The Variegated Ornaments Of The Stromanthus

The Stromanta, one of the most beautiful members of the Marantha family, is called a beauty with a difficult character for a reason. And this is not just because this indoor crop needs a complex care and strictly control the conditions of cultivation. Stromanta is constantly changing, for its metamorphosis and invisible to the eye movement of leaves you want to watch endlessly. Elevating the leaves up, placing them horizontally, or even hiding the beauty of the patterns and "exposing" the back side, the stromantha is always in motion and actively changing. And it's worth every effort: the luxurious leaf patterns, the beautiful graphic lines, the daring beauty of the plant are so spectacular that the stromantha is capable of becoming the first star in any collection. © Javier Alejandro


Whatever you call this Marantha, stromanthe or stromante (stromanthe), it is difficult to mistake it for other plants. Despite some resemblance to calathea, stromanthe stands out even from it. The mottled evergreen plant of compact size, in which every detail of greenery is beautiful, spectacular, eye-catching and in many ways bold in appearance combines its challenging character with a far from standard appearance. Maranta reminds sometimes of birds, sometimes of stylish ornaments.

In room culture dozens of natural species of stromanthus are displaced by beautiful hybrids and varieties of one single species - stromanthe blood-red (stromanthe sanguinea). According to modern botanical classifications it is more correct to refer it to the species stromanthe thalia (stromanthe thalia), but in our country this official name is practically unknown.

Description of stromanthe

Stromanthes are herbaceous perennials that create an elegant turf of large leaves, sitting on long petioles. Waist stromanthus range in height from 40 to 100 cm. Low, often almost completely reduced, multi-branched shoots in bushes are almost invisible, creating the impression that stromanthus bushes are formed only by the mass of leaves. The leaves of this beauty are obovate, oval-lanceolate, and reach up to 35 cm long.

The color of the plant is in many ways non-standard. Purple or brownish color of petioles and repeating monochrome matte color of the back side of leaf plates are combined with variegated patterns on the upper side. The basic color of the leaves is a muted green, often closer to olive or marsh green, while different in shape and size asymmetrical spots of pink, cream, white or light green give it a graphic and showy appearance. At the same time the tone of the reverse side of the leaf is sometimes beaten off in separate spots and as if "crawling" upwards, or may not be repeated at all and only contrasts with the green.

Petal patterns remind sometimes of feathers, then needles on sprigs of fir trees, then ornaments of modern impressionists. The texture of the leaves is also unusual: they appear to be satin or velvet, as if made of luxurious fabric. Whichever way the plant unfolds its leaves to you, it will delight you with its attractiveness. And the ability to change position, to "move" the leaves and to make the contrast of red and green even more striking is really unique in stromanthus. But it's not because of the special capricious nature, but because of the sun-dependence. The leaves of the plant always point towards the sun. True, it is not easy to detect sun-dependence in stromantha: sometimes it seems that there is no system in the "behavior" of stromantha at all (the position is affected by temperature, air currents, the slightest of its fluctuations). But whatever the case, the leaves are constantly moving, shifting, changing slope and angle, then turning horizontally, then "closing" vertically, dropping lower or moving up. Most often it is impossible to notice this movement, except for a slight noise when the leaves are touching. Thanks to this talent, the stromantha is constantly transformed, renewed, looking a little different every day, renewed and subtly changed.

The flowering of stromanthus is often not even noticed, and quite in vain. Despite its status as an ornamental leafy plant, the flowering of this plant is also quite attractive. Small cup-shaped flowers with reddish or white bracts of unusual shape exude an intense fragrance and are gathered in graceful panicles of inflorescences. All stromanthus bloom at different times, more often in February or spring, but some varieties bloom in summer. However, this beauty has a significant disadvantage: the fragrant wonder adorns bushes, but leads to the fact that the stromantha loses the attractiveness of the leaves, the bushes become sparse and fall apart, the plant slows down in growth and regenerates poorly. Therefore, many flower growers prefer to give up the pleasure of enjoying fragrant inflorescences in favor of permanent decorative stromanthe.

The variegated ornaments of the stromanthus
Stromanthe blood-red, or Stromanthe thalia 'Triostar' (Stromanthe thalia 'Triostar'). © treesplanet

Blood-red stromanta varieties

The best blood-red stromanta varieties include:

  • "Triostar" with light, almost white large spots at the top of the plate and a rich wine color on the underside and cuttings;
  • "Stripe Star" is a bright purple beauty, with bright asymmetrical stripes along the central vein strikingly shining on the upper side of the leaves;
  • "Multicolor" with lettuce and white spots and blurs on dark plate background and burgundy-red turnover;
  • "Horticolor" with olive-yellow spots;
  • "Maroon" with central light vein, aquarelle to dark edges and dazzling turnover.

