STRING OF BANANAS
Top Tips & Info
- Care Difficulty - Moderate
- Be mindful when watering, avoiding excess moisture to sit on the leaves above the soil to prevent rot. Either be careful when watering or irrigate using the bottom-up method to avoid such catastrophe.
- Fertilise every two or three months using either a 'Cactus' or 'Houseplant' labelled feed.
- Repot every three years during the spring, using a 'Cactus & Succulent' potting mix and the next sized pot. Be careful of breaking its delicate vines, but equally, can be propagated if separated from the plant.
- Take cuttings during the spring or summer to put back into the plant's base to promote a bushier appearance - scroll down to 'Propagation' for more information on this.
Location & Light
During the spring and summer, be sure to provide a brightly lit spot away from more than two hours of direct sunlight. Excessive exposure during this time will negatively affect the plant in the likes of sun-scorch and dehydration. Once the autumn kicks in, be sure to include the hour or two of direct light each day to get it through the dormancy period, lasting until the following spring.
Avoid shady locations or shelves if possible, as the lack of light hitting the soil's surface will only increase the risk of basal rot. If you're worried about its location being too dark, if a newspaper can be read while having your back towards the window, you're good to go.
For its success, you must hydrate the plant following our rule of 'drenches between droughts'. Remember to allow ALL of the soil to dry out in between waters, ensuring that the pot feels very light before another hydration. Although pouring water directly through the foliage is acceptable if situated in a sunny location, irrigate using the bottom-up method to be extra sure. Place the pot on a saucer of water (25% submerged) until thorough absorption to provide deep hydration. Wetting the foliage every time you come to hydrate the plant will allow excess moisture to settle, causing the leaves to yellow and rot away. Over-watering symptoms include rapidly yellowing or shrivelling leaves, mushy foliage and eventual plant death; scroll down to 'Common Issues' for more information. Under-watering symptoms include deflated leaves, little to no growth and gradual foliage decline. Be sure to study its environment; a position that offers too much sunlight will dry out the soil far too quickly and will eventually scorch the plant's leaves; move to a darker location.
This isn't a factor; however, a quick hose-down once a month will help with hydration of leaves, but will also help wash off excess dust and possible pests.
Fertilise every two months during the growing period and every three months in the autumn & winter to replicate its dormancy period. Although a 'Houseplant' fertiliser will still do the job, we'd recommend using a specific 'Cactus' labelled feed as it'll support the vital thirteen nutrients that this species will need to grow.
Common Issues with String of Bananas
Root rot is a common problem among specimens sat in too dark environments with prolonged soil moisture. Symptoms include rapidly wilting leaves, mouldy soil, stunted growth and a rotten brown base. Take the plant out of the pot and inspect health below the compost line. If the roots sport a yellow tinge, you're good to go, but those that are brown and mushy must be addressed immediately.
A lack of leaves on the soil's top could be the product of excess moisture settling on the foliage. Although watering from the top is best, it's recommended to use the bottom-up method if you're a messy waterer. For specimens that have a bare head, improve growing conditions by using this method and increasing the light levels and air circulation. Take vine cuttings to promote a bushier appearance above the soil line - scroll down to 'Propagation' for more information. Finally, always remove yellowed or rotten debris from the soil as it could harbour both bacterial and fungal diseases, which will continue the plant's decline.
Failed vine cuttings are a problem among gardeners, with damaged wounds or too small vines being the usual culprits. Although propagating String of Bananas is relatively easy, people still find it hard to ace. Scroll down to 'Propagation' for more information.
Reddened leaves are the product of too much sunlight, most common during the height of summer. A pigmentation called 'Carotenoids' will alter the appearance of the foliage to counteract the harsh effects of the UV rays. Although this isn't a permanent look, and the specimen will still function adequately, it'll grow far better and quicker in a slightly shadier location with only a splash of direct sun. Still providing an hour or so of bright light will lessen the effect of environmental shock and potential death.
