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Sunday, 9 March 2014

Calathea burle-marxii

Calathea burle-marxii is a particular favorite of mine. The species is one of numerous that were named after Brazilian  landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx (August 4, 1909 – June 4, 1994).
There are three cultivars of Calathea burle-marxii: "Blue-Ice", "Green-Ice" and "White Ice".

Calathea burle-marxii "Blue-Ice" at Alafua, Samoa 2013

Calathea burle-marxii belongs to the Plant Family: Marantaceae also known as the Arrowroot family and the Prayer Plant family for the way the leaves of the plants in this family move up in the evenings and during the night as if in an attitude of prayer. This is not that noticeable in some members of the family but in Calathea crotalifera (Rattlesnake plant) it is very marked as the leaves move more than a hundred degrees to an almost upright position.

Calathea burle-marxii "Blue-Ice" at Alafua, Samoa 2013
 In Samoa I had several specimens of Blue-ice and Green-ice which I had acquired from Tanumalala, Lefaga and nursed along carefully until they became established and started sending up suckers which I then carefully harvested and replanted elsewhere.
Calathea burle-marxii "Blue-Ice" at Alafua, Samoa 2013
 Basically they like shaded and semi shaded spots where the soil remains moist or does not get dried up for too long. It is a good understory plant. The main issue I found was that you cannot let the soil dry out but it does not like waterlogged soils either. I found that a good friable soil with lots of mulching kept it quite happy both in the ground or in a large pot ... and when I say big I mean enormous. You need to give it room to grow as it will start sending up suckers once it becomes established.
Calathea burle-marxii "Blue-Ice" at Alafua, Samoa 2013
 The one big enemy to these aside from too much sun and getting dried out are dogs. Or more specifically dogs that like to dig up gardens or like running and gamboling like the crazy creatures that they can be. It is a soft stemmed plant and easily knocked over even by a dog that likes to take short cuts through plants like ours did. I ended up putting up some posts and chicken wire to block off the whole section that the dog was going through. I caught her on her way back afterwards and the look of surprise and confusion on her face when she came to the fence was worth almost as much as knowing that she would not be using that shortcut again.
Calathea burle-marxii "Green-Ice" at Alafua, Samoa 2013
Above you can see one lot of Calathea burle-marxii "Green Ice". They are in one huge pot under a lemon tree. We get so many lemons that there are often lots of over ripe ones falling down. I put all of these into the pot which means that I also had the occasional lemon seedlings.
Calathea burle-marxii "Blue-Ice" at Alafua, Samoa 2013

 I initially planted some Calathea burle-marxii "Blue ice" under the overhang in a corner by an outside tap thinking that would make it easier to ensure they got water. But first I had to deal with both chickens and dogs. the first liked to dig up the soil to look for worms and the second to make a nice soft sleeping place regardless of the plants. So I found some old bricks and put them around to dissuade these pests. It worked but the area was too dry since we have a large overhand (about 6 feet) which makes the house dry even during cyclones but not ideal for growing plants that require moisture. I ended moving these to a much better location.

Calathea burle-marxii "Green-Ice" at Alafua, Samoa 2013

 Above you can see the large pot I used for the Calathea burle-marxii. The rectangular blue container was a cracked container I found after the cyclone (down in the stream that runs along one part of the property) and was using as a nursery for some Heliconia psittacorum I had gotten also from Tanumalala and wanted to regain their strength and develop some nice healthy roots before transplanting them to their final location.

Calathea burle-marxii "Green-Ice" at Alafua, Samoa 2013

order Zingiberalesincludes the following families:
family Cannaceae
family Costaceae
family Heliconiaceae
family Lowiaceae
family Marantaceae
family Musaceae
family Strelitziaceae
family Zingiberaceae

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