APHELANDRA SQUARROSA LOUISAE (ZEBRA PLANT, SAFFRON SPIKE)
(Acanthaceae) origin: Brazil
When purchased in bud or flower, the aphelandra should be regarded as a flowering plant which will have no decorative value when the flowers have fallen off; but when purchased as a, not in flower, it may last some time as a house plant. Large lance-shaped leaves grow in pairs from the upright stem. The leaves are about 9 in. long and 41 in. across, of a very dark shiny green, the main rib and side veins being emphasized by ivory-coloured stripes. The tubular yellow flowers grow either as a single spike at the top of the main stem or on several stem branches, and they emerge from a segmented bract shaped like a four-cornered pyramid. Aphelandras will grow under a variety of conditions, but ideally they like a semi-shaded position and to be kept evenly moist, with warmth in winter. When caring for an aphelandra, remember that the pot must be full of roots with very little soil, for until the plant has become “pot-bound” and starved, it will not flower. It will therefore need frequent watering to keep it evenly moist; in winter, however, when in a cool position, give only enough water to keep just moist.
The leaves have a natural droop, but this will become exaggerated if the plant is too dry. Sponging will keep the leaves fresh and free of dust, but take care not to cause physical damage to the leaves or brown patches will appear. Regular feeding with a liquidis essential to keep the leaves dark green.