Thursday, March 26, 2009

Plant Find: Ctenanthe from Australia!

Earlier this week, I wrote about a plant I was expecting in the mail from Australia.  Well, it arrived yesterday!  Here's the story:

Back in December I bought a plant at TLC that appeared to be in the Marantaceae family, but I didn't know the genus.  After doing some research online, I found a match.  My plant was a Ctenanthe lubbersiana (Ctenanthe 'Brazilian Snow').  I really like the Maranta family, as I have mentioned recently in a couple of posts, so I did some image searching for other Ctenanthes.  I came across a couple of Ctenanthes with very light white or gray tone leaves with the usual streakings of green and solid red underneath the leaves.  One particular image caught my attention on Flickr.

Ctenanthe in Australia - photo courtesy of Flickr user imbala
Ctenanthe setosa 'Grey Star' in Australia - photo courtesy of Flickr user imbala

Going out on a limb, I sent a message to the image owner on Flickr and asked if they owned the plant and were willing to make a plant trade.  It turns out the owner lives in Australia and she was willing to trade with me.  Unfortunately, I didn't really have any plants that she was wanting, but I did have access to some plants that are a little harder to find in Australia, apparently.  I bought a package of 10 Caladium bulbs of varying colors and she dug up 5 of her Ctenanthe plants, trimmed away the leaves, wrapped the roots and stems in newspaper and boxed them up.  The trade was ready.

Package from Australia
We both carefully packaged our goods and sent them in the mail.  The Australian package arrived at my house yesterday!

The Ctenanthe plants were sent as roots only with a leaf and a bloom included so that I could see the plant in person before mine grows.

Ctenanthe setosa 'Grey Star' leaf.  The top of the leaf looks almost grey in person.
I looked up the species name "setosa" in my Gardener's Latin book and found that setosa means "bristly or hairy."  I first thought this must be a poor name choice for this plant.  Either that or the word "setosa" must have another meaning.  It turns out the stems of this plant are much furrier than they look in the Flickr picture I had seen.

Ctenanthe setosa 'Grey Star' roots with furry stems
The form of the blooms looks similar to some bromeliad blooms I have seen.  I think other plants in the Marantaceae family have this type of bloom.

Ctenanthe setosa 'Grey Star' dried blooms
I potted three of the five rooted stems in a (unintentionally heavy) hypertufa pot that I made this winter in a mixture of peat moss, rich potting soil and vermiculite.

Three stems of Ctenanthe setosa 'Grey Star' potted in a hypertufa planter I made this winter
I potted the other two stems in a large round planter that was the former home of my Coconut palm tree.  I used a slightly sandier soil mixture in this pot with more potting soil than peat moss.

Two stems of Ctenenthe setosa 'Grey Star' potted separately
I can't wait to see my stems sprout and produce leaves like the ones in the Flickr picture.

Thanks a bunch Flickr friend! :)


  1. That is to cool! great plant nice colors

  2. What a cool looking plant! Gardeners are so generous.

  3. How exciting. Please show more when it grows as that is a new species to me.

  4. That's really neat. I hope they grow really well for you. It sure has pretty foliage!

  5. That is very exciting! Make sure and use an "aussie" accent when talking with these new little plants. :-)

  6. That is neat, Zach! Hope they'll sprout!