SPARMANNIAS (indoor linden) are shrubs which can grow 6-10 feet tall indoors. Only S. africana and its varieties, the double-flowered S.a. 'Flore Pleno' and the dwarf S.a. 'Nana,' are commonly grown as house plants. 5. africana (zimmer linden or African hemp) has 9-inch-long, roughly heart-shaped, pale green, slightly hairy leaves carried on leafstalks 6-9 inches long. When young, the main trunk and branches are also pale green as well as hairy, but they turn brown as they grow older.
Long-stalked clusters of white, four-petaled flowers appear most often in late winter to early spring. A plant blooming in a cool room can continue to produce flowers for most of the year. Flower buds are pendent but straighten up as they open, displaying prominent yellow, often purple-tipped stamens. Individual flowers fade after a few days, but remain for some weeks and should be removed once unsightly.
Some specimens of the basic species rarely flower, and the double-flowered form does not bloom readily, either. If flowers are desired, therefore, the dwarf form is the best one to acquire.
Sparmannias are at their most attractive when about two years old. It is advisable to take cuttings every other year and to discard parent plants when the cuttings have rooted.
Light Sparmannias grow best in bright filtered light. Without good light every day, the plants will not flower and may develop over-lengthy leafstalks. They should not be exposed to direct sunlight, however; it can scorch the thin leaves.
Temperature Sparmannias do best in a temperature of about 6o°F. In warmer rooms increase the humidity by placing plants on trays or saucers of moist pebbles.
Watering Water actively growing plants moderately, enough to make the potting mixture moist throughout, but allowing the top half-inch of the mixture to dry out between waterings. If, however, a sparmannia has filled the pot with roots, the mixture should be kept constantly moist during the active growth period. During the rest period water more sparingly, giving all these plants only enough to keep the potting mixture from drying out completely.
Feeding Apply standard liquid fertilizer once every two weeks from spring (or earlier, if flower buds appear before that) to fall.
Potting and repotting Use a soil-based potting mixture. Move plants into progressively larger pots as they fill their pots with roots. This may be necessary more often than once a year, but repotting is not advisable for sparmannias in late fall or winter. A 10-inch pot will accommodate a 6-foot specimen.
Propagation In the spring tip cuttings about 6 inches long will root easily either in water or in a moistened equal-parts rooting mixture of peat moss and sand. Keep the cutting in a warm place where it gets medium light, and move it into a 3-inch pot of standard mixture when it is well rooted; thereafter, treat it as a mature plant. Cuttings rooted in spring will often produce flowers by late winter.
Special points Encourage young rooted cuttings to branch by pinching out the main shoot in spring. Old, oversize plants can be cut down drastically (taking away half the growth), but this process usually leaves unsightly stumps. It is far better to start anew. No staking is necessary for tall plants, because their stems are rigid enough to support them.
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