While the Ivory Pineapple is able to produce a violet-blue flower and then a fruit, this pretty plant is more often used as a foliage house-plant: its dynamic form provides good contrast for other houseplants, and it is particularly good in a modern setting. It is also suitable for use outside in warm climates as an impact I plant in a tub display, or as a specimen plant beside a flight of steps. Mature plants can produce leaves up to 90cm (3ft) long, but most houseplants are of a less-generous size at around 60cm (2ft). This cultivar has beautiful leaves striped with ivory and often softly tinged with pink. As a terrestrial Bromeliad, the Ivory Pineapple has a three-year life cycle, which ends after the production of flower and fruit. The offsets, which are produced alongside the ageing plant, can be potted-up and used to replace the parent plant.
Provide this plant with a minimum Winter temperature of 15°C (60°F): for growth, the preferred temperature is around 21°C (70°F); be sure to provide adequate ventilation if temperatures rise above 24°C (75°F).
For maximum growth, provide the most amount of light possible: the rich leaf colour will fade if light levels are too low.
Water this plant well during the growing season and allow theto dry out between waterings. During the Winter (and any cool spells), water sparingly with lime-free water. This plant has a very small root system, and over-watering may lead to root rot.
Mist houseplants during warm Summer weather in the early morning, and ensure that the foliage is dry before any direct light falls on the plant; use tepid water.
Feed the Ivory Pineapple weekly in Summer, using a potash-rich, proprietary houseplant feed. The potash will help to retain the leaf colour without producing lush growth.
Use a loam-based, lime-free compost, and pot-up the offsets as soon as the parent plant has died off: if the plant is growing well, it is possible to repot it mid-way through the growing process – usually in March or April. Do not over-firm the compost or pot into too large a pot.
Position Ananas comosus ‘Variegatus’ with care: the stiff leaves are viciously prickly and tipped with sharp spines. They can create havoc with hair, fingers and net curtains if placed in the wrong position.
Scale: If small brown discs of Scale appear on the undersides of the leaves, remove them with methylated spirit on a cotton bud.
Cultural problems: Too little light will result in a reduction of the rich leaf colour, and any draughts will shrivel the leaves.
Leafshine products: Use of leafshines on Bromeliads may produce rusty marks on the leaves: instead, remove any dust with a damp cloth.
Although not one of the easiest ofto grow in the home, the tropical Microlepia speluncaraes elegant and gracious addition; a large-scale terrarium or warm, humid conservatory will suit it best. Baby plants are excellent in bottle gardens, as long as they are treated as a short-term option, and larger plants are good indoors as shade-loving houseplants in Summer; any kept through to the following year indicate green fingers on the part of the owner. The erect, hairy leaf stalks bear soft, pale green fronds, which are much thinner and more vulnerable than those of most other ferns and need a high degree of humidity for survival. Microlepia speluncae comes from tropical regions of Africa and Asia, and can reach an impressive height of 50cm (20 in).
If the plant survives, provide Microlepia speluncae with a Winter temperature of 15°C (60°F); in the Summer, optimum growth requires a temperature range of 18-26°C (65-80°F). Take care to position thisout of any draughts.
This fern prefers low levels of light; keep the glass of bottle gardens or terraria clean at all times. Plants kept as houseplants in Summer do well in a bright, but indirectly-lit position.
Use lime-free water and keep the compost just moist at all times; less water will be required during the Winter months.
Microlepia speluncae must have a high degree of humidity to thrive: using rainwater, mist the foliage as often as seems appropriate two or even three times a day in Summer – and place a tray of gravel or moisture-retentive pellets under the pot, making sure that the base of the pot is clear of the water.
Feed this fern every fortnight during the Summer with a proprietary houseplant fertilizer.
If the plant survives, repot it in Spring in a deep pot, using a low-nutrient potting medium. Remember to add a little crushed charcoal to the compost of any terraria or bottle gardens.
Remove any fading fronds regularly: a pair of narrow and pointed scissors is ideal for this. Snip off the stalks as close to the plant’s crown as possible, but be careful not to cut into any living parts of the plant.
Dry air: This fern will suffer from even slightly dry air: any dry and crispy leaves should be cut off and the growing conditions remedied. Do not cut into the living leaf.