Bird Catcher Tree/Pisonia umbellifera ‘Variegata’
At first glance, the Bird Catcher Tree looks like a Rubber Plant, but surprisingly it is a member of the same family as the Bougainvillea. From the tropical regions of Australia, New Zealand and Mauritius, this striking plant is ideal for a spacious setting. The species may grow to a small tree of 6m (20ft) tall, but this cultivar tends to be smaller and, when pot-grown, its growth is restricted even more. The leaves of Pisonia umbellifera ‘Variegata’ are about 30cm (12in) long and attractively splashed in a range of greens, grey-greens and yellow-cream. Pinching-out the stems will stimulate branching and bushy growth, making this often large plant adaptable to the smaller home. The rather odd common name is thought to allude to the sticky fruits which follow the tiny, funnel-shaped yellow flowers.
Provide Pisonia umbellifera ‘Variegata’ with an optimum temperature range of 16-20°C (61-68°F): however, warm temperatures in the home in Winter do not appear to have an adverse effect, as long as they are combined with a high degree of humidity.
Position this plant where it will receive at least four hours of direct sunlight every day, and bright light the rest of the time. As this cultivar is variegated, ensure that the direct light is given in the morning or late afternoon – an East- or West-facing room is best.
Allow thesurface to dry before giving a thorough watering: the compost needs to be moderately moist all year through. Use tepid, lime-free water.
This plant needs a high degree of humidity: mist daily during Summer and at any time when temperatures are high, using lime-free water. In addition, place the plant on a tray of moisture retentive pellets. Feed every fortnight in Summer with a proprietary houseplant fertilizer: use at half strength on well established plants to maintain a balance between good health and excessive growth.
Repot every two years in early Spring, taking care not to disturb the roots.
Use a loam-based compost. Wash the leaves regularly: not only will this help to reduce the build-up of dust, but it will also help maintain high humidity.
Aphids: New growth is liable to Aphid attack: treat as soon as possible with a suitable insecticide.
Soft growth: In Winter, high temperatures and poor or inappropriate light will cause excessively soft, sappy growth, which is liable to attack by. Either reduce the growing temperature or provide appropriate artificial light.