Sunday, July 01, 2012

5 UNUSUAL HOUSEPLANTS

Below are some remarkable plants that originate from the far reaches of the globe and can reside with us in our homes. Transplanted from foreign lands, unusual houseplants call upon our sense of wonder. But their greater appeal lies in our ability to cultivate them. This is just a handful of the odd, interesting, most peculiar plants I've come across that can be grown indoors. 

1) CORAL BEAD PLANT


Botanical Name: Nertera granadensis
Other common names for this New Zealand native plant are: Bead Plant, Pincushion Plant and Coral Moss. Coral Bead Plant is an unusual-looking ornamental plant that grows in a thick mat of tiny, dark-green leaves on intertwining stems. In early summer, small, white flowers appear followed by orange-red berries. The attractive berries can completely cover the foliage and will usually last for months.

  

Because of its need for cool temperatures and humidity, Coral Bead Plant can be somewhat difficult to please indoors in cold climate. Moving the container outdoors in spring will give it the cool air and bright light it needs to flower and produce berries. Just put the plant in a sheltered spot out of cold winds or out of direct sun in tropical region. If the plant is kept very warm, it will be a foliage plant without any berries. 

The plant will still be attractive. In fact, the foliage looks a lot like Baby's Tears (Soleirolia soleirolii). The shallow roots of this plant make it best-suited for a shallow pot. Repot in spring only when needed. I don't have experience with this one. From what I've read, Coral Bead Plant can be fussy about temperature and water, often making it a temporary house plant. 


2) LIVING STONES



Botanical Name: Lithops swantesii
Commonly called Living Stones, Stoneface, Pebble Plants, Flowering Stones, Mimicry Plant. Lithops (from the Greek “lithos” meaning stone and “ops” meaning face) are true mimicry plants: their shape, size and color causes them to resemble small stones in their natural surroundings. The plants blend in among the stones as a means of protection. Grazing animals which would otherwise eat them during periods of drought to obtain moisture usually overlook them. Even experts in the field sometimes have difficulty locating plants for study because of this unusual deceptive camouflage.

An amazing likeness to small stones makes this succulent really blend in to its native South African landscape. Bright yellow daisy-like flowers appear once a year in mature plants.

 Daisy-like flowers of Living Stone

In the wild, Lithops inhabit vast area of dry regions of Southern Africa. Several areas in which these plants grow receive less than 2 inches of rainfall per month throughout the entire year. In an extreme situation of low rainfall, at least one species of Lithops depends on mist or fog to provide its main source of moisture. In fact, almost the entire plant is devoted to this function. Lithops could not survive in many areas where the medium is considerably wet. Its curious habits make Living Stones a fascinating house plant.

 

3) AIR PLANT

 Botanical Name: Tillandsia ionantha
Tillandsia are part of the Bromeliad family, the Genus name is Tillandsia which is also the common name, these are further broken down into species name, most people just call them Air plants. There are over 550 species of Tillandsia (plus many hybrids), that grow in the Mexico, South and Central Americas. They grow naturally only in the New World(Western Hemisphere country), with the exception of only one. Among the species, only 16 are native to Florida.

Tillandsias take all their water and nutrients through the leaf system, none or very minimal amounts are absorbed by the root system. Its unusual nature allows a lot of creative possibilities as to where to grow it. This also means that, it does not harm the plant on which it grows. This root system is used as wire like anchors to hold onto trees, rocks etc. Since the root system is not important to the plant this can be removed without harm, to make make your plant easier to mount. The roots may or may not grow back, either way is doesn't matter to the welfare of your plant.

Eye-catching Tillandsia usneoides (Spanish moss, sometimes called graybeard).
 Unique home decor of Tillandsia
Air Plants are the rootless wonders of the plant world.

General Info

  • Tillandsias DO have to be watered, they live 'in' air, not 'on' air. 
  • Tillandsias are NOT toxic to animals, although this does not mean your pet won't eat them, but they will survive the experience, your plant might not. 
  • Tillandsias are NOT parasitic, they do not harm the host tree. 
  • Trim away brown, bent or damaged leaves, this will not hurt the plant. 

Main reasons Tillandsias die/depleted

  • They were not initially cared for properly (their owner was told they need little or no water).
  • They did not get enough light (they were more than 10 feet from a bright window or skylight).
  • They were placed in DIRECT SUN. Garden windows are generally too warm unless they are shaded or facing north.
  • They were not watered thoroughly and frequently. Bulby and fleshy Tillandsias can rot! Drain them thoroughly and water less frequently.
  • Tillandsias growing outdoors need more watering than indoor Tillandsias, as the sun and wind dry them out more quickly.


4) PADDLE PLANT

 
Botanical Name: Kalanchoe thyrsiflora
Paddle Plant is an unusual-looking succulent that grows in a rosette of flat, round leaves. The gray-green leaves grow to about 6 in (15 cm) long and will become tinged in red when exposed to sun. Mature plants may produce a spike of fragrant, yellow flowers in spring. These South African succulents belong to the Crassulaceae family, an extremely varied group.

 Large, flat leaves gives this odd-looking succulent plant its common name.

A South African native, Paddle Plant thrives in bright light, and its greenish-gray leaves will become red-tinged when exposed to full sun. 

Shed some light. Like most succulents, this plant grows best in bright light. It will even enjoy some direct sun. Move it outside for the summer, if you want. Just make the move a gradual one to avoid scorching its leaves. Be sure to bring it back indoors if the temperature drops below 50°F/10°C.
Keep it on the dry side. Paddle Plant is easy to grow in average room conditions, tolerating the dry air of heated homes well. The one thing it doesn't like is soggy soil, so I'd recommend potting it in a terra cotta pot with drainage holes and using a sandy medium, such as cactus potting mix for fast drainage.
Repot in spring when it becomes crowded -- but don't over-pot. Use a container that's only slightly larger.



5) COFFEE PLANT
 Latte, Mocha and Espresso coffee plant series

Botanical Name: Coffea arabica
Coffee plant is the source of the world's most popular breakfast beverage. Not many know, however, that it makes a beautiful and easy-to-grow house plant.
This member of the Rubiaceae family is one of 90 in the Coffea genus. It is an evergreen shrub that has glossy, dark-green leaves with ruffled edges on willowy stems. 

This coffee bean plant can reach height of 15 ft or more in its native tropical habitat, but you can cut it back to control its size. Pruning harshly won't hurt it at all. Repot in spring, moving to a pot 1 size larger. Use a pot with a drainage hole to avoid overwatering.

 Coffee Arabica flowers

  
After 3 or 4 years, Coffea arabica produces star-shaped, sweetly scented white flowers. These flowers are followed by green fruits which change to red then to almost black as they ripen, a process that takes several months. Inside each ripened fruit are 2 seeds (or beans) that when properly roasted can be ground and made into coffee.

Growing coffee plants indoors is easy. They are vigorous growers and are long-lived. They make attractive house plants, just don't expect them to offer that morning cup of joe. It could take a few years before you see many fruits on it.
Can you grow Coffee Plant in your home? You bet. But if you're expecting it to make your morning cup of joe you may be disappointed. It rarely flowers and produces fruit indoors. It makes a nice house plant, though.

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