Be careful: here under the name "stromanthe pleasant" (stromanthe amabilis) continues to spread ctenanthe pleasant (ctenanthe amabilis), which has long been classified to another genus not belonging to stromanthes. It is a compact and limited to only 25 cm tall plant with broadly oval leaves up to 20 cm long with a light surface decorated with almost herringbone dark patterns and a silvery underside.

The variegated ornaments of the stromanthus
Ctenanthe amiableis (Ctenanthe amabilis). © Arno King

Cultivation and care of the stromante at home

Stromanthes are exotic and enchanting beauties, but beauties that are very capricious. It's not a coincidence that they are so often recommended to grow in mini greenhouses, flower showcases, florariums, terrariums, winter gardens and greenhouses, but not in living rooms. Yes, and under the force of growing stromantha only experienced florists. But this does not mean that it is better to abandon them and should be afraid of all the possible problems. This gentle thing and really does not like neither coolness, nor draughts, nor low humidity. But it does not require any special conditions of overwintering and if you will receive really good care, and you will also constantly control the conditions, stromanta will become a star of the first magnitude in the interior of your home. And it will perfectly fit in with the collection of other indoor plants. The efficiency and beauty of the mottled stromantha leaves is "undeniable"; it is so bright that it is not afraid of neighborhood even with the most showy flowering exotics.

Lighting for stromanta

Despite all its sun-dependence, the stromanta does not need the brightest place under the bright rays of the sun at all. Moreover, direct light only harms the plant, and sunlight leaves burns, leaves curl and poorly recover. But otherwise in terms of lighting requirements stromanta will pleasantly surprise unpretentious. It does not like only sunny locations and shade, but it will cope perfectly with any other regime.

Diffused light place will suit stromantha as well as penumbra, and unevenly shady lighting with variations of light levels, and place in the interior with artificial afterglow. The main thing is not to go beyond the average and not to go to extremes. There is one significant exception to this rule: varieties of stromanta blood-red, which have variegated spots on the leaves (more than 2 shades of spots) are light-dependent and will lose their characteristic coloration in the penumbra. Such stromanthus can grow only in diffused bright light.

The lighting is not corrected for stromanthus in winter, except for variegated varieties that like more stable conditions (the parameter is better to specify when buying the plant). In that case, the stromanthes are moved to a slightly more lighted location to compensate for seasonal features.

The variegated ornaments of the stromanthus
Stromanthe blood-red, or Stromanthe thalia (Stromanthe thalia). © Ben Caledonia

Comfortable temperature

One of the most unusual qualities of the stromantha is its extreme heat-loving nature. These plants not only like warm conditions, but are very afraid of any changes in their comfortable environment, much less cold weather. The lower limit of acceptable temperatures is 20 degrees from spring to fall and 18 degrees in winter. In cooler conditions, even for a very short period, stromanthus cannot be kept. But the upper limit is much more "blurred": stromants are not afraid of heat and temperatures up to 30 degrees of heat. Stable, warm, room conditions is better to keep unchanged throughout the year, or in summer keep the stromantha in a warmer environment, and in winter - at a temperature of about 20 degrees. But it is better to direct the main efforts to stability, to prevent sudden changes in temperature, smooth drops and rises without jumps.

Stromants are very sensitive to temperature fluctuations. They do not tolerate not only draughts (and even more so cold draughts) but also any contrast between substrate and air temperatures, surfaces and materials of walls and window sills. These plants should not be placed near heaters, air conditioners, on the floor, near windows or walls, in any other place where temperature fluctuations may occur. Under no circumstances should the Stromanta be taken out into the fresh air or placed in rooms that are constantly ventilated in summer.

Watering and Humidity

To find the ideal watering regime for the Stromanta, you must have patience and rely on constant monitoring. Despite the general requirements, actually each individual plant needs a different watering frequency (temperature, light and other factors can affect it as well). The main goal is to keep the soil moisture stable, not to allow the soil in the pot to dry out or overwater. The benchmark indicating the need for the next procedure is the drying out of the top layer of soil. Stable soil humidity can be maintained throughout the year, only in winter should procedures be milder and less frequent to match the lower rate of evaporation. But it is always better to be guided exactly by the degree of drying of the soil. Another peculiarity - the water that appeared in the trays must be drained as soon as possible.

But much more difficult than constantly monitoring the moisture content of the soil, to ensure a comfortable humidity for the stromantha. This plant at the slightest deviation from the conditions of high humidity begins to suffer from drying of the tips of the leaves and produces increasingly small and unsightly leaves. Humidity of 85-90% is ideal for this culture, i.e. values that can only be recreated in flower showcases and their analogues. But in room conditions the stromanta will be satisfied with indicators as close to this norm as possible at least 60-70%. If you install a humidifier near the stromantha or place the pot on a pallet with wet pebbles, moss, expanded clay so that the bottom does not touch the water, you can create the basis for optimal humidity. By supplementing the humidifier with frequent sprays, you will create a stromante no less comfortable environment than in a florarium or greenhouse. Spray daily or more often, regardless of the season, using fine nozzles to evenly disperse the moisture and distribute it over the leaf plates.

