I have two different species of Ctenanthes in my collection - both of which are showing off right now. One of them (C. lubbersiana) is blooming and the other (C. setosa) just produced it's first leaf.
I hope you're not too excited about seeing a lavish bloom, because Ctenanthes don't do that kind of thing. Nevertheless, I am really happy to see my C. lubbersiana plant blooming. It has been sitting in less than ideal conditions for the past couple months and still put out new growth and a flowering bract before being taken outside into the warm sunshine.
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="450" caption="Ctenanthe lubbersiana with tall (blooming) stem. The brown thing that looks like a stick is just that. I stuck it down in the pot to hold up the top-heavy branch."][/caption]
When I bought this plant in the Fall, it was root bound in the small pot in which it was planted and had pretty much pushed all of the soil out of the top of the pot. When I finally removed the plant from the pot it was almost entirely roots. I used a pair of scissors and cut the plant in two and put each half in a pot larger than the original pot that was containing the whole plant. I also split off a single stem and roots and potted it up for my mom. Both of the divisions that I kept continued to grow well throughout the Winter. The one in the larger of the two pots is sending up more new stems and has the one really long stem (pictured above), which produced the inflorescence (pictured below).
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="450" caption="Ctenanthe lubbersiana inflorescence"][/caption]
This plant is a vigorous grower in the couple of months that I have had it and I will enjoy continuing to divide it. It's always nice to have a plant that you can share freely, without worrying that you will lose your original plant.
You might remember me receiving a very special package from Australia just over a month ago. That package contained 5 rooted stems of Ctenanthe setosa 'Grey Star,' which had been cut off just above ground level. I planted the stems immediately and the first stem appeared last week, producing a leaf just a couple of days later. The stem below the leaf is only about 3 inches tall. In the same pot, there are two other stems just breaking through the soil surface.
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="450" caption="First leaf on the first stem of Ctenanthe setosa 'Grey Star'"][/caption]
In my introductory post for this plant, I discussed the species name "setosa," which means "bristly or hairy." Look at the picture below to see that name in action!
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="344" caption="Ctenanthe setosa 'Grey Star' pubescence (fur) along the stem."][/caption]
The "fur" feature is called pubescence on a plant. The pubescence on my Ctenanthe almost looks prickly, like a cactus, but it is actually soft to the touch.
Besides having some really cool foliage, Ctenanthes are a good fit for me - enjoying the increased humidity that my house seems to have over the winter and they do fairly well in low light conditions.