Three Plant Oddities and How To Grow Them
These three plant oddities all have strange looks and habits, and even stranger still, nothing gets them down once they have found their happy spots.
Maidenhair vine or wire vine (Muehlenbeckia complexa)
Of all the oddities this one was love at first sight when I saw this vinelike scrambler or mounding groundcover for the very first time in a friend’s shady garden. There it is allowed to grow wild, covering whatever it likes with its long but rigid and twisting chocolate brown stems covered in small, shiny dark green to nearly black leaves.
In this environment, where it is regularly watered and fertilised (and its roots are never disturbed), it has grown so lush that it resembles a maidenhair fern on steroids. In a coastal situation in full sun with very little water, my first plant (which I simply tossed still in its nursery pot into a gravelled succulent bed, meaning to play with it later) seemed to show me a middle finger due to my neglect.
It started to escape from its pot, rooting between the gravel chips, and soon grew into a little green but very wiry mound between tough succulents. If it was watered, it produced lush green leaves. If it sat dry, they would turn black and even disappear only to return again after a little wet salvation.
Maidenhair vine statistics:
- Plant in full sun or dappled shade outside or in high light indoors;
- Fast and efficient groundcover finally reaching a spread of approximately 3 x 3m. (Can this be construed as invasive growth?);
- It is easily trimmed if needed and works well under trees where it is not affected by competitive tree roots or deep shade. It will also tolerate foot traffic, although nobody will want to walk over or through it – it would take a long while to untangle yourself;
- As a wandering wine, it is able to support itself with its twisted stems;
- On a trellis, in a hanging basket or as a topiary, its vigorous growth makes for a quick end result and simple pruning or harsh mowing back into shape keeps it in check;
- It tolerates coastal conditions (it is resistant to salt and wind) and is also able to cope in cold and light-frost conditions. Should the plant be exposed to severe cold it simply needs to be cut back to allow it to re-shoot in the summer;
- Tolerant to a wide variety of soil types from sandy or loam to clay soils, as long as they have very good drainage;
- Regular watering will keep the plant happy in the summer months, and much less watering is required in the winter months.
Peace in the home (Soleirolia soleirolii )
This fast-growing, mat-forming perennial, which produces a dense carpet of very petit mint-green leaves, is also commonly known as baby’s tears or mind-your-own business, a great name for one of these oddities.
It is evergreen and a vigorous grower that seems to pop up in the most unexpected places in a garden! Strangely enough, it is often sold as a house plant (hence the name ‘peace in the home’) as suitable for a terrarium or to grace windowsills – where it often turns into a neurotic and sulking patch of ‘dead greenery’ giving nobody any peace unless you know its tricks!
We are often told that Soleirolia soleirollii in the garden grows well in shady areas with marginal light. This is questionable, as my soleirolia carpet grows lushly all over a very sunny piece of brick paving at my office door, and is stepped on each day. This can maybe be ascribed to the fact that there is a garden tap nearby that causes moistness and humidity, but not regular floods.
Although this seems like a fragile plant with a delicate structure, it is surprisingly robust, easy to grow and very charming.
Peace in the home statistics:
- Generally pest resistant, and individual plants will cover an area of about ½m 2;
- Plant in well-drained soil kept evenly moist but not soggy in summer, and reduce watering in winter;
- A regular feeding program with Atlantic All Purpose or Atlantic Bio Ocean will ensure fast, lush growth;
- Insignificant creamy-white and petal-less flowers are produced in late spring;
- Excellent houseplant that will cascade over the edges of containers. It will grow indoors in bright, indirect light;
- Ensure the soil is kept uniformly moist and that the container has good drainage holes – sodden plants will quickly rot and constantly dry plants will die!
This plant, also one of the oddities, came into being as a cross between the two bromeliad species: Billbergia nutans (epiphytic) and Cryptanthus bahianus (terrestrial). It can be described as a sturdy ornamental plant that has stiff, slightly arching serrated foliage in a spiral or rosette arrangement that forms dense clumps.
The top side of the leaves is a glossy bronze-red flecked with green, while the underside has a powdery silver-grey hue.
- Grows best in bright shade or sun;
- Thrives in well-drained soil and only needs water when the soil becomes really dry. Overwatering will cause the plant to rot;
- Use it as a contrasting border plant with other tough water-saving plants such as salt bushes (Einadia hastata) and lambs ears (Stachys byzantina) with their grey foliage, as well as the bronze-foliaged Carex ‘Red Rooster’ – they go well together;
- The fast-growing clumps can simply be divided by tearing the spirals loose from each other;
- Low-fuss option for interesting patio pots;
- Great as an indoor ‘plant pet’ in the care of a forgetful gardener who might not water stuff regularly – keep it in bright light.
Which of these oddities have you enjoyed in your home?