Thursday, February 4, 2010

New Acquisitions

Thanks to two wonderful resident tutors here in my dorm, most of my house plants from last semester made it through our long winter break more or less unscathed. Nevertheless, my window sill collection seemed a bit sparse and this past weekend I stopped by a nearby flower shop to take a look around.
Saintpaulia ionantha cultivar

I came away with a variety of African violet (Saintpaulia ionantha) with frilly white flowers with a pinkish-purple flush and purple-tinged leaves, a variety of dumb cane (Dieffenbachia maculata) with leaves with a solid white center - as opposed to the more common stripes -, and a croton (Codiaeum variegatum).
Dieffenbachia maculata cultivar

Both African violets and crotons are plants for which I have only relatively recently developed a fondness. My first two attempts at growing African violets years ago in Germany failed pathetically, most likely due to excessive sun exposure and watering. Besides, I was usually distracted by flashier tropicals. Looking for plants that would fit onto my extremely narrow window sill last winter, I decided to give them another try, and the African violet I acquired then, with dark blue frilly semi-double blossoms, turned out to be one of the most thankful house plants I had that winter. It more than doubled in size and has flowered repeatedly since. Right now it occupies a nice spot in my parents' sitting room, and as I was leaving for the new semester two weeks ago it was just about to flower again. Thus my new-found love for African violets.
As for the croton, I was partially won over by a small plant rescued from a rather abusive science project in high school and often neglected since which has nevertheless developed into a very pretty little bush now happily growing by the window of my room in Michigan. In addition, seeing fully grown specimens of Codiaeum variegatum in gardens in warmer regions has made me more appreciative of the visual impact its shrilly colored leaves can have if the plant is used well.
Codiaeum variegatum cultivar

The Dieffenbachia maculata was more of an impulse buy - it was one of the few other foliage plants of which they had small - and hence cheap - specimens, and I realized that I had never given thisn particular house plant a try, perhaps because I do not find the more common striped varieties particularly appealing. I guess we will see how it does for me here in my less-than-ideal window garden.


  1. I've also had no luck with African violets. So less water and less sun?

  2. That seems to be the trick...That and weekly feedings with water-soluble fertilizer.


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