At one time or another, most avid gardeners feel they must have a particular plant regardless of the price. Been there, done that.
The photo below is Rhaphidophora tetrasperma without variegation. Instagram users have access to the original photos of the variegated variety that prompted a bidding war. By the end of one online auction, more than 102,000 people had viewed the listing for this plant and 1,600 had saved it to their watch list.
Recently, a bidder in New Zealand spent nearly $20,000 ($13,328 USD) for one of the plants. CNN reported that the white variegated plant sold for approximately $19,200, which makes it the most expensive houseplant on record.
Commonly known by this synonym, the glossy green split leaves of this fast-growing climber attract attention indoors or outside. Plants grow approximately 3 feet high and 6 feet wide, so give it some room to show off. It's the perfect choice for any spot where a traditional Monstera or Philodendron might overwhelm a space, and adds a tropical feeling anywhere you grow it.
The non-variegated variety of this plant (pictured above) is very common. However, the variegated form is the result of an extremely rare random genetic mutation.
Other common names for Rhaphidophora tetrasperma are Philodendron 'Ginny' and Philodendron 'Piccolo'. The plant belongs to the Araceae family, genus Rhaphidophora, species tetrasperma, variety 'Variegata'. It's native to Malaysia and southern Thailand.
(my Swiss cheese plant, Monstera adansonii, has natural splits and holes called fenestration)
What is an aroid?
Excellent question. This member of the Araceae family has often been mistaken for other species, resulting in numerous plants with incorrect names being sold at plant nurseries and retail garden centers. Some cases of mistaken identity include: Monstera deliciosa, Philodendron species, and Epipremnum pinnatum. All these plants may display similar pinnate foliage at some stage of their growth.
Aroids require low light conditions indoors, and most prefer dappled sunlight outside. In the wild, they grow in the partial shade of a forest understory.
Look! Up in the sky, it's a bird, it's a plane, it's an aroid
Aroids come in many sizes, ranging from the very large corpse flower to the smaller peace lily. Each blossom is composed of numerous tiny flowers clustered together in a spadix located within a leaf-like spathe.
(Amorphophallus titanum, the titan arum, has the largest unbranched inflorescence in the world)
Some members of the Arum family display fascinating properties, such as being able to generate their own heat. Others propagate easily in water. They've survived in swamps and wetlands for centuries, giving them the ability to adapt to frequent flooding and bog conditions. Overwatering is the primary cause of a houseplant's demise. This ability to thrive in water is one of the reasons aroids are ideal for a new gardener.
(leaf of my Arum italicum, commonly called lords and ladies)
Quite a few of these plants have waxy roots and leaves that prevent them from absorbing too much water. If you intend to root an aroid that's been growing in water, be cognizant of the fact that the longer it's been there, the more difficult it will be for the plant to adapt to soil.
(Philodendron cutting rooted in water lives happily in a jar on my kitchen counter)
Many aroids share the same requirements. This also makes them easy plants for beginners. They prefer medium light but are tolerant of low light. Too much direct sun can cause sunburn. They should be watered approximately once a week. After the top 1-2 inches of potting mix dries out, water again.
Outdoors, leaves emerge first and remain all season. Even if the plant eventually becomes shaded by trees, it will have already reached peak growth and will continue to store ambient light to increase its starch content for the next year.
When ingested, Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma 'Variegata' can cause severe irritation. Place it out of the reach of small children and pets.
The sap of this plant contains calcium oxalate crystals that are its natural defense against predators. These crystals are tiny, very sharp, and will cause a burning sensation if the sap is eaten or comes in contact with skin.
Easy aroids for beginners
ZZ plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia) is a tough houseplant that can survive with only artificial light. If you forget to water, it may begin dropping leaflets, but should resume blooming once it's thoroughly watered.
(my ZZ plant)
Aglaonema, also known as Chinese evergreen, comes in colors ranging from deep green to silver and red. This slow grower has large, narrow, glossy oval foliage. Plants with lighter variegation require more light. However, if you want the foliage to remain dark green, the plant will continue to thrive in low light. Water when the top two inches of soil becomes dry. Maintain humidity during the summer by grouping the plant with other houseplants or by placing the pot on a saucer of wet pebbles.
Because of the cost, I wouldn't necessarily put a $5,000 leaf in the "easy to grow" category. You might eventually snag this plant on Etsy where it has been selling for the bargain price of $1,600 for two leaves. However, the non-variegated form is widely available for much less and is very easy to grow.
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