For Stromanthe use only soft standing water, strictly controlling its temperature: the water should be slightly warmer than the air around the plant, 2-4 degrees warmer than the substrate.

The variegated ornaments of the stromanthus
Flowers of Stromanta blood-red, or Stromanthe thalia (Stromanthe thalia). © Ben Caledonia

Fertilizers for Stromanthe

Despite all its capriciousness and demandingness, the stromantha does not require super nutritious soils and intensive fertilizers. Care must be taken with fertilizers for this plant: excessive fertilizing can cause serious health problems. Fertilizer is applied for a limited period, only from May to the end of August. And the frequency of feeding should not exceed 1 procedure in 14 days. The fertilizer dose recommended by the manufacturer should be reduced by half.

For stromantha it is best to choose special fertilizer mixtures for ornamental foliage plants or universal fertilizers containing additional microelements. If you can find it, buy Fertilizer for Maranthus.

Trimming the Stromante

Factually, pruning this plant is only about removing the flower stems in order not to disturb the decoration of the turf and leaves. As soon as the first signs of producing flower stalks appear, it's better to remove them early to prevent them from blossoming.

The variegated ornaments of the stromanthus
Stromanthe blood-red, or Stromanthe Thalia 'Triostar'. © Javier Alejandro

Planting, containers and substrate

To grow normally, the stromanta must be planted in a very light soil mixture. Loose soil texture for stromanthus is as important as acidity (it cannot tolerate alkaline and even slightly limey soils). The best for this indoor plant are ready substrates for maranthos, rhododendrons or at least palms or mixtures based on leafy soil, in which 1/3 doses of peat, humus, coniferous earth and sand and a small amount of charcoal are added each.

Transplant stromanthus not by growth rate, but annually regardless of age. It is better to carry out the procedure not in February or early March, but in April or May. Stromanta transferred to a large container with a new layer of high drainage. If it is no longer possible to increase the capacity, the plant is divided and replanted in smaller pots.

Transplantation procedure is carried out carefully, trying not to contact with the rhizome and not to destroy the main earth clod. Even when dividing into several parts, it is better to cut the turf gently or divide it by hand, without freeing all the roots from the soil. The depth level is slightly lowered, the plant is placed deeper than in the previous container.

For stromantha choose specific pots - wide, but as little deep as possible, allowing the plant to develop wide and build up turf (corresponding to a short, surface rhizome). When planted in pots that are taller than the width, the plant suffers from rotting and moisture disorders.

Diseases and pests of stromantha

Stromantha combines capriciousness with a fairly good resistance to disease. Problems on the plant appear only if the correct care regimen is violated. Too cold conditions and dampness can cause rotting of the roots and stems, and low humidity - the spread of spider mites (especially red ones) and scab mites. It is better to combat any problem immediately with insecticides and fungicides, supplementing them if necessary and mechanical treatment, manual removal of insects (or pruning of damaged parts).

Prevalent problems in growing stromanthus:

  • drying leaf tips, brown spots when humidity is low;
  • stem rotting and leaf wilting when damp or in cold;
  • leaf curling - dryness or exposure to direct sunlight;
  • >Color change to brown, discoloration, and yellowing of leaves without change in texture by excessive fertilization;
  • Loss of mottled color by low or excessive light.

Propagation of stromanta

In industrial scale, stromanta are propagated both vegetatively and by seed. But the latter is not very good for home propagation: seeds ripen rarely (and only when you will sacrifice the ornamental value of the plant in favor of flowering), they are almost absent on sale, and the sowing itself requires two stratifications and complicated conditions. Therefore, it is better to give preference to the simple method of dividing bushes and apex cuttings.

Separation of stromantha can be done at each replanting. The quick method of dividing each adult bush into 2-3 turf cuttings allows you to get young plants that quickly adapt to new conditions, provided you choose a container that is not too large. After planting for stromanthus it is necessary to maintain a very high humidity, semi-shady location and do not allow the ground ball to dry out. It is possible to place the plant under a hood.

Grafting is not much more difficult. Cut in spring or at the beginning of summer, apical cuttings (the cut is made under the second or third leaf, or rather the place where the leaf cuttings attach to the stem) root well even in water, but they must be placed under a hood or film.

Some varieties produce daughter leaf rosettes at the ends of the shoots, which can be rooted in the substrate under a hood.

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