STENOTAPHRUMS, which all belong to the large grass family, have bright-hued, attractive, and bladelike leaves. Only one form of one species of stenotaphrum is a popular house plant: S. secundatum 'Vari-egatum' (buffalo grass). This plant can add an air of lightness to a mixed planting of darker green-leaved plants or it can be very attractive on its own in a hanging basket. It has creeping, flattened stems that will take root at whatever point the swollen joints (nodes) touch the potting mixture. From these nodes rise small clusters— usually four—of pale cream-colored leaves, many of which are marked with fine green lines, and may or may not be bordered in green as well. They vary in length from 3 to 12 inches but they are of equal width—about 5 inch —for the whole of their length, and they all have bluntly rounded ends. Some of the leaves eventually lose their color and die. They can easily be pulled off without harming the rest of the plant in any way. The flowers, however, inconspicuous at best, are rarely produced indoors.
Light Provide bright light with at least three or four hours of direct sunlight daily. Inadequate light causes leaves to lose much of their brilliance and become more green. If grown in very bright light, some clumps of leaves will become tinged with pale mauve, particularly at the bottom, near the nodes.
Temperature Potted stenotaphrums thrive and grow very quickly in any normal room temperature. They cannot tolerate temperatures lower than about 55°F. Because high humidity will prevent the premature yellowing of leaves, stand pots on trays or saucers of damp pebbles; spray plants in hanging baskets daily.
Watering During the active growth period water plentifully, enough to keep the potting mixture thoroughly moist—but never allow the pot to stand in water. In the rest period water only enough to keep the potting mixture from drying out completely.
Feeding Apply standard liquid fertilizer once a month during the active growth period only. Do not over-feed plants, or the leaves will become unattractively large and limp.
Potting and repotting Use a soil-based potting mixture and shallow pots, half-pots, or pans. Since these stenotaphrums grow on the surface of the mixture, they do not need deep pots. Move plants into larger containers when the creeping stems have covered the surface and are beginning to hang over the edge; repot several times a year if necessary. Young plants are much more desirable than old ones, and the maximum lifetime of an indoor stenotaphrum should be no more than two years.
Propagation In spring or early summer, cut off clumps of leaves attached to nodes with an extra half-inch of stem attached. Plant three or four such clumps around the edge of a shallow 3-inch container fdled with an equal-parts mixture of peat moss and coarse sand or perlite. Keep the container of cuttings at 65°-75°F in bright filtered light, and water it often enough to make the potting mixture barely moist throughout. When new growth covers the entire surface of the mixture—in around three months— move the group of young plants into a larger pot of the standard potting mixture and treat in exactly the same way as mature stenotaphrums.
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