Friday, February 4, 2011

Another mid-winter surprise

I don’t grow too many houseplants; for one thing, there is not much room available in the house for them. For another, I tend to neglect them unless they are in a part of the house I use frequently. And then there is the problem of light: I have only one fluorescent light set up, and that is “owned” by the Welwitschia and the Worlseya seedlings. Any extra space under those lights is up for grabs, and in most years I tuck in as many other plants as will fit.

So many inexpensive, beautiful perennial tropical house plants are now available that it’s almost impossible not to acquire some now and then. I try hard to resist orchids and bromeliads, but somehow they find their way into the collection. One I’m growing now is the handsome bromeliad Cryptanthus zonatus. This year, the pot in which the Cryptanthus is growing presented me with a little surprise: a self sown plant of Torenia fournieri appeared a few months ago; it’s now in bloom, and as you can see in the image above, the one bloom is almost as big as the entire plant. If you look at the flower carefully, you can make out the stamens which give the plant one of its vernacular names, wishbone flower. 

I meant to collect seed of these plants when they were blooming during the summer, but did not. Torenia seed used to be very inexpensive, but the modern cultivars are sold at low seed counts, often pelleted, at a comparatively high price. They self-sow in my garden, and the area near a former planting will often show hundreds of tiny seedlings the next year. It’s one of my favorite annuals.

For a view of the plants last summer, look here:

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