Gardening with Georgia

Archive - September 2009

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A very likable bat (plant)

Thu, Sep 24, 2009 at 12:27:33 PM

Whiskers are really modified leaves as are the "wings" of
the bat.

Here’s a reason to celebrate: the bat-plant is flowering.

Its upright white bracts hover like wings above a cluster of flowers draped with long whiskers (really

The white bat-plant with
one of its flowers open.

bracteoles or little bracts that are modified leaves). The whiskers remind me of drawings of the wispy beards of Chinese elders, but for most people, they resemble cats’ whiskers. The flowers’ anthers and stamens are packed in a perianth, which is the name for the fused sepals and petals that surround them like cups. They are deep purple, almost black, in contrast to the white lofty wings, making this “flower” one of the most intriguing and captivating that I grow.

Tacca integrifolia, the white bat-plant, has opened one flower this week, and another bud is promising.  Its six bright green leaves are long and somewhat oval, with deeply etched veins, giving them a rippled look. Tacca chantrieri is the black bat-plant.

I grow my bat plant in a container. It grows on an upright rhizome, with leaves emerging from the top and roots sprouting from around the tuber. It is in shade, but in midsummer receives a few dollops of sun through the palm fronds when the sun is overhead. I give it Dynamite 13-13-13, along with an occasional drink of fish emulsion and a sprinkle of regular palm fertilizer. Bat-plants, which are from tropical rainforests, are cold sensitive. They like less water in winter than summer. Finding the right conditions for them is more than rewarding.


Love those leaves

Sat, Sep 19, 2009 at 01:01:36 PM


Susan Schock with the aroids she plans to transport to her
Key West home.


Susan Schock drove up from Key West to buy a wagonload of her favorite plants, alocasias, at the International Aroid Society's annual show and sale that opened Saturday morning.

"I came here in 1996 and saw the Fairchild Garden, and then drove to Key West and decided that's where I wanted to live,'' she said. Originally from Tucson, AZ., and then New Mexico, Susan was captivated by the tropical greenery. Today, she works in the plant department of Key West's Home Depot and grows a yard full of alocasias.

Devotees of aroids are like that: in love enough with these plants to travel the world or move from one side of the country to the other just to be with them.

Best in show of this beautiful event went to Lariann Garner's Philodendron 'Majarliki,' a cross between Philodendron bipinnatifidum and P. stenolobum. Lariann's Aroidia Research in Florida City specializes in hybridizing and studying aroids.

Blue ribbons were plentiful. Among the winners: Amydrium zippelanium from Palm Hammock Orchid Estate; Anthurium Big Splash from Denis Rotolant's Silver Krome Gardens; Anthurium luxurians, from Marie and Steve Nock's Ree Gardens.

Aroids are plants in the family Araceae. They are characterized by a "flower" that consists of a spike of male and female flowers, called a spadix, surrounded by a protective leaf called the spathe. The family includes Philodendron, Anthurium, Alocasia, Colocasia, Xanthosoma, Caladium and many more genera.



A giant in the garden

Fri, Sep 11, 2009 at 06:27:27 AM


Aroids, to my way of thinking, are an integral part of a tropical/subtropical garden. They range in size from petite to giant, and the shapes can be as slender and minimalist or as ruffled and rococo as you prefer.

They climb palms and trees throughout my garden, and they hold up strikingly patterned leaves from hanging baskets, from the ground and from the pond. Among the most impressive size-wise is

Alocasia macrorrhizos 'Borneo Giant' in the
background; Cyrtosperma johnstonii at right,
an aquatic aroid.

Alocasia macrorrhizos  ‘Borneo Giant,’ which grows beside the pond, undoubtedly exchanging chit-chat with the aquatic aroids, Cyrtosperma johnstonii, Colocasia ‘Nancy’s Revenge’ and Colocasia ‘Black Magic.’ There is not one iota of recalcitrance in these various aroids once they find the right conditions, a lesson I learned with a stem cutting of ‘Borneo Giant.’ I planted it in shade. Hah! It struggled to push out small leaves for a couple of years and succeeded so miserably that I threatened it with the “you have one last chance” warning. I put the stem in acid sand and sun next to the pond and have been awed ever since. The plant grows upright on a thick succulent stem, and produces suckers at the base. From time to time, I remove the largest trunks (stems) because they are quite near underground pipes to the waterfall and I’m afraid they’ll engorge them one day. This also keeps the giant leaves closer to earth for better viewing.

As I do for many other plants in the garden, I give them controlled-release low-nitrogen fertilizer two or three times a year. In winter, the edges of the leaves turn yellow after a cold front, and the size of the leaves gradually becomes smaller. This summer, with all the rain, the leaves are what might be called robust. The largest are slightly more than six feet long and the smaller leaves are 5 ½ feet by 2 ¾ feet wide. 

The International Aroid Society’s annual show and sale is Sept. 19 and 20 at the garden, and it is an opportunity to see some of the best grown aroids in South Florida. I will see you there!