STENOCARPUS

STENOCARPUS

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.

PROPER CARE

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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