APHELANDRA SQUARROSA (zebra plant)

10 deg C/50 deg F

The cultivar usually favoured as a houscplant is A.s. ‘Louisae’, which has pointed, glossy green foliage, with strikingly contrasting pale cream veining, which has obviously given rise to the common name of zebra plant. As well as delightful foliage, strange, angular and bold yellow flowers are usually freely formed, lasting for several weeks. They are borne erect and appear from summer to autumn.

This plant is interesting, in that although a native of Brazil it will survive remarkably low temperatures. If the temperature falls to almost freezing during winter for a time it will drop leaves and look most sickly, but with the return of warmer conditions will usually send up new growth and eventually flourish again. However, for best results the recommended minimum winter temperature should be the rule. If you wish to try the plant at lower temperatures. remember to keep the roots dry during winter. In summer, water freely and give only enough shade to protect from direct sunlight. A 13cm (5in) pot is large enough for most specimens, but repotting or

potting-on for well-established plants can be done in early spring. After flowering, the stems that carried the blooms are best cut back to a pair of good quality leaves. This will induce new shoots to appear from below and these can be used as cuttings for propagation. Cuttings need a congenial warmth of at least 24° C (75 deg F) to root quickly. In warm moist conditions aphelan-dras can grow to about 60cm (2ft) in height and branch out vigorously. This often happens where there is continuous central heating, such as in offices and public buildings.

Aphids can sometimes attack, but are easily wiped oil’ the foliage with damp cotton-wool.

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