Here we are again with a plant I no longer have and one that I want to get again because it is such a beautiful houseplant. With its broad, green leaves and vibrant orange petioles (leaf stalks) who would not want to have this on their windowsill? It may be difficult to guess but this is a spider plant, though not as we know it!
There are 200 or so spider plants or chlorophytums. I can’t quite work out who it was that came up with the name chlorophytum, which means ‘green plant’, but it must have been someone who had very little imagination! And he can’t have seen this species.
Now that brings us to another problem because I have never got to the bottom of which species this is either! It is usually described as Chlorophytum orchidanteoides or C. amaniense and is said to come from Kenya or Tanzania. It is also sometimes called the mandarin plant but that is just confusing things a step too far and it is usually sold as just ‘Fireflash’ – with quotes that suggest that it is a cultivar or a selection of a species but I don’t think that is the case. If anyone can tell me more I would be delighted to know.
Anyway, I had the plant for several years a while back. I no longer have it and the reason for that was that the conservatory was too cold in winter. Though heated it can fall to just frost free and that is too cold for it – I think it is safer to keep it at 10c or above which is not a problem in the average home. Like all chlorophytums it has rather succulent roots, including swollen sections, that suggest that it can withstand some drought. Wateing should be careful but if it is too dry, too often, or is watered with tap water (I believe) it can get black leaf tips which are more than a little disfiguring. While the jury is out on whether flouride or something else in the water causes black leaf tips I would go with rain water or boiled water to reduce the chance.
It needs a bright spot, out of direct sun I would suggest, and average feeding. It produces stumpy spikes of small, cream/gold flowers that develop into triangular seed pods. Apparently these seeds can be used to produce lots of seedlings, which do not develop the orange colouring until they are six months old. I never had any seedlings appear but apparently it can seed around quite prolifically which is useful because, unlike the more familiar spider plant (C. comosum) it does not produce plantlets.
Sadly, I have not seen any of these for sale for many years but I will keep my eyes open because it is a very lovely thing and I would love to renew my friendship with it.