Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Christia obcordata 2014 (aka Stripe or Butterfly Wing) "What's Happening" !

We have a great stock of Butterfly Wing back in stock and we know that many of you have tried to grow this over the years, and searching the internet recently, surprisingly, there is no recent info/experience page views about it (when I say "not recent:, not, like in 2 or 3 years!) , so we thought it would be a great time to tell you about "our" experience with this plant.

 The fact is, this is probably one of the uniquest plants in the world, or at least in our world.

And we love it, so let's talk about it......

Okay, background and correct botanical label is Christia obcordata.  Known as a hardy perennial in southeast Asia and Australia.  I have had many email conversations with Australian plant buddies over the past 4 years about this plant, and, it is probably the most popular plant that we get email requests about.

According to the University of Florida Extension site, "a botanist exploring the Far East noticed a lowly vining herb growing in tropical highlands of tropical Asia and Australia.   In 1961, characteristics for this “new” plant were recorded, and its botanical name was established as Christia obcordata."

From our personal experience, it can reach height of 2 to 3 ft tall and 2 feet around. It blooms late summer but the blooms are tiny and cream colored, so naturally, we love it for it's ornamental leaf qualities.  Cuttings in water last a week or two so it's a unique addition to a flower vase.  It's willowy look and the gentle way it seems to float in the air when a breeze passes is incomparable.   It thrives in-ground, in containers, hanging baskets, you name it.  It does not like to be too wet, and it does not like to be too dry.  The leaves turn papery as they age.  Tip cutting produces a denser foliage, or you can let it 'string out" on it's own.

So, what's not to like?
Okay, so, it's......
persnickety (apt word) to grow !

But it loves, heat and humidity..we live in Florida, the home of heat and humidity, so right there, it's special..

Okay, it hates the cold, winter, cloudy skies and depressing movies...

We have been getting this from a courageous grower, starting back 4 or 5 years ago. Customers loved loved loved it and we sold many.  It was sold as a "perennial"......we were told it would go dormant in winter and spring back in, well, warm weather times.

Sometimes it did, many times it did not.  It did not in my personal garden. Ever.

Facts of which we know:

* we had customers that have successfully wintered it over indoors
* we had customers that lost it soon after purchase, and ones that successfully grew it all summer into Fall
* we had customers who did not care if it died on them every year, they will re-buy it every year
* we had customers who grew it in full sun
*we had customers who grew it shade/filtered light
*we had customers who had more/less success in ground and/or containers
* we had customers who did/did not successfully propagate by cuttings/seeds

The fact is, it runs the gamut on experiences and conditions !

The fact is, if you love rare plants and treat this more as an "annual", it fits the bill.
The fact is, if you love rare plants and want long term success, it will be challenging.

So, this brings me (Annie) to our experience this year.  I had one plant left last Fall. It was in a pot, with other stuff (things that just somehow jumped into the same pot). The weather got cooler....the leaves started drying up....the green stems turned to the color straw....so, what did I do? Did I throw it out with the bathwater? Did I throw it in the mulch pile? No..I did not......I did, what many other gardeners do, I chose to ignore doing anything about it, and I took that pot and shoved it back under my sweet Almond tree, in the midst of other greenery...and I promptly forgot about it.

All Fall and Winter long, amidst the merriment of Halloween, and the Holiday season, Hurricane season and multiple frost forecasts and the first signs of Spring, that pot sat silently in the dark recesses of the garden bed. Yes, it was protected under heavy foliage, and yes, it got watered when the general spray of the water hose went it's way. It put up with curious cats and burrowing squirrels, fruit rats skittering about and hoards of wondrous geckos that inhabited it's space. 

So..you ask, what happened?

We had finished the last of our big Spring shows this past April end and then it was time to do some serious cleanup of our own garden beds. I slowly made my way to the Sweet Almond Tree, peering amongst the foliage of lots of other plants I had shoved up under it, and what do I find? A nursery pot.  With straw colored, dried out branches. But nestled right next to it in the soil was a seedling of a Jatropha gossypiifolia.  Well of course, I had to save the Jatropha.  So I hauled the pot out of the shade and into a spot where it got 1/2 day sun.  It got put into a spot with lots of other recovering plants and we started watering and fertilizing and I choose to ignore the dry stems of the "other thing" in that one pot.

And you know what happened?
Out of the straw colored dried up branches, tiny leaves started appearing and I thought....hmm....that looks familiar. But I didn't want to get too excited so I just went by my merry way...days later..weeks later, those leaves started getting bigger, and again, not wanting to make a big deal of it, I just kept a side glance at it on my daily rounds now and then.

And you know what happened?

It came back ! My first one !








I was almost as excited as when I was able to grow rare Wollemi Pines, and that's saying a lot.

So, what did I learn? Well, maybe I just got lucky..maybe I just had the one plant that was too stubborn to give up, maybe I had found the solution to long term care..who knows?




You will be happy to know that I am paying full attention to my returning Christia now and she is much happier for it.  She is getting tender loving care and I no longer just have to sneak a peek at her, I just gaze with awe.

And if I have to replace her every year, I will. Because she is so special.





So,  our new crop sits all over our home yard..some in full sun, some in 1/2 day sun, some in shade and they ALL are thriving !

I wonder, what's the true nature of this plant ? And can we keep it going in gardens all over the world where it is not normally from?

All I know is, every day, my Christias grow taller and more robust and the sight of those glorious leaves just make me smile. And as they sit there in my garden, amidst the fluttering of butterflies all around as it's foliage mirrors that amazing patterns of those butterflies, I am reminded and astounded at the diversity of the plant world and the special gems that keep finding their way into my heart.

And in the Fall, I am going to make sure I put one pot of it back under that Sweet Almond Tree bed.








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