By Tommy Clarkson from the February 2014 Edition
Chlorophytum amaniense or Chlorophytum orchidantheroides, C. orchidastrum, C. filipendulum amaniense Chlorophytum orchidastrum, Chlorophytum filipendulum,
Family: Anthericaceae, Liliaceae or Agavaceae
(Also known as a Mandarin Plant, Fire Glory, Orange Spider Plant, Green Orange Tangerine and Sierra Leone Lily.)
Introduced to the Americas not much more than a decade ago, this perennial foliage plant – native to the rainforests of East Africa in the Usambara Mountains of Tanzania – is fast becoming a favorite for both indoor and outdoor use. But take note: It does require substantive shade. (In point of fact, I’ve moved mine three times, before finally finding a location that seems to suit its fickle nature!)
So new is it to this side of the Atlantic that – as seen above – there is significant confusion as to its Latin name, family and even the name by which it is commonly called. In fact, few of the presently published books on landscape plants include this gem in their texts.
(By the way, to find a publication that meets your specific needs, through reviews – and to order – any of numerous tropical botanic publications via Amazon, go to “A review of tropical plant, palm and flower books”, under the sub-tab of “Tropical Gardening Advice”, below the major heading of “Tropical Gardens” on our web site: www.olabrisagardens.com)
We do know that the Fire Flash is a colorful relative to the Spider Plant and, while it forms no runners, it seeds itself most prolifically. If you choose to plant these seeds don’t be worried if only a few sprout as they, generally, have a very low germination rate.
Transplanted barely a month ago, these finally have found a home they like in our gardens!
Regardless of the confusion as to where it fits in the plant world and its best moniker, it is an intriguing plant. It has a shiny rosette of dark green pointed leaves and a heart of glowing pink to coral orange from the base of the leaf up through the petioles (that’s the stem connecting the leaf to the stalk) and leaf midribs. These leaves, 25-30 cm long (app. 10”) and 5-10 cm wide (2-4”), are rubbery yet brittle. (For the brightest colors, remove basal sprouts, as they appear, to avoid crowding which can hide the colored growth.)
There are a few “down sides” to this plant. One is that the petioles are brittle and can be broken easily. As a result of this, they are not good plants for high-traffic areas. Beyond that, the old flower stalks go black and become unsightly, requiring removal. Lastly, any leaf tear or petiole break will develop black marks around the injury.
Multi- functional, it can be used as a potted plant, ground cover, mixed with others or highlighted as a showcase specimen. And, because of its great tolerance for low light and its resistance to disease it is a great indoor houseplant.
The fine Fire Flash foliage (nice alliteration there!) is extremely sensitive to chemicals, pesticides, insecticides and high light levels. Thus – as regards the latter – it logically follows that it should not be placed in the full sun as intense light levels will cause chlorosis (a yellowing of leaf tissue due to a lack of chlorophyll) or scorching. It prefers shady filtered or dappled sun.
One we have grown successfully as a showcase plant was on our dining palapa with only indirect sun while others are employed grouped, as ground foliage, well ensconced in the heavily filtered shade beneath several multi-fronded palms – in this particular case a double Medjool Date Palm from Iraq, a Fiji Palm from the Fiji Islands, a Zombie Palm from the island of Hispanola and a Mexican Palmetto from the southeastern part of this country and Central America!
Considering its native environs it follows that it prefers a humid environment. Though it is quite drought tolerant – what with its root system consisting of swollen water-storing nodules – there is dispute about how much and when to water this plant. Some say to let it become fairly dry before watering. Others advise to keep the soil moist – but not over water. I damply lean to the former.
Ground planted, at maturity, its height will be 45-60 cm (18-24”) but generally shorter if container-grown. The flowers – borne in groups – are about one centimeter (1/2”) in diameter, white, have six petals and last only one day. But even with this short bloom time, the plant itself is a “glowing beauty!”
Cutting to the chase, this is a good, flexible to use, plant. So, I encourage that you get one soon!
For back issues of “Roots”, gardening tips, tropical plant book reviews and videos of numerous, highly unique eco/adventure/nature tours, as well as memorable “Ultimate Experiences” such a Tropical Garden Brunches and Spa Services, visit www.olabrisagardens.com .”
Tommy Clarkson is a bit of a renaissance man. He’s lived and worked in locales as disparate as the 1.2 square mile island of Kwajalein to war-torn Iraq, from aboard he and Patty’s boat berthed out of Sea Bright, NJ to Thailand, Germany, Hawaii and Viet Nam; He’s taught classes and courses on creative writing and mass communications from the elementary grades to graduate level; He’s spoken to a wide array of meetings, conferences and assemblages on topics as varied as Buddhism, strategic marketing and tropical plants; In the latter category he and Patty’s recently book, “The Civilized Jungle” – written for the lay gardener – has been heralded as “the best tropical plant book in the last ten years”; And, according to Trip Advisor, their spectacular tropical creation - Ola Brisa Gardens – is the “Number One Tour destination in Manzanillo”.