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Plant Find: Philodendron ‘pincushion’

About a month ago I was surfing the internet and decided I should look around on eBay to see if there were any interesting plants for sale.  That was a bad idea, because of course, there were.

I came across a very attractive Philodendron hybrid that I had never seen before.  It was labeled Philodendron ‘pincushion.’  Its primary catchiness comes from its small, tight-nit growth habit.  The leaves measure about an inch in length at their largest and the plant will form a small clump of leaves that look like a pincushion as it matures.  Many Philodendrons have leaves that change shape as the plant grows into a more mature specimen, but this particular hybrid stays petite for its entire life.  The foliage is a really nice glossy dark green with prominent red stems.  When I purchased the plant it was being marketed as a holiday plant since it was red and green.

[Here is what my plant was supposed to look like.]

I wasn’t sure if the name Philodendron ‘pincushion’ was a valid botanical name for my plant, so I sent a couple of pictures to the Aroid-L mailing list and had several members confirm that the name was valid.  I also found the name listed on the International Aroid Society’s list of registered hybrid names (Aroid Cultivar Registry).  You can see that list here.

The plant arrived in less than advertised condition.  I really should have expected as much since I ordered the plant in December, but the seller had convinced me they knew how to keep their plants free from the elements.  I have to give them credit for packaging the plant well – in damp peat moss inside a well insulated Styrofoam container.  The heat pack was even warm when I received the plant, but somehow it had still gotten nipped.  Either that, or it had gotten burnt by the heat pack.  It’s hard to say.  About half of the leaves had turned yellow and orange.

My Philodendron pincushion upon arrival and transplanting
My Philodendron 'pincushion' upon arrival and transplanting

I divided the plant into a couple of clumps, putting one clump in a small spherical terrarium that had been emptied of its previous occupants and put the other clump in a small pot.  I’m really glad I divided the plant, because after just a couple weeks it was obvious that the terrarium was a preferable growing environment.  I went ahead and transplanted all of the plant to the terrarium, where it is doing much better than I expected.

My Philodendron Pincushion as it looks now
My Philodendron 'Pincushion' as it looks now

New, glossy green leaves have emerged and I have removed the old leaves that died.  I’m hoping that this little Philodendron will fill the terrarium and I can occasionally take some cuttings to transplant to other locations.  This would make a really interesting “groundcover” in some of my larger container plants.  Maybe I could get some cuttings to take root in the soil surface of my Philodendron selloum…

My Philodendron selloum (tree philodendron)
My Philodendron selloum (tree philodendron)

Now that my plant has recovered I have some hope that it could one day serve as a ground cover in some of my larger pots.  It is a rather slow grower though, so I will have to be patient for it to fill out the area.


Book Review: Toki No Hana

Doesn’t that title just draw you in?  No?

Well, maybe that explains why everyone was rolling their eyes when I opened this Christmas present from my parents (which I had requested, by the way).  The Japanese book “Toki No Hana” is a 45 page monograph (book with one subject) with 480 photographs of plants from the genus Asarum.

Toki No Hana cover
Toki No Hana cover

Although I have only grown one species from this genus, I greatly admire the genus and I have plans to start a small collection.  In the United States, Asarums are grown most often as groundcovers in woodland shade gardens in the north.  There are a couple of species native to North America.  You might run across their mottled foliage in the woods of the northern states and in Canada.

In southeast Asia, it’s a completely different matter.  For thousands of years, the Japanese have cultivated different varieties for their variable foliage and subtle, but beautiful blooms.  The foliage can be anywhere from solid green to almost completely silver.  The blooms vary from yellow with red centers to solid purple.  They are treasured plants, grown in small pots where they can show off their blooms most easily.  You see, the inflorescence of Asarums is at the base of them stem, literally lying on the surface of the soil (or pebbles in the pictures below).  One of the most recognized blooms looks like a little panda bear, being white and a deep purple that looks black.

Asarum pictures from Toki No Hana
Asarum pictures from Toki No Hana

The book was compiled by the Japanese Asarum Preservation Society and is a collection of pictures of all of the different varieties that have been cultivated there.  It is fascinating to see the variation.  Some are stunning and others are… well, not so pretty.  After all of the pictures are several pages of notes on the identification and origin of the different species and cultivars presented in the pictures.  Of course, the notes are in Japanese:

Notes on Asarum species - did you get all that?
Notes on Asarum species - did you get all that?

Thankfully, my parents purchased this book from a US source (Asiatica Nursery) that had grabbed a bunch of these books in Japan and translated the notes to English.

