Friday, July 13, 2007

My Little Big Foot

Yesterday, I finally brought in my Gerrardanthus macrorhizus from the patio because the super heated wind gusts were just too much for the tender, ivy-like leaves. It had been doing all right outside, even with our 110˚ plus days, but Thursday’s hot wind and low humidity quickly dried many of the new leaves. Since I waited too long to bring it in, I will now have to cut back the 36 inch vines to about 12 inches. Trimming won’t hurt it, and the vines will grow back in short order.

G. macrorhizus is an African caudiform with a large, rounded tuberous root that looks like a rock. Its common name is Big Foot, in reference to the large caudex. In habitat, the caudex can reach five feet in diameter, and the vines can grow to around 30 feet. Even as a potted plant, the caudex grows rapidly, and the size of the container dictates how large it can get. I want mine to stay in its present pot for a few years, so I expect it to double in size in this pot as time passes.

This caudiform is easy to grow indoors and I do bring it in during the winter months because the vines won’t take temperatures below 40˚. I put it back on the patio in early spring and leave it out as long as the vines can take the heat. I could leave it in the house year-round as it is an excellent houseplant, but the long vines tangle and grab anything around them, so it’s hard for me to find a good place for it. Trimming controls the runaway vines, and in late fall I’ll cut them very short so that next spring, I can train the new vines onto its little pot trellis.

G. macrorhizus needs lots of water when it has vines, as well as regular fertilizer in the summer. Although my plant has yet to produce flowers, when they come, they will be small, dark yellow, and look somewhat like orchids.

A garden is always a series of losses set against a few triumphs, like life itself.
~ May Sarton

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