This plant is one of the smaller-growing of the Ctenanthe group. It is a clump-forming, bushy plant-with attractive, erect leaves of about 15cm (6in) long and 6cm (2-1/2in) wide. The leaf undersides are a rich purple, revealed by the upright habit of the plant, while the upper surfaces of each leaf are feathered and marked with a whitish-green on the midrib and along the main laterals. Flowers of white appear occasionally among the hairy stems. Immature specimens are ideal as short-term terraria plants: otherwise, use it with other humidity-loving foliage houseplants. The shared growing environment makes humidity levels easier to maintain.
All Ctenanthe demand temperatures which are high and steady: 15-21°C (60-70°F) is essential during the growing season, with a minimum Winter temperature of 12°C (54°F). Colder growing conditions cause stress – the foliage will droop and the plant may die.
During the Summer growing season, position this plant out of direct sunlight, otherwise the leaves will curl.
North-facing room will give the bright, indirect light required to retain good leaf colour. For the rest of the year, good, bright, but indirect, light is needed.
Water regularly, maintaining moistwithout over-watering. It is important to keep the rootball moist at all times. Use lime-free, tepid water (rainwater) if possible. Ctenanthe must have high levels of humidity: fill a deep (5cm/2in) tray with moisture-retentive pellets and stand the plant pot on these. Keep the tray filled with water, which will raise the humidity levels around the plant without over-wetting the compost. In addition, mist the foliage each day.
Feed established plants with a half-strength pro-prietary foliage feed every 2-3 weeks during the growing season.
Repot as required, using a lime-free compost: if the plant is growing rapidly, potting-on may be a regular requirement. Don’t be tempted to over-pot – use the next pot size up: the correct ratio of root to compost is important.
Large plants can be divided in Spring: knock the plant out of its pot, take a sharp knife and cut through the rootball, leaving an equal amount of root and top-growth on each part. Shake off any excess compost and then repot the two new plants, ensuring that the juncture of plant and root is at the same depth as before; water well.
Brown and crispy leaf edges can result from excessively dry air or if the compost used is too alkaline.
Aphids and Thrips may disfigure the plant; control any infestation as soon as possible using a proprietary insecticide.
Red Spider Mite will take hold if given a chance; the high level of humidity which is needed by this group of plants will considerably reduce the risk of RSM infestation.