This member of the Ginger family – Zingiberaceae -from the high mountain ranges of Malabar, India, is an attractive foliage houseplant. The long, narrow, glossy leaves have silky undersides and are sheathed around stems which emerge from stout rhizomes; when bruised, they exude a spicy aroma. The white flowers are softly marked with a blue and white striped, yellow-edged lip; they appear on mature plants in their native habitat on leafless stems. The seeds, which follow, ripen in October. They are spicy and used in Indian cuisine – in particular in Garam Marsala. Eventually – even when grown in a container – the Cardamom becomes a large shrub, about 3m (10ft) tall, with leaves to match at 75cm (30in) long and 9cm (3-1/2in) wide.
Keep the Cardamom ticking over during the Winter by providing a temperature range of 14-16°C (57-60°F); excessively warm conditions during the poorly-lit Winter months will result in weak and unattractive growth. In Summer, this plant will tolerate temperatures to 21°C (70°F); if this is exceeded, be sure to provide draught-free ventilation. Position this plant in good, bright, but indirect, light; in Spring/Summer, be sure to shade Elettaria cardamomum from the direct rays of the sun, otherwise leaf scorch may result.
Water thethoroughly, then water again once the surface of the compost begins to dry; do not allow the root system to dry out. In its native habitat, this plant receives 2.5m (10ft) of rainfall and must be kept moist. The foliage of the Cardamom is fairly tough and leathery, and it is able to tolerate the dry air of most living rooms fairly well; in a centrally-heated room in Winter, a strategically-placed saucer of water will help to keep the foliage in good health.
Feed this pretty foliage houseplant every two weeks during the growing season, using a proprietary houseplant food; larger plants should be given feed at half strength to maintain growth yet prevent them from over-whelming the living room.
Repot overcrowded plants every 2-3 years as necessary in Spring; use a loam-based compost to which has been added up to a quarter by volume of horticultural grit. This will aid drainage and provide stability, especially of larger plants. Established plants can be top-dressed in Spring if repotting is not possible. Use Elettaria cardamomum in place of the far – more fussy, but similarly- shaped, Calathea; the Carda-mom will bring height and grace to a display without the intolerance of dry air which so limits the use of the large-scale Calathea in the home.
Brown leaf ends
Fewtrouble this plant: the main cultural requirement is to keep the roots moist at all times. If the compost dries at all, the plant will develop brown leaf tips.