf is much like holly. A potting mixture of equal parts of sand, peat moss, and loam with a little leaf mold and fertilizer (cow manure preferred), with plenty of water and light, but not too sunny location meet its requirements.
Soil Made the Difference
I was greatly disappointed when the contents of a packet of seeds labeled Cineraria maritima proved to be Sideritis candicans. Even greater was my disappointment when the little plants transplanted to a border did not grow well, but neither did they die.
In the Autumn, I decided to pot two that had grown close together and see what they would do in a south window. While the growth was slow until after Christmas, they have added much to the variety of my window garden.
The leaves and stems are covered with a dense white wool, the new leaves being almost White, and the overhanging wool accentuates the even-spaced, finely-rounded notches.
In the border, the soil in which these plants grew was mostly clay, but when potted, the mixture was light and rich and, judging by the growth they made while indoors, evidently, I met their soil requirements.
As is often the case where plant foliage is unusual in texture or coloring, the blooms are insignificant (or so I am told). There were no blossoms, but the beauty of the foliage makes it a most desirable plant.
The Leopard Plant
Ligularia kaempferi aureo-maculata, sometimes listed as a farfugium, came to us through England from the north of China. It is one of those plants that were popular years ago, then disappeared from the catalog listings.
Now, this commonly-called leopard plant is available and well worth a search if it is necessary. The leaves are rounded with stems attached off-center, and the background of each leaf is deep green with intense cream or yellow blotches of various sizes (usually more round than any other shape).
Both the stems and the new leaves are rather woolly. Cultural directions always say “simple cultural requirements” or “of easy culture,” but I have not found that to be true in my case.
I lost my first plant soon after it was given to me and have had this one for over two years. Until recently, as soon as a new leaf developed, an old one would die.
I have tried north and east windows, and now I have it in a south exposure where it is shaded by a shrub outside. It seems happy and has doubled in size.
For years my mother had a large plant, but I do not remember that there were ever any blossoms on it. However, it seems that the plant does bloom – bearing light yellow flowers in small clusters on white, woolly stems.
In warmer climates, L. kaempferi is hardy and makes an effective border where it is shaded from the hot sun, but I will be content if I can get mine to continue being a good-looking plant for the window garden.
Do You Know This One?
I do not understand why a little plant I first saw in Portland, Maine, and labeled “panamiga” is not to be found in all our catalogs. In one catalog, it was listed as “Pilea spruceana panamiga,” and have seen the plant in the markets in a number of cities.
It is a moisture-loving plant that prefers shade and a spongy soil of peat moss, sand, and a little loam, which has pleased it most is being potted in a pumice stone container. These containers are porous, absorb moisture easily and give perfect drainage.
Bronzy green, the deeply quilted leaves are arranged opposite but so closely are they spaced along the stem that the effect is almost that of rosettes.
At each terminal, sprays of very small, light-green flowers tumble in an irregular manner giving the effect of dainty lace. The contrast of the airy blossoms and the sturdy, wrinkled leaves makes it outstanding.
While Hoffmannia ghiesbreghtii is comparatively new in my window garden, it has proven a worthy member of my plant colony. When it arrived from Florida (as a small plant a year ago), it looked as fresh as though it had not taken a long journey.
I potted it at once and sprayed the foliage, which I thought would help it become acclimated, but the leaves hung limp the next morning. Not willing to give up at least without a struggle, I began spraying five times a day.
At the end of three or four days, I could not see any improvement; but I kept on with the misty spray, and in a few days, I did see a little difference.
I kept on; at the end of three weeks, the leaves were as fresh and crisp as though they had never gone through those many days of wilt. Of course, only now I wonder how many plants I have lost because I did not continue special care long enough.
Named for a German botanist, the hoffmanias are tropical plants raised for the beauty of their foliage. Hoffmannia ghiesbreghtii has long leaves, bronzy-green on top and red-purple on the underside. The main rib is very prominent, and the leaf is much quilted with a beautiful satin sheen.
The plant’s main stem is four-sided instead of round, and the flowers, which are very small and appear crowded in the leaf axils, add nothing to the appearance of the plant.
I planted in the same potting mixture used for African violets and found an abundance of water is needed. It likes the early morning sun and has been given a location in an east window.
I have seen Hoffmannia ghiesbreghtii variegata rather frosty in appearance and grey. Hoffmannia refulgens has red foliage, but all leaves have that beautiful high sheen regardless of the background color.
PD40588 – By K. Berger