GREEN DECOR

HARDY AND ADAPT­ABLE, PHILODENDR­ONS ARE THE UN­SUNG HEROES FOR IN­DOOR PLANT EN­THU­SI­ASTS

Life & Style Weekend - - MAGAZINE | GARDEN - GREEN THUMB WORDS: MAREE CUR­RAN Got a gar­den­ing question? Email [email protected]­nat­by­ron.com.au

In­door plants look great, and they help to make us hap­pier and health­ier. But some­times, they can be a bit tem­per­a­men­tal. So I’m al­ways look­ing out for in­ter­est­ing plants that aren’t going to be too needy when I bring them in­side.

Philodendr­ons, which I have up un­til re­cently dis­missed as be­ing a bit too bor­ing, are fast be­com­ing one of my ab­so­lute favourites. We’ve been us­ing philodendr­ons, es­pe­cially the sel­l­oum and xanadu va­ri­eties, for years in land­scapes be­cause they are so hardy, easy to grow, and adapt­able. So I guess it’s not re­ally sur­pris­ing that these, and many other species, are re­ally prov­ing them­selves as in­door plants.

There are nearly 500 species of philo­den­dron and there is huge vari­a­tion in leaf shape and colour as well as the way that they grow. So there’s plenty of ex­per­i­ment­ing to be done. Leaves can be quite small or huge, green or coloured, plain or pat­terned. Some va­ri­eties grow as climbers, and some have a more up­right

habit.

Philodendr­ons are na­tive to the forests of South and Cen­tral Amer­ica. All start their lives on the for­est floor, so they are used to grow­ing in low-light sit­u­a­tions. And this, along with their gen­er­ally easy-to-get-along-with na­ture, is what makes them so valu­able as an in­door plant.

I’ve used xanadu in many sit­u­a­tions out­side, where I have found it will grow in any po­si­tion rang­ing from full sun to full shade. As an in­door plant, it forms a beau­ti­ful mound of deeply lobed, dark green leaves. Congo is an­other non-climb­ing va­ri­ety, with large dark green leaves shaped like a su­per-sized ar­row head. Rojo Congo has leaves of sim­i­lar size and shape but the new leaves are deep red, and the older fo­liage re­tains some deep bur­gundy tones. Black Car­di­nal is even darker, with the ma­ture leaves al­most black. Prince of

Or­ange has bright or­ange new leaves.

Then there are the climbers. The heartleaf philo­den­dron will climb up a pole, or, with no pole avail­able, will trail beau­ti­fully from the pot on its slen­der stems.

Philodendr­ons grow best in a moder­ately well-lit po­si­tion, although they will tol­er­ate low light quite well, at least for a while. They don’t like to get too wet, so it’s best to let the top of the mix dry out be­tween wa­ter­ings. They are rarely both­ered by pests and dis­eases, un­less you over-wa­ter and they start to rot. Those lovely large leaves may need a wipe or a rinse off ev­ery now and then to re­move the dust. But these re­ally are among the tough­est of all the plants to grow in­doors. The only prob­lem is try­ing to de­cide which one to start with.

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