STENOCARPUS sinuatus (fire-wheel tree or wheel of fire) is the only species of the genus Stenocarpus grown as a house plant. Within the confines of a pot or tub it grows no more than about 6 feet high. The plant rarely branches naturally, so it is advisable to encourage it by nipping out the growing point of the main stem. The popular names for this plant derive from its wheel-shaped, bright red flowers, but these are not produced on potted plants.
Indoor stenocarpuses are valued for their deeply lobed leaves, which grow alternately along the stem and branches. These leaves are up to 18 inches long and 9 inches wide, and they are lobed into several segments roughly paired on cither side of a prominent midrib, with a single segment at the tip end. Some forms of S. sinuatus have smaller, lance-shaped leaves that are either undivided or only slightly lobed, but these forms are less attractive than the larger-leaved plants and are rarely used as house plants.
All S. sinuatus leaves are glossy-surfaced and pale green, which is tinged with red on the underside. Leaf midribs are a paler shade of green. Leafstalks are 1-3 inches long and the same color as the leaf midribs. Leaves are bronzish in color during the first week or two after they open.
Light Grow stenocarpuses in bright light, with at least three hours a day of direct sunlight.
Temperature This plant grows well either in normally warm room temperatures or under cooler conditions. It cannot tolerate temperatures below 50°F, however. When grown at temperatures below 650, the leaves are hard and leathery; in warmer positions they will be bigger and softer.
Watering During the active growth period water plentifully as often as necessary to keep the potting mixture thoroughly moist, but never allow the pot to stand in water. During the winter rest period water sparingly, giving only enough to keep the mixture from drying out completely.
Feeding Apply standard liquid fertilizer every two weeks during the active growth period only.
Potting and repotting Use a soil-based potting mixture. Move plants into pots one or two sizes larger every spring until maximum convenient pot size (probably 10 or 12 inches) has been reached. Thereafter, annual topdressing with fresh mixture will suffice.
Propagation Indoor stenocarpuses can be raised from seed sown in a shallow seed tray in early spring. Bury the seeds inch deep in moistened rooting mixture, and place the tray in a plastic bag or propagating case. Keep it in bright filtered light at a temperature of at least 65T until germination occurs. Uncover the seedlings, and begin to water them sparingly, permitting the top one-third of the rooting mixture to dry out between waterings, until the seedlings are 2 inches high and have two true leaves. Transfer each such seedling into a 2-or 3-inch pot of soil-based mixture, and treat it as a mature stenocarpus.
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