Aphelandra - Saffron Spike, Zebra Plant
DESCRIPTION: These attractive tender perennials and shrubs are grown for their ornamental foliage and interesting flower spikes. They are found wild in South America and require high humidity and warm temperatures to flower. A. squarrosa 'Louisae' is an erect plant with oval, slightly wrinkled leaves. They are shiny and dark green veined with white and having a white midrib. The flowers are tubular and 2-lipped, growing in thick spikes from the axils of yellow bracts from late summer to fall. This plant grows up to 3 feet high and spreads 2 feet. The colors of the flowers vary with the species; besides yellow, they may be orange-scarlet, scarlet, or pink-flowered with orange bracts.
POTTING: These plants may be grown outdoors in mild climates, in humus-rich soil; otherwise, they need to be grown in homes or greenhouses. When grown indoors, well-drained pots that are filled with equal parts of loam and peat and a generous amount of sand should be used. They should be placed in bright, indirect light out of drafts. Water must be applied with care. Waterlogged, or very dry soil will make the leaves fall. They should be fed with liquid fertilizer as the flowers form. When they've finished blooming, less water is needed. Do not pinch off the tips of the shoots, the idea is to produce one stem with one large spike of flowers.
PROPAGATION: In the spring, side shoots can be removed, or a piece of the old branch can be inserted in sand in a propagating case in the greenhouse. When they have grown roots, they are placed on the open benches for a few days and then potted. Seeds may also be sown in pots of sandy peat and loam in the spring.
VARIETIES: A. aurantiaca; A. aurantiaca var. Roezlii; A. tetragona (cristata); A. nitens; A. Sinclairiana; A. squarrosa.
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