Coloured Foliage Plants – Growing Tips

Coloured Foliage Plants – Growing Tips

Coloured foliage plants grown today are of such outstanding beauty and have the most exquisite markings, colouring and shape of leaf, that one is tempted to grow nothing but coloured foliage pot plants. Alas, they need a great deal of light to retain those perfect shades, so perhaps it is as well that one can, as a rule, find space for only a few.

Acalypha wilkesiana marginata, which came from Fiji nearly a century ago and is obtainable as a house plant from specialist suppliers, needs a humid atmosphere, like all the members of the spurge family. It has large, slightly coarse, leaves of olive green, with broad margins of carmine, which much appreciate being syringed with tepid water in summer.

Caladium have the most spectacular shaped and coloured leaves, from green with white or pink markings, to all-red. The length of the leaf acalypha wilkesiana marginata varies from 6 inches to 3 feet. The plants require plenty of warmth and water while the leaves are growing.

Coleus originated in the tropics of the Old World and, although there are over 100 species, only one of the species, C. blumei, a perennial from Java, is cultivated as a house plant. About 12 to 18 inches tall, with broad-based, ovate, coarsely-toothed leaves, which grow in opposite pairs up the stems, it is rather similar to a nettle, but there the resemblance ends, for C. blumii has leaves that are beautifully coloured and variegated. As ornamental foliage plants in a diversity of contrasting colours, crimson, maroon, yellow, bronze, brown, green and white they make magnificent pot plants. Plants may be bought in named varieties, such as Verschafiltii , ‘Golden Ball’, Princess Elizabethand Sunset, or more simply grown from selected strains of seed, which will yield plants in a wide variety and combination of colours. They will do well, given good light and airy conditions, in warm rooms with regular watering when in active growth. Flower shoots, uninteresting and inconspicuous, should be pinched out in the interest of leaf growth. If the plants are to be kept from one year to the next, they will need a winter temperature of l3°C, very moderate watering and no draughts. Propagation is by seed in spring, or by young cuttings of favourite plants at any time.

Cordyline terminalis can, in theory, reach a height of 5 to 12 feet, but in practice rarely exceeds 18 inches. The original plant from New Zealand has plain green leaves, but the numerous varieties contain some brilliant colours. The leaves may be as much as 12 inches long and 4 inches across, shaped in an elongated oval. The plants are rather expensive to buy, as the young plants do not show the brilliant colours and have to be grown on in the nursery for some years before they can be offered for sale. They should be given plenty of water and as much humidity and warmth as possible, but not direct sunlight. Propagation is by cuttings.

Diefenbachia amoena has shining green leaves covered with cream and white blotches. All species are highly poisonous but will grow well in most conditions, providing a temperature of 12°C can be maintained.

Gynura scandens, possibly known as Gynura sarmentosa, is an attractive, rapidly-growing plant with slate blue leaves tinged with red or purple. It should have as much light as possible, but kept out of scorching sun. Shade will make it produce thin, drawn shoots, but pinching out will produce a bushy plant. If it is not pinched out it will grow at an alarming rate, producing very small leaves. It should be kept rather dry in winter, as wet soil and low temperatures may result in rotting. It needs plenty of water in summer.

Pelarganium zonale is rather a grand sounding, but strictly accurate, name for the ordinary geranium, one of the finest house plants. In a sunny window it will continue flowering for months, with the minimum of attention. They are not difficult house plants, but they must have maximum light. There are numerous variegated leaved varieties, of which Henry Coxis a brilliant example, with its leaves of cream, green, scarlet and black. Happy Thought, with leaves of green, marked on each leaf with a lemon coloured butterfly shape is also most attractive.

Rhoeo discolor (Boat Lily) is an unusual, attractive, not too easily grown house plant that is rather fussy about the treatment it receives. It has long, narrow, fleshy leaves growing out horizontally from a central stem, which are olive green above and bright purple underneath. It has tiny white or blue flowers, formed at the base of the stem, growing in curious boat-shaped, purple bracts, which has inspired its common name of Boat Lily. This plant comes from Central America and needs partial shade, good ventilation and fairly liberal watering from spring to autumn, very moderate watering in winter and a winter minimum temperature of 10°C.

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