Selaginella

Selaginella

The large 'genus Selaginella in­cludes several species that are grown indoors for their decorative foliage. These plants do especially well in terrariums , which give them the constantly moist con­ditions that they need. They can be low, mosslike hummocks; otherwise they are profusely branching plants that have either upright or else creep­ing stems. Their tiny leaves usually grow in ranks of four around each stem; the ranks extend from the base of the stem to about \ inch below the tip. The tip itself carries spores; al­though selaginellas are not ferns, they resemble ferns in that they produce spores instead of seeds.

RECOMMENDED SELAGINELLAS S. apoda has creeping stems up to 4 inches long that bear pale green leaves. This species forms a dense, mosslike mat of foliage.

S. emmeliana (also called S. palkscens; popularly known as mossfern or sweat plant) has nearly erect stems that branch from the base upward and grow to 12 inches tall. Because the branching causes the stems to fan out, the whole plant looks somewhat like a large ball of fernlike foliage. The minute leaves are pale green with a white edge. There is also a variety, S.e. 'Aurea,' with golden green leaves.

S. kraussiana (spreading clubmoss or trailing selaginella) is an exceptionally quick-growing, creeping species. The 12-inch-long stems root down as they branch, forming a mat that takes its color from the masses of bright green leaves. The plant is often used as attractive ground cover in terrariums. The variety, S.k. 'Aurea,' has golden green leaves.

S. martensii is different from the other common indoor species. Its stems, which grow up to 12 inches long, branch less profusely. For about half their length they are erect, but the rest of the stem tends to arch over. Supporting the stems are strong, stiff, stiltlike roots, which grow downward into the potting mixture from leaf joints on the lower part of the stems. The fleshy, glistening, medium green leaves are about \ inch long—larger than those of the other species de­scribed here. S.m. variegata is a variety with silvery-white-tipped leaves. S.m. Watsoniana' has pale leaves tipped with silver.

PROPER CARE

Light Selaginellas do best in shade. Keep them in medium light through­out the year.

Temperature Normally warm room temperatures are suitable at all times. These plants will grow con­tinuously if they are kept in a warm, humid atmosphere. In low humidity the tiny leaves will dry out, curl, and turn brown. So mist-spray the plants with tepid water at least once a day unless they are in the controlled at­mosphere of a terrarium. Never use cold water for the spray; cold water will damage the foliage irreparably.

Watering Throughout the year water plentifully as often as necessary to keep the potting mixture thor­oughly moist, but never allow the pot to stand in water.

Feeding Selaginellas do not require heavy feeding. Apply standard liquid fertilizer at one-quarter strength every two weeks.

Potting and repotting Use a peat-based potting mixture to which a one-third portion of coarse sand has been added for good drainage. Shallow pans are the best containers for sel­aginellas. Move each plant into a larger container every spring until maximum convenient size (probably 6-8 inches) has been reached. There­after, repot the plant every spring in a container of the same size, which has been cleaned and filled with fresh potting mixture. The quick-spreading growth may be a problem, but it can be controlled by judicious trimming. Cut the plant back by as much as half, if necessary.

Propagation When trimming plants in spring, take cuttings 2-3 inches long, and insert each cutting \ inch deep in a pan of well-moistened pot­ting mixture. Keep the cutting warm in medium light, and water it only moderately until rooting has occurred (probably in two weeks). Thereafter, treat the new plant as a mature selaginella.

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