CHLOROPHYTUM CAPENSE (spider plant, St Bernard’s lily)

7 deg C/45 deg F

There is considerable botanical disagreement about the naming in this genus -the South African species described here is also called C. elatum and C. comoswn. There are forms with different leaf variegation, and there is some argument as to whether these are natural varieties or distinct species. However, this need not be a cause for concern, for all these forms are popular and make decorative houseplants.

The foliage is long, narrow, arching and rush-like. There are mainly two different types of variegation. There may be a creamy-white band down the leaf centre, or the leaf may be margined, the centre being green. There are also forms with irregular stripings. and all are attractive.

During summer, long stems arise from the leafy clumps and bear small, white. starry flowers. These stems can reach 75cm (24ft) long, and among the flowers small plantlets – exact miniatures of the mother plant – are formed. These ultimately weigh down the stems to give a spidery effect, hence the common name. In nature, these plantlets root when they touch the soil. For propagation, they can be pegged into the surface of compost in

separate pots – using wire loops – until they have rooted.

The little plants can be severed from the main stem. In conditions of good humidity, the plantlets may form roots while still on the stems. They can then be removed and potted, without the necessity of pegging down. Because of the ease of propagation, this plant is frequently passed from friend to friend. The plants can be effectively displayed in hanging pots or baskets, or in pots raised on pedestals. These plants are also useful on shelves of room dividers – anywhere, in fact, where the plant’s stems can hang freely. A position in good light and out of direct sunlight should be chosen. In winter. only water to prevent complete drying out of the roots, the minimum temperature should, preferably, be maintained to keep the foliage in first-class condition. Chills and draughts may cause yellowing or browning of the leaf tips. Browning may also occur through inadequate feeding.

Pot or repot in spring. Usually. 1 3-18cm (5-7in) containers are suitable. Pest or disease troubles are uncommon. If the plants become too large, it is possible to divide them by cutting through the clump with a very sharp knife. This is best done in spring when the plants make new growth.

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