Today’s column will not appeal to everyone since the plants that I am going to write about are unusual, not inexpensive, and require a fair amount of TLC compared to many of the plants that we have in our houseplant collections.
Sometimes, however, it is fun to think outside the box and at least dream about having one quite exotic plant in our interior landscapes.
I have had every one of these plants in my possession at one time or another, although I must admit that for some of them, it has been a while — like the dwarf citrus tree. The last time I had one of these plants in my collection was in the ’70s when we were living in Birtle.
Let’s look at some "exotics" and see if one of them intrigues you enough that you will give it a try.
DWARF CITRUS TREES
A local friend of mine has several of these trees in his collection and the last time I was at his place there were both fruit and flowers on the trees. You can get dwarf orange, lemon, lime and tangerine trees at some garden centres.
The blossoms of these plants are delightfully fragrant and when the fruits develop on the trees, they stay on the branches for a long tome, providing colour and interest. The main problem with growing dwarf citrus trees indoors is that they are very prone to insect infestations, including spider mites.
If you are going to try a dwarf citrus, choose a healthy, pest-free specimen and plant it into a large pot with good rich, well-drained soil. It will need direct sunlight — the one we had in Birtle sat in front of both a south-facing and an east-facing window in the corner of the dining room.
Be prepared to conduct a regular pest management program to prevent insect attacks, and water and fertilizer the tree regularly. Keep the leaves clean by wiping them with a damp cloth or by giving the plant regular showers — which will wash off any lurking insects as well.
AFRICAN MASK (ALOCASIA)
This is truly an exotic plant; its large dark green leaves with yellow markings resemble a hand-carved African mask. Alocasia prefers bright indirect light so it will not need to be located in direct light.
It is a tropical plant that likes warm temperatures and high humidity. This is one plant that will benefit from misting.
Keep the leaves clean by wiping them with a soft damp cloth but be careful not to mark the leaves when doing so. The soil should be kept damp but not overly wet.
The plant is a slow grower and is best displayed on a plant stand. It makes a remarkably interesting specimen plant in the interior landscape.
I had known of this plant before our winter vacation to Hawaii a number of years ago but became enamoured by it again as I saw ti plants used extensively in outdoor Hawaiian gardens. Their colourful foliage has pink, red, purple and/or mauve accents, making this plant a strikingly colourful plant for the indoor garden.
It likes bright, indirect light, moist — but not wet — soil, and warm temperatures. The leaves can be wiped with a damp cloth to keep them looking attractive and their colour vibrant.
(Beloperone guttata Yellow Queen’)
This is probably the easiest to look after and most common of the plants I have mentioned. The shrimp plant is so-named because the pink bracts that shield the white flowers resemble shrimp.
I, however, prefer the yellow version, ‘Yellow Queen’, whose blooms, because of their colour, do not so much resemble shrimp. The blooms are produced almost all year long with a brief hiatus in late fall.
The plants needs direct sun to produce blooms, rich moist soil, and consistent water. Do not mist the plant as water will rot the bracts, but do increase the humidity around the plant by setting the pot on a pebble tray.
Have I piqued your interest? Are you ready to try a plant a bit more exotic than those you are used to growing?
Look around at your local garden centre, where you will find many unique and unusual plants, and see if you can find one that will suit the conditions that your home can offer. Let’s think outside the box!
Albert Parsons is a consultant for garden design and landscaping who lives in Minnedosa.