Curio radicans originates from the Cape Provinces of South Africa, forming widespread mats across the base of nearby trees. Although the species' current placement is in Curio, its taxonomic background is littered in curious historic treats with multiple name-changes. The species was first documented as Cacalia radicans by Carl Linnaeus the Younger in the 1780s, before being shifted into the newly constructed genus of Kleinia. The move was accepted and penned in 1823 by Adrian Hardy Haworth, before being moved again to the well-known family of Senecio. Here, it stood for over one hundred and fifty years, before coming to rest in its final home of Curio. The list below explains the Latin or Greek heritage of each taxonomic name.
Cacalia - Latinised Greek for the word, 'daffodil', on the basis of its inflorescence.
Kleinia - Commemorates German botanist, Dr Jacob Theodor Klein.
Senecio - Translates to 'old man' in reference to the fruits' hairy appearance of some species.
Radicans - Refers to the action of 'taking-root' when a specimen is in contact with the ground.
15° - 26°C (59° - 78°F)
H1a (Hardiness Zone 13) - Must be grown indoors or under glass all year round. Never allow temperatures to dip below 15℃ (59℉) or permanent damage may occur in the likes of flower loss, stunted growth and blackened or yellowed leaves.
Up to 80cm in length with its width solely relying on the diameter of the pot. The ultimate height will take between 3 - 5 years to achieve, but can live over twenty years or more in the right care.
Pruning & Maintenance
Remove yellow or dying leaves, and plant debris to encourage better-growing conditions. While pruning, always use clean utensils or shears to reduce the chance of bacterial and fungal diseases. Never cut through yellowed tissue as this may cause further damage in the likes of diseases or bacterial infections. Remember to make clean incisions as too-damaged wounds may shock the plant, causing weakened growth and a decline in health.
Via Seed or Vine cuttings.
Vine Cuttings (Moderate) - Choose the healthiest stems located at the vine terminals; these should be damage-free and wholly plump. Cut off at least five inches and remove the older half of the leaves for the reduction of transpiration (moisture loss). Use a well-draining potting mix, preferably 'Cactus & Succulent' compost, and coil the vine in a circular shape, pinning it down with a paper clip. Cover the older half in half an inch of soil (the area where you removed the leaves) to promote quicker root development. Try not to cover the actual foliage with soil as this will harm its light-capturing efficiency, along with higher rates of rotting. Place the potted cuttings into a transparent bag and mist the soil and foliage once a week to maintain high humidity. Situate it in a bright, indirect setting with temperatures above 18°C (64°F). Be sure to pierce a few holes in the bag and actively remove any yellow or rotten debris to present a healthier environment. As the roots will develop first, remove the bag and treat it as an adult specimen once there are signs of new foliar development.
Small clusters of white flowers will develop along the vine during spring to early summer, once the plant has matured. The quality of its blooms largely relies on the quality of the dormancy period served in the previous autumn and winter. To replicate its dormancy period:
- Reduce temperatures down to around 15°C (59°F) from late autumn until early spring, with little watering.
- Allow all of the soil to dry out for around a fortnight in between irrigation thoroughly.
- Provide a few hours of off-peak direct sunlight with little fertilisation throughout this period to ensure a good dormancy.
Repot every three years in the spring, using a 'Cactus & Succulent' labelled potting mix and the next sized pot with adequate drainage. String of Bananas are far better potbound for several years due to the heightened risk of root rot and repotting-issues (like transplant shock), so only repot if you feel it's wholly necessary - restricted root growth will also increase the chance of blooms, too.
Hydrate the plant 24hrs before tinkering with the roots to prevent the risk of transplant shock. For those situated in a darker location, introduce an extra amount of perlite and grit into the deeper portion of the pot to downplay over-watering risks.
Pests & Diseases
Keep an eye out for mealybugs, aphids, scale, whitefly, blackfly & root mealybugs that'll locate themselves in the cubbyholes and undersides of the leaves, except for the latter in soil. Common diseases associated with String of Bananas are root rot, botrytis & southern blight.
This plant is classified as poisonous, so if small sections are eaten, vomiting, nausea, and a loss of appetite may occur. Consumption of large quantities must be dealt with quickly; acquire medical assistance for further information.