Tempted by houseplants? Buyer beware
Houseplants are trendy. Houseplants are cool. And who wouldn't be tempted by this spectacular Alocasia x amazonica (aka Amazonian elephant's ear) when it's going for a song at their local supermarket? Not I for one.
Luckily I knew what I was getting as I lust after them whenever I see them at a show or in a heated glasshouse. Why lucky? Because there was no care label anywhere to be seen and most of the information out there rates these as Difficult. Later, I checked at several such outlets, then my local DIY store and found exactly the same situation: tons of attractive and tempting houseplants, succulents and cacti... all with zero information to tell the buyer what they are and what to do with them.
In this instance the amazonica in the name is the clue. This is a plant that likes plenty of humidity and warmth. It needs rainwater instead of my limy tapwater and requires misting every day. It's currently around 10 inches in height, so I need to prepare myself for several repottings and a plant that can reach up to four feet. That assumes it likes its new home on the bright windowsill in our bathroom.
So buyer beware. That impulse buy you've just put in your trolley might just give you more work than you've bargained for.
Alocasia or Colocasia? They're from the same family (Araceae aka arum family), have the same common name (elephant's ears), and have similar looks. I did think it was a Colocasia until I came to write this post only to find I have an Alocasia instead.
Unfortunately the guides I've found on how to tell the difference between to two seem to point towards Colocasia as the ID. I'll ask an expert for a more definitive guide when I next see them on display. Watch this space.
RHS Practical Houseplant Book last year.
Like the supermarket displays, there are tons of attractive plants in lovely pots to drool over. Unlike those displays there are wonderful projects, lots of practical information, and plant profiles of over 170 plants to give you everything you need to start or keep going with having houseplants in your life.
If you want a regular top up of all things houseplant, then I also recommend Jane Perrone's On the Ledge podcast. The link takes you to her getting started guide.