Botanical Name: Stromanthe sanguinea
Gorgeous foliage in dramatic colors make this Brazilian native a must-have for your indoor houseplant collection.
Each emerald green leaf looks like a masterpiece, brushed with creamy white, light green and sometimes pink. Its leaves are sometimes held upright, revealing red undersides.
Those leaves are typically 10-12 inches long and are held on short, upright petioles.
If your plant changes its "look" throughout the day, there's a reason. Stromanthe is a member of the Marantaceae family of prayer plants. Its leaves turn to follow the sunlight throughout the day, then close at night, just like its family members.
Wondering when to repot Stromanthe? Repot when the plant appears crowded, using a pot that's just 1-2 inches (2.5-5 cm) larger. Keep the crown of the plant at the same level it was in the old pot to prevent stem rot. Spring is a good time, when it is starting its most vigorous time of growth. Use a pot with drainage holes to prevent over-watering. This is a good time to divide plants, if you want.
Brown leaf tips may be caused by dry air. Give this South American rain forest native the moist air it craves year-round. (See "Humidity" below). It's a good idea to use a humidity gauge, rather than guess. Homes can become extremely dry in winter.
Pruning isn't necessary, but older leaves can be cut off when they wither and turn brown. Use sharp pruners or scissors and cut them off close to the soil level.
Something bugging your plant? Stromanthe seems to shrug off pests, though there are a couple to watch for. Dry, warm conditions in winter may draw spider mites to indoor plants. You'll first notice their fine webbing between leaves and stems. Treat any infestation immediately to prevent these destructive pests from moving on to your other houseplants. Wet, peaty potting mixes sometimes attract fungus gnats. Allowing the potting medium to dry out a bit between waterings will help prevent them.
This tropical beauty is seldom seen in nurseries and garden centers, but it's well worth seeking.
Stromanthe sanguinea 'Tricolor' is a popular cultivar for its stunning cream, white and green leaves with red undersides. 'Triostar' is splashed with cream, pink and green with red underneath.
Height: Up to 3 ft (90 cm) when confined to a container and grown indoors
Light: Bright light is essential for good leaf color. Put your plant where it'll get plenty of light, but protect Stromanthe sanguinea from hot midday sun, which may cause brown scorch marks on leaves.
Water: Allow top 1-inch (2.5 cm) to dry out before watering. Take care not to over-water -- soggy soil will cause Stromanthe sanguinea stems to collapse, and may lead to root rot. It's a good idea to use a pot with a drainage hole; water thoroughly, then empty drainage tray. Water less in winter, but don't allow the plant to dry out.
Humidity: This tropical rain forest native wants at least 50% relative humidity. Brown leaf tips indicate the humidity is too low. Indoor air can become especially dry in winter; it a good idea to use a cool-mist humidifier near the plant.
Temperature: Average to warm 65-80°F/18-27°C year-round. Stromanthe doesn't like big fluctuations, but will tolerate temps as low as 60°F/16°C in winter. Keep plant away from cold drafts from entryways or blasts from A/C or heat vents.
Soil: Peat moss-based potting mix or other soilless potting medium.
Fertilizer: Feed once a month spring through fall with a balanced water-soluble houseplant fertilizer. Stop feeding in winter, when growth is slower.
Propagation: Divide clumps in spring and pot them separately.