Tetranema mexicanum

One would often like to have some decoration on one’s desk or a similar spot where there is not much room. A small dish arrangement is generally chosen for the purpose, containing mostly foliage plants. These, of course, must not be too vigorous, not only so that they do not crowd each other but also that they do not take up more space than necessary. If, however, we should like to have flowering plants then we are generally faced with the problem of size. There are not many species small enough for the purpose and besides, not all tolerate light and heat the whole year round.

What might fill the bill in such a case is Tetranema mexicanum — a plant needlessly neglected by nur-serymen to date. It is a small herb with 15-to 20-cm-(6-to 8-in-) long leaves forming a ground rosette, from the centre of which rise stems about 20 cm (8 in) high bearing, almost permanently, a large number of pretty pinkish-violet flowers.

As its name indicates, the plant is native to Mexico where it grows at the edges of thickets, alongside streams and at the margins of forests. This suggests also what its requirements in cultivation would be like. Though it tolerates full sunlight, a lightly shaded position is better. The growing medium must be an acid mixture (best of all peat with leaf mould and sand, but peat alone will do) and must never dry out completely. Because the plant has no special food requirements, an occasional application of feed during the growing season will suffice. The tempera-ture should never drop below 15°C (59°F) and the plant finds the conditions of modern, centrally heated homes congenial. Its need of greater atmospheric moisture may be met by an occasional syringe with cool water.

Propagation is easy by means of seeds sown in peat which will produce plants that will flower the same year. Tetranema often seeds itself even when grown as a house plant.

15. November 2011 by Dave Pinkney
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