spanish shawl plant (schizocentron)
Botanist have recently decided that Schizocentron elegans (Spanish shawl) should be included in the genus Heterocentron; its correct name is H. elegans. It is still better known by its earlier name, however, so that name has been retained here.
S. elegans is a creeping or trailing plant with slender, slightly hairy, reddish stems. These stems are noded at intervals and root into the potting mixture wherever the nodes come in contact with it. Thus, the plant eventually forms a dense mat. In hanging baskets the stems trail down for 1-2 feet, producing short, reddish branches at frequent intervals. The dark green leaves, which are arranged in opposite pairs on stems and branches, are pointed-oval, 1/4-3/4 inch long, and up to 5 inch wide, with 3-inch-long leafstalks. S. elegans flowers in summer. Each deep purple bloom appears at the tip of one of the branches on a f-inch-long stalk. The flower, which measures 1 inch across, consists of four evenly spaced, rounded petals, with a cluster of prominent purple stamens in the center.
Light Give these plants bright filtered light. Unless they have adequate light all year long, they will produce few, if any, flowers.
Temperature Schizocentrons do well in normal room temperatures if the air is sufficiently humid. For increased humidity stand pots on trays or saucers of moist pebbles, and suspend saucers of water under hanging baskets. Do not expose these plants to temperatures below 55°F.
Watering Water moderately all year long, allowing the top half-inch of the mixture to dry out before watering the plant again.
Feeding Apply standard liquid fertilizer once a month all year long.
Potting and repotting Use an equal-parts combination of soil-based potting mixture and coarse leaf mold or peat moss. Move plants to pots one size larger only when they have filled their current containers with roots. The maximum pot size needed is likely to be 5-6 inches. Discard plants in hanging baskets every two or three years, and replace them with cuttings.
Propagation A 3-inch-long tip cutting that includes three or four pairs of leaves will root at almost any time. Take each cutting just below a node, and remove the bottom pair of leaves. Plant three or four cuttings together in a 3-inch pot containing a moistened equal-parts mixture of peat moss and coarse sand or perlite. Enclose the whole in a plastic bag or propagating case, and stand it in bright filtered light. After rooting has occurred (probably in three to four weeks), uncover the pot and begin to water sparingly, allowing the top two-thirds of the rooting mixture to dry out between waterings. In addition, start monthly applications of standard liquid fertilizer. About three or four months from the beginning of propagation, transfer the three or four rooted cuttings into a 4-inch pot of the recommended mixture for adults, and treat the combined planting as a mature schizocentron. For a hanging basket plant 9 to 12 cuttings together.
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