Weird Plants

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In keeping with the ‘weird’ theme of this week’s program, Don looked at some very curious and unusual plants.

String of pearls (Senecio rowleyanus)
This is a type of succulent that actually looks like beads on a string. It is native to South Western Africa. String of pearls is ideal for hanging baskets and likes a sunny situation in well-drained soil or potting mix. 
150mm (6″) pots cost around $15-$20.

Snake plant (Amorphophallus bulbifer)
A tropical rainforest plant to 2m (6’) tall. The flower smells like dirty socks and has a large green or white spathe tinged with pink, and a pink spadix. The snake plant likes a well-drained soil and regular feeding.
200mm (8″) pots cost about $44 (we purchased ours from Palmlands Nursery, 327 Mona Vale Rd, Terry Hills. Phone: 02 9450 1555.)

Carrion flower (Stapelia mutabilis)
Stapelias are perennial succulents from South Africa. Their flowers smell like rotting meat and are pollinated by flies. They are usually in shades of red, brown and purple to resemble fatty meat. Stapelias like a frost-free climate and a position in full sun or part shade.
100mm (4″) pots cost $12-15.

Kalanchoe (Kalanchoe ‘Copper Spoons’)

A succulent plant to 1m (3’) tall, with spoon-shaped, bronze-tinted furry leaves. It likes full sun or part shade, and well-drained soil or potting mix. Protect from frost and reduce watering during the cooler months.
150mm (6″) pots cost $18-$25.

Plate succulent (Aeonium tabuliforme)
Native to the Canary Isles, this plant has flat rosettes that can reach 25-30cm in diameter. It prefers a shaded position and light, well-drained potting mix or soil. 100mm (4″) pots cost $8-10.

Echeveria (Echeveria ‘Crest’)
There are many different cultivars of echeveria. ‘Crest’ has a flattened stem topped with rosettes of leaves. It likes full sun and well-drained potting mix or soil. 100mm (4″) pots cost roughly $15-$20.

Lucky bamboo (Dracaena sanderiana)
If you’ve had problems growing indoor plants, try growing lucky bamboo. It is not a bamboo at all, but a dracaena. This species is native to Cameroon and has upright branches and long, silver variegated leaves. Lucky bamboo can look very attractive and stylish in the right pot, and is virtually unkillable indoors!

Mouse plant (Arisarum proboscideum)

Native to Spain and Italy, the rare mouse plant is a tuberous perennial in the arum family, growing to about 15cm (6″) tall. The flowers consist of a spathe which curves over like a hood, completely hiding the spadix. The spathe has a long ‘tail’, making the flower look just like the rear end of a mouse disappearing down a hole. Mouse plant grows naturally in woodland areas, in moist, sheltered positions in semi-shade. 100mm (4″) pots cost around $5.

Goldfish plant (Nematanthus glabra)

Native to tropical America, the goldfish plant belongs to the same family as African violets and gloxinias. The flowers look just like goldfish without fins. This is a classic plant for a hanging basket. It grows best indoors in bright filtered light, or outside in a warm sheltered position, but it is frost tender.
200mm (8″) sized hanging pots cost about $24.

Cow’s udder plant (Solanum mammosum)

Solanum mammosum grows over 1m (3′) tall in most frost-free areas of Australia. It produces small white flowers, followed by fascinating orange or yellow waxy fruit resembling the udder of a cow. Fruiting branches of cow’s udder plant are very fashionable used in cut-flower arrangements, and are long lasting. Cow’s udder plants are rare, but they are available as cut decorations from some florists.

Swan plant (Asclepias physocarpa)
The seed case of this fantastic plant looks just like a swan. The downside is that the seeds spread very easily throughout the garden on the breeze, so the plant does have some weed potential. Swan plants reach around 2m (6′) tall, and can be grown in most parts of Australia, either as annuals or short-lived perennials. They prefer a full sun position with good drainage.
150mm (6″) pots cost around $7.

Unusual containers
Plants can look wonderful in unusual pots, such as the wall-mounted copper planters and coloured aluminium pots shown in our segment. However, pots don’t necessarily have to cost a lot of money. Old olive oil tins, paint tins and even dog food tins can be cleaned, painted and used as planters. Don punched holes in each compartment of a muffin tray, and then filled each section with a potting mix suitable for succulents. Once planted with cacti, the muffin tray became a stunning (but inexpensive) table centrepiece.

Further information

If you have trouble finding any of the plants listed, ask your local nursery to order them in for you. Some are only available through specialist nurseries (again your local nursery can help you with contacts).

Aged copper wall-mounted planters cost around $200, and coloured aluminum pots cost from $15. Call Container Connection for stockists on (02) 9831 4114.