Chlorophytum comosum ‘Variegatum’: Spider Plant

Chlorophytum comosum is a plant of our parents’ and grand-parents’day but that is no reason why we should not continue to cultivate it, and besides, there are few other such reliable growers. The more than 100 species of this genus are native to the tropics of the Old and New World, where they grow chiefly in the shade of forests alongside water courses in a light soil, rich in humus.

Chlorophytum comosum was introduced into cul-tivation from South Africa in 1850. In the gardening catalogues of that time it is listed also as Anthericum comosum, Phalangium comosum and Cordyline vi-vipara, the last name indicating an important charac-teristic of this species, viviparity, that is producing plantlets at the ends of long runners or rather flower scapes. The plantlets form roots in the air and can be easily separated and grown on in pots.

The type species has green foliage and is about 40 to 50 cm (16 to 20 in) high. Generally cultivated, however, is the cultivar ‘Variegatum’ striped green and white. Like the type species, it is one of the hardiest of house plants, growing well both in cool as well as warm rooms. It is most attractive planted in a hanging container but may also be put in a dish arrangement. It should be grown in John Innes potting compost No. 1 or 2, depending on its size.

Much more attractive, but at the same time more tender, is Chlorophytum amaniense from east Africa with leaf stalks about 10 cm (4 in) long and leaves up to 30 cm (1 ft) long and 8 cm (3 in) across, rather leathery and coloured a beautiful bronze-green. Young leaves are coppery-gold with dark green veins. More commonly grown is C. capense, native, as the name indicates, to the Cape Province region of South Africa. The leaves are up to 60 cm (2 ft) long and 4 cm (IVJ in) across, with prominent veins; there are also variegated forms that are listed under separate names or collectively as ‘Variegata’. These species require much more heat in summer than the species, otherwise their requirements are similar.

15. November 2011 by Dave Pinkney
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