Hoffmannia roezlii: Quiltec Taffeta Plant

The shaded undergrowth of tropical rain forests, where the temperature constantly remains more or less the same and the humidity is high, conceals an immense quantity of various forms of life. Thanks to flower collectors of old as well as present-day botanists many plants from there have become permanent guests in our homes. Often, however, it is necessary to provide them with special conditions in which they can exist permanently. Hoffmannia roezlii (syn. Higginsia refulgens roezlii) is a plant that is very sensitive to changes in atmospheric moisture and should therefore be grown solely in a glasshouse, terrarium, or demijohn. Attempts to grow it anywhere else rapidly meet with failure.

The genus Hoffmannia includes some 50 shrubby, semi-shrubby and herbaceous plants native to Central and South America. Most have handsome leaves, often with a metallic sheen or tinged various colours. The species is indigenous to Mexico and is named after Benedikt Roezl, the noted Czech orchid collector who spent many years in that country. It is a low herbaceous plant, only about 7 to 10 cm (2 ¾ to 4 in) high, with leaves arranged in a rosette. They are some 10 to 20 cm (4 to 8 in) long and 6 to 14 cm (2-1/2 to 5-1/2in) across with a silky sheen and coloured purple on the underside. The shapely, pale-red flowers are either short-stalked or sessile. More commonly cultivated is H. refulgens, also native to Mexico, which is much taller — up to 60 cm (2 ft) high. The sessile leaves, borne on a stout, upright, red stem, are up to 12 cm (4-1/2 in) long and resemble those of the species. Mexico and Guatemala are the home of another frequently cultivated species — H. ghiesbreghtii, a subshrub reaching a height of 1.5 m (5 ft), with longish, lanceolate, velvety leaves up to 30 cm (1 ft) long, coloured olive-green above and purple below. There is also a white-variegated form ‘Variegata’.

The best growing medium is a mixture of peat, pine leaf mould and beech leaf mould with added sand. Plants are readily propagated by soft stem cuttings inserted in a warm and moist propagator, where they root after about 3 weeks; they are also multiplied fairly readily from seed.

15. November 2011 by Dave Pinkney
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