Sunday, January 16, 2011


We're having a cold, nasty January. Temperatures aren't bad - around 2-3°C - but it's been foggy for days. Which means it's been a miserable, damp type of cold and everything is grey and dark. Summer mist can be beautiful. Winter fog isn't.

Needless to say not much is happening on the balcony, and I'm getting itchy. I want to get going again, but know it's too early. So when I saw these mini-houseplants in the supermarket yesterday, all at 1,50€, I didn't stand a chance of resisting. They were being sold separately, but I loved the contrasting leaf colours and thought they'd look good together. And bought them.

Dangerous. Because I had no idea what they were and what conditions they needed. The supermarket label announced that they were "piantine verdi" - small green plants. Wow, that's helpful. Did they need the same type of soil? Did they like the same amount of water. No idea. Buying plants without knowing what they are is, of course, the one thing you should never do. But you do, don't you? Please tell me it's not just me.

Anyway, once home, out came my wonderful, very old and very well thumbed houseplant book*. And I think I've managed to identify them all (I think - tell me if you disagree). They are, starting with the plant with the pink leaves at the back (weren't these supposed to be small green plants?) and moving around in clockwise order :

1. The Polka Dot plant
(Hypoestes phyllostachya also known as H. sanguinolenta) : Originally from Madagascar and likes warmth and humidity. No problem. Is also happy in shade good. My living room gets very little natural light. Can grow up to 2ft, so need their growing tips pinched out to stop them becoming straggly. Still no problem ..

2. Ivy
(Hedera) : Well, OK, I didn't really need to look this one up. Good in situations of poor light (phew!) and doesn't seem to be fussy about anything else.

3. The Aluminium plant
(Pilea cadierei) : I think this might be my favourite of the five - I loved the contrasting green and grey of the leaves. Native to Vietnam and sensitive to magnesium deficiency - needs a good dose of Epsom salts occasionally (a teaspoon in a pint of water.) That can be arranged. Likes a moist soil - no problems so far.

This one caused me a few problems. I couldn't find it at all. However, when I turned to the net it popped up on Plants are the Strangest People. It's a Peperomia, though I've not been able to identify the variety. My houseplant book does list them, but there are around 1,000 species in the genus and, not surprisingly, mine wasn't the one they'd chosen to illustrate. Doesn't like to be too moist and not keen on humidity.

5. Pellonia
(possibly Pellonia daveauava - try spelling that without looking three times) : Again likes warmth, humidity and moist soil.

So - the only problem might be the Peperomia, which seems to like cooler, drier conditions than the rest. Could have been worse, I suppose...


What is my wonderful, very old and well-thumbed houseplant book ?


i cant decide said...

I did the same thing this week! One of our grocery stores had 10 4" plants for $10.00. Yep, I bought 10, then I came home and looked them up on the internet. I will have three pots full of plants when I get them potted up.

I love your bowl of color! Enjoy your indoor garden cheer!

mr_subjunctive said...

#4 is a Peperomia caperata. There are several color varieties (green, gray, pink, red, purple, silver, and shades between those), but as far as I know they all need the same care. They're best in terraria, unfortunately -- they need the humidity, plus too many forgotten waterings will kill them eventually (which is what happened to mine).

The paired leaves on #5 mark it as a Pilea, probably P. spruceana. I haven't tried this one specifically, but Pileas are Pileas, for the most part -- if you treat it like the P. cadierei, you should be fine.

mr_subjunctive said...


Polka-dot plants (PATSP profile) are fairly easy to keep alive, but when the book says they need to be pinched back, it really, really means it. And especially cut it back if you see any flowering stems beginning to form, because the flowering stems have such tiny little leaves and such short-lived flowers that they'll look like dead or defoliated sticks most of the time.

Pilea cadierei (PATSP profile) is a nice plant; they need to be pinched back regularly, and will eventually reach the point where one has to restart them from cuttings, but fortunately that's pretty easily done, and it's not particularly demanding otherwise. I haven't run into the magnesium problem personally.

Only the Hedera could conceivably last much below 16C. All five would benefit from, or insist upon, high humidity.

alistair said...

Yes Sue, I was with you on the Ivy, that was it. As for buying plants which we are not sure about, do it all the time. Generally they are perennials which are for sale outdoors in the garden centres, so often turn out to be tender (should be labelled.)

BernieH said...

They sure do look terrific together. The Pilea, Peperomia and Hypoestes are all such familiar plants in this part of the world, apart from the Ivy, and tough as old boots.

I grow all those mentioned above and the only recommendation I would make would be to stand your pot on a tray of pebbles ... to create some humidity around the plants... and place in a warm spot. They don't really like being too wet either ... moist is fine.

I do hope they carry on doing so well for you as they certainly make a fabulous combination of colours and texture.

Darla said...

What a great combination container. I grow the hypoestes outside has spreading nature when left to it's own devices.

Stupid Garden Plants said...

Tis a nice combination indeed! What amazing foilage, wow!

Greenhouses Kits said...

I like small plants because it doesn't need a wide yard. The combination of these 5 plants looks so cute. Thanks for reviewing Them.

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