Discovering Aroids

The name does sound a bit alien to most of us, but an aroid is not a creature from out of space, but rather and plant that belongs to the Araceae family.  This is the family of phallic looking plants – with the pencil like spadix that is surrounded by a floral leaf or spathe that forms each flower.  The most typical is probably the Arum Lily, famous as being the funeral flower.  In fact, all 2000 species or so of this family are potentially toxic, with roots, leaves, sap and stems potentially causing grief if you eat them or have contact with their sap.  The take home from this is not to avoid the Aroid, but pay it the respect it deserves by using gloves when handling them. Incidentally, the largest flower in the world is an Aroid – Amorphophallus, which smells like rotting flesh and is pollinated by flies.

 

Popular Aroids

Aglaonema and Dumbcane (Dieffenbachchia) are commonly grown as a decorative indoor plant, and their mottled foliage makes them prized for indoor display.  They tolerate both moist and dry conditions, will grow in low light areas and also cope with air-conditioning, so are often used in office situations where neglect is normally common!  They both make great air purifiers, but like avoid areas like children’s bedrooms where accidental reactions to their foliage or sap can result.

Arum & Calla Lily (Zantedeschia spp.) are herbaceous perennials that die down over winter and come back up in spring, though they can be evergreen in warmer regions.  They are famous for coping with marginal wet zones. They are either white flowered (Arum) or smaller growing (Calla) and come in orange, pink, yellow and purple tones, and have spots on their leaves.  The white Arum lily can become weedy, so be mindful of your planting position and avoid habitats where it can escape into the bush.

Caladiums are a once-a-year item that is eagerly awaited by plant nerds and CIPP’s.  They are herbaceous, so only in the warmer months do they come into stores with their showy pink, red and white leaves that are simply irresistible.  They will grow outdoors in the shade, or inside in bright positions that highlight their almost stained glass looking foliage.  Worth the wait and the disappointment!

Cocoyan (Colocasia) and Elephants Ears (Alocasia) are similar.  They both have huge leaves and are often used in boggy positions or by ponds and can also be popular as a patio plant in covered areas.  Despite being poisonous, many people in southeastern Asia and the Pacific eat the tubers, which are soaked and cooked and even fermented before being consumed.

Devil’s Ivy or Pothos (Epipremnum) is just about one of the easiest plants to grow inside.  In fact, if you kill this one, you need to take a good hard look at yourself!! It will grow as a climber or trail, can grow in water or potting mix (or as a kokedama), and copes remarkably well with air conditioning, dust, heating and the dark.  They also featured in NASA’s clean air study and have been proven to remove many indoor pollutants, so really are a super plant!  Look for the different leaf variations, as they come in gold, cream, white, and combo coloured foliage.

Fruit Salad or Swiss Cheese Plant (Monstera) is one of the most popular of all house plants, and it’s “never say die” attitude for survival is what has endeared it to everyone that has ever struggled growing a house plant!  Popular on Instagram too, its handsome, divided foliage makes it a popular backdrop to many a posed pic.  The fruit, which follows the flower, tastes like fruit salad, which has led to its common name.  Eat only when ripe, however this happens slowly over about 2 weeks and the fruit can cause a burning sensation if its not and the ‘mashed banana’ stage.

Mini Monstera or Dragons Tail Plant (Rhapidora) Looks very much like a miniature version of Monstera, which has led to one of their common names.  They grow on a totem and thrive in brightly lit positions with consistent moisture and humidity, so are a less resilient than their big cousin.

Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum) are so called as the flower resembles a white flag, which is the internationally understood symbol of truce, surrender and ceasefire.  They also are a terrific indoor plant, very hardy in a wide range of situations and very efficient at removing toxins from the environment, making them great in offices and homes. 

Philodendrons come in many types, including climbing and shrub forms.  One thing they all have in common is glossy foliage, and toughness when it comes to survival indoors.  The twining varieties include the heart shaped philodendron, and popular shrub forms include ‘Xanadu’, which has heavily divided foliage, and ‘Prince of Orange’ (which has bronzed orange new growth.

Queen of Hearts (Homolamena) are beautiful, emerald-green indoor plants with wonderful heart or arrow shaped foliage.  They are tough too, with low care requirements. 

 

 By: Meredith Kirton