Classification, origin and description
Common name: in horticultural jargon it is often called phalangium from the name of an old genus Phalangium, now dismembered, to which a similar species belonged.
provenance: South Africa.
Genre description: this genus includes about 250 species of herbaceous, evergreen, perennial, rhizomatous plants which are commonly marketed as houseplants for their often variegated foliage and for their scarce cultivation needs.
Chlorophytum comosum (photo www.anneliesnv.be)
Species and varieties
Chlorophytum comosum o elatum o capense: originally from South Africa, it represents the most cultivated species. It has fleshy roots and basal leaves arranged in a very curved rosette outside. The plant produces long pendulous stolons at the end of which small seedlings develop which root spontaneously in contact with the ground (and which for this reason are used for the multiplication of the mother plant). In summer it produces white-greenish flowers gathered in inflorescences carried by long fleshy stems. The plant reaches a height of about 25 cm and the leaves are 2 cm wide. The variety "Variegatum" is frequently found on the market and has a cream-white or greenish-white stripe in the center of the leaf.
Chlorophytum laxum: has bright green leaves edged with white.
Chlorophytum undulatum: this species has narrow and hard leaves with rough edges. The flower stem bears an inflorescence formed by white flowers 5 cm wide.
Environmental requirements, substrate, fertilizations and special precautions
Temperature: the minimum winter temperature must not be lower than 7 ° C and not exceed 10-12 ° C (unheated rooms are preferable).
Light: good and diffused, with the exclusion of direct sunlight. Keep the plant in an airy position, but protected from drafts.
Watering and environmental humidity: watering must be abundant in spring and summer, so as to keep the soil constantly humid, and reduced in autumn-winter, taking care, however, not to let the soil dry out. To increase environmental humidity, spraying foliage during the summer is useful.
Substrate: peat mixture with the addition of sand, to increase permeability.
Special fertilizations and tricks: to prevent the tips of the leaves from turning yellow, the plants must be repotted every year (in March-April) and, from June to September, liquid fertilizer must be administered once a week. Due to the fleshy roots, they are plants subject to rot. Therefore, particular attention must be paid to avoid water stagnation.
The Chlorophytum multiply by division of the tufts or by rooting the small plants at the end of the stolons in small pots with suitable soil, taking care to cut the stolone only after rooting has taken place. Better if this is done in the spring.
Diseases, pests and adversities
- Red spider mite: occurs in hot and dry climates with yellowing and discoloration of the leaves. It is prevented by raising the environmental humidity and spraying the leaves; it is fought with acaricidal products.
- Browning of the leaf tips: it can be caused by poor watering or nutritional deficiencies, especially if associated with stunted growth. It is necessary to water more frequently or fertilize the plant.
- Cotton mealybug: can attack plants, especially in hot and dry climates. You have to remove them, treat the plant with an anticoccidic product and raise the humidity level (the spraying and the washing of the leaves allow to eliminate the cochineals in the larval state). As an alternative to the chemical, the affected parts can be rubbed with a cotton swab wet with water and alcohol.