Stillwater News Press

Garden

February 11, 2012

In the Garden 02-12-12

February fills the air with hearts. Be they of red construction paper, 14 karat or chocolate, hearts send the message of love. Florists and greenhouses offer living tokens of love for us to present our sweetheart, but few give notice to heart leaf philodendrons when they consider a living Valentine’s gift.

Latin names for plants are not just for botanical snobs; the Latin is descriptive of the plant. Philodendron cordatum is heart leaf philodendron; philo means to love, dendron is Latin for tree, and cordatum refers a to heart shape. This plant in its native habitat loves trees (evidenced by its tendency to ramble up the trunks) and has heart-shaped leaves.

Botanists at times cannot leave well enough alone and like to shuffle the terminology to keep laymen like us guessing. This same plant is sometimes referred to as P. scandens or P. scandens oxycardium. Scandens translates as climbing, cardium refers to the heart, and oxy — a little Greek to mess the pot — is pointed. Philodendron, climbing with pointed heart leaves. Whew!

If the mere mire surrounding the name has not turned you away, consider purchasing a small pot for your loved one this Valentine’s Day. An everyday plant expressing everyday love in simple terms — that’s the heart leaf philodendron.

Look at the attributes of P. cordatum; it is easy to grow as a houseplant and is happy in almost any situation. Weekly water along with average window light keeps heart leaf not just alive, but actively growing. A monthly dinner date of a balanced fertilizer will keep the color deep green and maximizes the size of individual leaves.

Stems turn brown as they age, a testimony that this plant is mature and has withstood the test of time.

Another distinguishing characteristic is a red-brown sheath at each leaf node offering protection to emerging leaves. I like to think of it as arms sheltering the ongoing growth that every relationship experiences. The sheath, the hug, dries as growth continues onward and upward. New hugs are always necessary, always there.

LeeAnn Barton, Stillwater, can be emailed at leeannbarton@sbcglobal.net.

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