Pachystachys lutea: Lollipop Plant

It is not very often, in recent years, that nurserymen have been able to offer us a striking new genus but Pachystachys is definitely such a plant and a valuable addition to the available assortment.

Pachystachys lutea is a small shrub, which turns woody at the base and reaches a height of about 1 m (3 ft) in cultivation. It is native to the South American tropics, more accurately to Peru, the same as the other sue species of this genus. It is grown chiefly for its showy flowers, 10- to 12-cm-(4-to 4Vin-) long spikes of deep yellow bracts from the axils of which the snow white blossoms grow. The flowers greatly resemble those of beloperone and aphelandra. That is why, at least at the beginning, this genus was often listed in catalogues under the wrong name or else was mistaken for the cultivar Beloperone guttata ‘Yellow Queen’. They are readily distinguished, however, for the flowers of pachystachys are erect whereas those of beloperone are pendant.

The plants are loveliest if pruned hard each year. They are then thick, compact, reliably flowering specimens with dense foliage. Unpruned plants drop the lower leaves and become leggy, which certainly does not add to their attractiveness.

Plants should be pruned in spring and the prunings may be used as cuttings. These should be shortened to three buds, the base cut at a slant, and inserted in a mixture of peat and sand in a warm propagator, where they will root well and rapidly even without the use of hormone rooting powder. When they have developed 2 to 3 pairs of new leaves the rooted cuttings should be transferred to a standard peat potting compost or to a mixture of peat, leaf mould and sand.

Plants should be watered liberally throughout the growing period and feed, either organic or organo-mineral fertilizers, should be applied frequently. In winter watering should be limited, and, if possible, the plants moved to a well-lit but cooler place.

15. November 2011 by Dave Pinkney
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