Ah, much better.  Asarum notes translated from Japanese to English by Barry Yinger.
Ah, much better. Asarum notes translated from Japanese to English by Barry Yinger.

This Spring I will be checking the Atwoods store here in town where I have purchased Asarum splendens in the past.  I will probably get three or four plants to start with.  Since Asarums are actually a cool climate plant and will do very well in dimly lit, cool rooms, my plan is to start my collection in earnest this Fall by purchasing several more varieties from Asiatica Nursery, an online retailer that specializes in Asarums.  They usually have about 70 different varieties available.  I already have a short list of the plants I plan to purchase:

  • Asarum kiusianum var. tubulosum – solid white flowers, low clumping leaves
  • Asarum maximum Green panda wild ginger – one of the most famous species
  • Asarum splendens Chinese wild ginger – the variety I will buy at Atwood’s in town
  • Asarum subglobosum – pink/beige flowers, green leaves have center white stripe
  • Asarum takaoi ‘Ginba’ – solid silver leaves
  • Asarum wulingense
  • It will be great fun to watch my plants mature into specimens as beautiful as those pictured in Toki No Hana and to see my plants produce some of these amazing inflorescences.

    Stay tuned for pictures of my plants as I collect them!


    My LA Olive

    My father-in-law is an amateur bicyclist who has taken on a couple of tough cycling challenges.  During the fall of 2007, he decided to bike across the country, starting on an Atlantic beach in Virginia and finishing on a Pacific beach in Los Angeles, California 45ish days later.  He also biked part of the Tour de France, but this post is not about that trip.

    While my father-in-law was biking across the country, my mother-in-law spent each day driving their RV to their next stop.  She would pave the way and setup camp for the night.  When my father-in-law arrived at the campsite, he would eat, crash (sleep) and then get up to do it all over again.  [Of course, on a cross-country cycling trip, there were a couple of non-sleeping crashes too.   At least one of those left a mark.]  At some point, he actually reached water again in California.

    My wife, her brother, his girlfriend and I flew to California as a surprise, to see my father-in-law finish his cross-country expedition.  We greeted him at the Santa Monica pier when he arrived on his bike the final day.  We stayed a couple of extra days in LA at my wife’s uncle’s house so as to make a little trip of the outing.  Living in LA, he has all sorts of great things growing in his yard that simply cannot be grown year-round outdoors in Oklahoma.

    There are a number of Bird of Paradise planted along his house and a beautiful olive tree in the front yard.  He also has orchids sitting out on his porch in the shade.  They apparently love the weather and are very low maintenance for him.  [I have never dared to put any of my orchids outside.]  Before leaving I noticed there were some young saplings coming up around his olive tree.  My mother-in-law and I dug up a couple of them and she brought them back home to Oklahoma in the RV.  They were each about 8 inches tall I would say.

    The parent tree to my little olive
    The parent tree to my little olive. I took this picture on a different trip to LA, remembering that I needed a picture of the "daddy" tree. Unfortunately I was only there at night, so this lousy picture will have to do for my sapling's inspiration for now.

    So now I have a celebrity olive tree.  Why a celebrity?  Well, because it’s from LA.  I feel like I should knock before entering the room where I keep it.  And I probably should water it a little more frequently.  In fact, for a celebrity, it should have a much fancier pot.  Okay, forget the whole celebrity thing – it’s just an olive tree.

    After traveling to Italy during the summer of 2007, I have had great admiration for olive trees and their splendidly silver leaves.  I had been thinking that I would like to have a specimen of my own.  I knew I would have to keep mine in a pot, since it would freeze out here in the winter.  But I figured I could grow it the way that many people grow ficus trees as specimen trees in pots.  At some point it would reach about 6 foot in height and look really nice.  I never imagined I would dig up a little olive tree for free.

    However, my promising little olive tree has not grown very quickly.  I think maybe olive trees are normally slow growers, but I’ll be well into my 40’s before my specimen reaches a respectable (non-embarrassing) height.  [By the way, I’m currently 26.]  For now I will just have to post his puny picture on the internet so that anyone in the world can see him and laugh at his puniness.  How’s that for motivation!?!

    My puny little olive sapling
    My puny little olive sapling. The short, wide stem to the left is the original plant. It promptly died and new shoots arrived from the roots.

