Got a tropical plant look but don’t know how to get it to do exactly what you want it to do? How about a plant that has a droopy, twitching leaves and needs to grow back? Unusual? Not in this case. It’s called Hypoestes phyllostachya (Phyllostachys genus). In fact, it is one of the best-known genera of houseplants.
The botanical name for this plant is Hypoestes phyllostachya spectaculifera, or even more petite “hypo”. But let’s be clear on one thing: When it comes to houseplants, being hypo means that the plant lacks disease resistance and its natural defenses are not quite good enough to keep it alive.
At times, this plant can look like an overgrown plant, with leaves that are droopy and floppy, and they droop all the way up to the ground where they lie on the leaf surface. This stalky appearance is deceiving because the leaves are just as beautiful as other members of the Cysticeraceae genus.
The interesting thing about this species is that it looks so weird it’s almost impossible to tell the difference. Unlike other members of the Cysticeraceae, however, it doesn’t look like all of its leaves are the same color and shape.
The plant appears to have some sort of brilliant blue-green color, or possibly dark greens in conjunction with gold, depending on the observed specimen. However, as the plant grows and matures, its leaves become lighter, soft-leaved, and flat. The leaves of these species are dyed green in the winter and also have a distinct pinkish hue in summer. When these bright colors come into play, they take the shape of a polka dot pattern.
The extreme green and pink colors are often confused with bottle brush leaves. This is not the case, however. If you look closely at the leaf, however, you will see that the “bottle brush” pattern is actually the pot being held by the plant when the photo was taken. If you feel it, you will know.
The other thing you can tell the difference between phyllostachya and bottle brush leaves is that the pattern on the phyllostachya leaves are to the right of the plant itself. Phyllostachya tend to be more directional, while bottle brush leaves are perpendicular.
In addition to its polka dot pattern, Phyllostachya is all about growth. Like other members of the Cysticeraceae family, phyllostachya is highly aerobic. In other words, it does not like to sit still and feels more comfortable when standing on its feet. Besides the steady rise and fall of its leaf shape, the plant needs constant water and nutrients to nourish its new growth and allow it to last longer.
When grown properly, however, this spindly, feathered plant is extremely handsome and easy to care for. It does best in medium, divided beds or containers. The plant benefits from full sun, six hours of sunlight, though it may need to avoid full sun when its leaves are twitching.
Plants with spider mites can have their leaves’ colour range drastically altered. To avoid this problem, the outermost rings of leaves will become white (weed pedant alert!) and the leaf center may be dark.
This same plant will, however, turn a creamy yellow when the disease disappears. When the disease returns, the plant will only look white.
My personal garden is well-stocked with good specimens. I just kept one specimen of this tropical plant, which was a single leaf, which I ended up with because it was an unusual way to grow the plants. I also have two hybrid specimens, which I use as a transition plant between the two.