Episode 77: coral-coloured houseplants, festive care tips, and a look ahead to 2019

Coral is the colour:  Aloe arborescens  on display in South Africa. Photograph:  J Brew  on  Flickr .

Coral is the colour: Aloe arborescens on display in South Africa. Photograph: J Brew on Flickr.

The number 16-1546 may not be familiar, but it’s the number that identifies Pantone’s colour of the year for 2019: its more palatable name is ‘living coral’. As it’s the final episode of the year, I thought I’d have some fun and discuss some of the houseplants that embody this colour through their leaves, stems or flowers… here’s my list:

Nertera aka the coral bead plant is on trend for 2019. Photograph:  Miheco  on  Flickr .

Nertera aka the coral bead plant is on trend for 2019. Photograph: Miheco on Flickr.

  • Smithiantha ‘Extra Sassy’ - this is one of my favourite plants right now (scroll down for a picture). Many of you know I am a sucker for Gesneriads (have a listen to my episode on Gesneriads here), and this Mexican native has the most glorious fuzzy leaves and flowers that look a little like foxgloves. My ‘Extra Sassy’ has coral-coloured flowers with a yellow spotted throat, set against red and green foliage - heavenly! Smithiantha are named after the botanical illustrator Mathilda Smith - there’s more about her on the Kew website here. These plants aren’t that easy to get hold of: I got mine from Shrublands Nursery in the UK although they are out of stock right now (should be back in spring). I also found a seller on eBay.co.uk but I haven’t tried this source. Also on my wishlist is the species S. cinnabarina.

  • Nertera or coral bead plant - I got a ‘blast from the past’ when I spotted these recently at the Flora Holland trade show in the Netherlands. They are usually treated as pot plants as they aren’t the easiest of things to keep alive long term, but there’s a good growing guide here.

  • Philodendron ‘Prince of Orange’ - this one is hard to get hold of in the UK - it’s currently out of stock at turn-it-tropical, unfortunately - but its young foliage does have a beautiful orangey-pink shade that puts it right on trend for the living coral look.

  • Chlorophytum orchidastrum is a relative of the common-as-muck spider plant, Chlorophytum comosum, but this one has much wider, greener leaves with an orange midrib and stem.

  • Kalanchoe orgyalis aka copper spoons, is perhaps a little more rusty than coral, but its tactile furry leaves make it a really nice succulent to add to your collection.

  • Many aloes have gorgeous coral-coloured flowers such as Aloe striata and A. arborescens - an underrated feature, in my view.

  • Begonia ‘Autumn Ember’ a rhizomatous hybrid from Logees - I haven’t grown this one but would love to give it a try! (Scroll down for a picture.)

If you’ve got a coral-coloured houseplant to add to the list, do let me know in the comments below!

All I want for Christmas is  … Smithiantha  ‘Extra Sassy’. Oh wait! I already have one! Photograph: Jane Perrone.

All I want for Christmas is … Smithiantha ‘Extra Sassy’. Oh wait! I already have one! Photograph: Jane Perrone.

Festive plant tips

  • If you are planning on buying plants as gifts this Christmas, make sure you swathe them in a plastic bag or paper before going out so they don’t get a shock in the cold.

  • Roaring fires and radiators turned to maximum are terrible news for houseplants, so move your prime plants away from heat sources if you can. Saucers of water or pebble trays will help to boost humidity.

  • There’s nothing less festive than a dusty plant, so give yours a wipe down with a damp cloth on both sides of the leaves if you can.

  • Remember, lots of plants - especially cuttings - won’t put on a lot of growth over winter: that means they don’t need so much water either. In the Q&A, Alex’s jade plant cutting was looking healthy but hadn’t grown - it’s most likely putting on lots of root growth to get ready for the next growing season.

Logees hybrid  Begonia  ‘Autumn ember’.

Logees hybrid Begonia ‘Autumn ember’.

Coming up in 2019…

I am giving a talk on the magic of houseplants at the Highgate Literary and Scientific Institution on April 9… if you are in the London area do come along! Full details here. There will be more talks and appearances coming up, so stay tuned for more details!

I am also making plans for the 100th episode of On The Ledge which will happen some time in May or June! If you have any ideas as to how to mark the occasion, please let me know…

I’d also like to hear your ideas for episodes: I will be doing another OTL sowalong in 2019 so order your seeds now - there’s info for UK and US growers on my blog.

Question of the week

Alex wanted to know why his rooted jade plant (Crassula ovata) cutting has done absolutely nothing since he got it six months ago. I suspect that the roots are growing and top growth will only start once the roots are established once the plant gets more light and warmth in spring. It also looks like the cutting is in a pot that’s a bit too large for its needs, which is probably why it is concentrating on growing roots rather than top growth. Remember: the root system and the top growth should roughly mirror each other in terms of size.

Want to ask me a question? Tweet @janeperrone, leave a message on my Facebook page or email ontheledgepodcast@gmail.com.

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This week's show featured Roll Jordan Roll by the Joy Drops and Water in the Creek by Josh Woodward, both licensed under Creative Commons. Logo design by Jacqueline Colley.

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