Dalechampia spathulata

Those who often visit botanical gardens are doubt-less familiar with these plants. Unfortunately, however, it is still not seen at the florist’s.

Dalechampia is one of the members of the spurge family that is, quite unjustly, still neglected by growers. The changed conditions in modern homes, of which mention is being continually made in this website as a ‘turning point’ in the selection of house plants, created a favourable environment for this genus.

Of the more than 100 species found mostly in tropical America, as well as in Africa, Asia and Madagascar, the one chosen for this website is truly lovely. It is a small, upright shrub native to the warm forests of Mexico, where it reaches a height of 1 m (3 ft). In cultivation, however, it is much lower – usually 25 to 30, or 50 cm (10 to 12 or 20 in). The leaves remain the same length — up to 20 cm (8 in) and are attractive even when the plant is not in flower, which is practically never for dalechampia flowers the entire year almost without let-up. The flowers themselves are not exceptionaly pretty but they are enclosed by lovely pink bracts.

From its native land dalechampia inherited relatively high heat requirements but these can be easily met in the modern home. The temperature should remain above 15°C (59°F) throughout the year; only in autumn, before the central heating has been turned on, is there a temporary drop in temperature and the plants undergo a brief dormant period.

This plant is most effective in combined arrangements, in the ‘undergrowth’ in a larger dish, or on ‘dry land’ in a paludarium, a terrarium or a plant-case. The soil does not need to be a precise blend – a mixture of leaf mould, peat and sand will do.

Propagation is by means of cuttings or readily from seed.

15. November 2011 by Dave Pinkney
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