Siderasis

Siderasis

The genus Siderasis consists of a single species, S.fuscata, which is a low-growing, rosette-shaped tropical plant prized for its beautiful flowers as well as its large, richly colored leaves. Unfortunately, this is an extremely difficult plant to grow successfully. It is best grown in a terrarium or plant window. Under the right conditions active growth will continue all year long.

The elliptic leaves of S. fuscata rise directly from a short underground stem, are up to 8 inches long and 3 inches wide, and are arranged in a spreading rosette that is rarely more than 3 inches high. The upper surface of each leaf is pale olive green, with a ¼ -inch-wide, white stripe running lengthwise down the middle; the underside is entirely purplish red. Short, very fine, rust-colored hairs densely cover the plant. In late sum­mer hairy flower stalks appear from near the center of the rosette. Each stalk bears a 1-inch-wide, three-petaled flower. Flower color varies from violet to rosy purple. Mature plants produce offsets from the base.

PROPER CARE

Light Medium light is essential. Keep these plants out of bright light, and never subject them to direct sunlight.

Temperature S.fuscata should have steady 70°-75°F warmth, with fluc­tuations of no more than four or five degrees. Because these plants are ex­tremely sensitive to dry air, provide humidity by standing them on saucers or trays of moist pebbles at all times.

Watering Water moderately all year long, while allowing che top half-inch of the mixture to dry out between waterings. Be careful not to over-water. These plants are particularly likely to rot at the point where the leaves join the underground stem.

Feeding Apply standard liquid ferti­lizer once a month. Do not increase the frequency of feedings. Overfeed­ing encourages soft, sappy growth.

Potting and repotting Use an equal-parts combination of soil-based potting mixture, coarse leaf mold or peat moss, and coarse sand (not perlite, which retains too much water). Put a half-inch layer of drainage material in the bottom of the pot. Siderasises do not need large pots, and mature plants can be grown in the 5-inch size. Move small plants into slightly bigger pots in the spring until such a size has been reached. Then divide clumps for propagation.

Propagation Divide overcrowded clumps of rosettes at any time. In separating individual rosettes from the base of the plant be careful not to damage rooted stems. Plant each off­set rosette in a 3-inch pot of the recommended potting mixture, make the mixture moist, and enclose the whole in a plastic bag or heated propa­gating case. Stand it in medium light at about 75°F for 10 days. Then uncover the young plant and treat it as a mature siderasis.

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