    One day (crossing my fingers) he will become large and strong like his father (the top pictured olive tree, not me) – and hopefully not be lopsided. 🙂


    Plant find: Anthurium amnicola

    I have admired the genus Anthurium for quite a while.  I remember the first one I saw and thought that it must be a peace lily with a magenta bloom.  Little did I know, this wasn’t one of those painted plants like the glittery blue or purple Poinsettias you sometimes see around Christmas.  It didn’t take long before I started seeing Anthuriums everywhere.  I’ve found most plants to be that way.

    There seems to always be several of these plants at Lowe’s, but they are usually priced near $10 and because of their persistent availability, I have kept them on my “to-purchase-one-day” list, rather than my “must-buy-today” list.  I think I officially became an Aroid collector in October, when my collection grew to more than 40 plants.  With Anthuriums being one of the Aroid genera, it would only be a matter of time before I would own one… or two… or three…

    Recently I made a return at Lowe’s and received a giftcard with about $12 credit.  I promptly went to see what plants would be coming home with me.  Lowe’s had the usual 2″ houseplants from Angel Brand (which I really enjoy).  They also had some great orchids in bloom, but I haven’t had much luck with orchids lately.  And, as usual, they had 4 or 5 Anthuriums in bloom (for about $8).  I took a look at them and decided – today is the day!

    My new Anthurium amnicola
    My new Anthurium amnicola

    My Anthurium is markes as Anthurium amnicola.  It has the common magenta colored inflorescence and shiny dark green leaves.

    I have been reading Deni Brown’s book “Aroids: Plants of the Arum Family,” in which there was a good overview of the variation of vein patterns (venation) of Aroid leaves.  At one point, it was mentioned that in some particular genera, the veins do not reach from the primary vein (midrib) to the edge of the leaf.  Instead, there is a separate vein that runs parallel to the leaf edge that “catches” all of the veins from the midrib.  My new Anthurium demonstrates this unique venation. [Here is a really good guide for leaf characteristics.  And more information here.]

    Anthurium amnicola venation
    Anthurium amnicola venation

    “Is this rare?” you ask.

    No, I don’t think so.  In fact, there are some very common plants and trees that have this “collection” vein.

    “Does it have a purpose?”

    I don’t know.  Probably.  I can’t imagine that it wouldn’t have a purpose.

    “Well, why did you mention it?”

    I don’t know.  But it is an interesting subtlety of this plant that I observed and thought I would pass it along.

    Now that I have one species of Anthurium, I have to get more.  It’s the official law of collectors.  One is not enough.  I already have my eyes set on another species, which I saw at the Oklahoma City Myriad Gardens.  [Check out all of these color varieties.]

    Pale purple Anthurium at the OKC Myriad Gardens
    Pale purple Anthurium at the OKC Myriad Gardens


    Christmas cacti in bloom

    This blog post marks my first update on a particular plant.  Last year I posted some information on seasonal plants and some pictures of my seasonals in bloom, including my Amaryllis and “Christmas Cactus.”  Once again, it is that time of year and my cactus is covered in tiny buds.

    My Christmas cactus buds
    My Christmas cactus buds

    As you can see, my cactus doesn’t look too good this year.  I sat it outside a little early in the Spring and I think it actually froze one night, but was able to hang on.

    About a year ago, a friend of mine left for Ireland to live for a year or two.  She left her plants behind with me (which is fun) and her big, healthy Christmas Cactus is also blooming.  Hers looks much better than mine:

    My friends Christmas cactus in bloom
    My friend's Christmas cactus in bloom


    I would be remiss if I didn’t talk a little about  this plant and its correct identification here.  The Christmas/Thanksgiving/Easter/Holiday Cactus has been called lots of names.  And there are actually about four or five different species from the genus Schlumbergera that are labeled with this common name.  Two other genera are commonly called Name-Your-Holiday Cactus – Hatiora and Rhipsalis, both of which are less common.  Both of my plants are from the genus Schlumbergera, although I have not tried too hard to identify which species.  I wouldn’t be surprised if they are two different species, but they might be the same one.

    General Care

    They are very easy to care for and very easy to bring to bloom.  Last year, my wife read some information about bringing them to bloom – putting the plant in a cold room (our garage), allowing it about 12 hours sunlight, 12 hours dark, and putting a glass of water next to it to increase the humidity slightly.  It worked great.  This year I think both plants beat us to the punch, putting out buds before I remembered to put them in the garage.

    During the summer I leave them both on my back porch, which receives dappled sunlight most of the day and water them infrequently – about once a week or less.

    They are also very easy to propagate.  Simply pinch off a section of plant and put it in dirt.  Viola – You have a new plant!

    A Christmas cactus I started
    A Christmas cactus I started