Stromanthe sanguineus triostar is another masterpiece of nature that comes to our homes from the ground floors of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil and South America.
The herbaceous perennial belongs to a small plant genus stromanthe, with only a dozen species in the Marantaceae family. Stromanthe comes from Greek word stroma, meaning a bed, and anthos meaning a flower suggesting the inflorescence form. The epithet sanguineus comes from Latin and refers to the red bracts and leaf undersides.
Stromanthe is an upright rhizomatous plant that grows 3 to 5 feet high and 3 feet wide in its natural environment. However, an indoor-grown Stromanthe typically does not grow taller than 2 feet in height.
The stromanthe has glossy elongated leaves that grow up to 12 inches long and 4 inches wide. The leaves are adorned with stunning green, creamy, white, and even pink stripes. The gorgeous leaves grow from the basal clump and appear along with branching, reddish stems.
Besides the almost artistic color patterns, this plant has another trump card that makes it something exceptional in the world of houseplants. The leaves of stromanthe move towards the light source and, with their constant rearranging, create a display of colors that changes throughout the day.
How to Care for Stomanthe
Stromanthe is a tropical plant that requires light, humidity, temperature, and water conditions similar to what it finds in its native environment. Stromanthe thrive under bright indirect light, moist but not wet soil, 50% or greater humidity levels, and temperatures ranges from 65°F to 85°F.
Stromanthe have a bad reputation as a whimsical plant that difficult to grow and is not recommended for beginners. However, follow this care and growing guide and your Stromanthe will thrive like any other house plant!
Water: How Often to Water A Stromanthe
In its native tropical environment, stromanthe grows in conditions of high humidity and moist soil. This is why the proper watering regime is crucial to successfully grow a stromanthe.
The soil should neither be dry nor soaked but moderately moist.
As a rule of thumb, it’s usually fine to water a stromanthe once a week. In winter, reduce the amount of water by half but still do not allow the plant’s soil to completely dry out for long periods of time.
However, the best method for determining when to water a stromanthe is to feel how dry the soil is 1 inch below the surface.
Follow these steps in order to determine when to water a Stromanthe:
- Insert your index finger into the soil 1 inch deep
- Feel for moisture
- Water if the soil is dry
- Do not water if the soil is wet or moist
The room temperature, plant size, and pot size will all affect how often the plant needs to be watered. So feeling the moisture in the soil is the only way to truly know when the plant needs to be watered.
Soil: Best Soil Mixture for Stromanthe
Successful plant cultivation begins with the selection of the appropriate substrate.
Stromanthe is a sensitive tropical plant that thrives in rich, loose, and well-draining soil. The soil must be sufficiently nutritious but also light and well-drained.
The thickened and branched rhizome root of this plant does not tolerate water accumulation and is prone to rot.
Therefore, the ideal soil mixture for Stromanthe is:
- one part standard potting soil
- one part peat moss
- one part perlite or pumice
This mixture is nutritious but airy and light enough so that it will not remain wet for too long.
Humidity: Increasing The Humidity Level
A typical household will only have about 40% humidity whereas a stromanthe prefers the humidity level to be 50% or greater.
Excluding the kitchen or bathroom where the humidity levels may be higher, the rest of the home needs help to reach humidity levels in the 60% to 70% range which stromanthe’s prefer.
Methods For Increasing Humidity For Stromanthe
There are 3 common ways for increasing the humidity for a stromanthe:
- Periodically misting the leaves
- Using a Humidifier
- Grouping plants together
Misting The Plant
Misting the plant is a great way to frequently check in and show your stromanthe some love.
Just fill a spray bottle with room temperature water and mist the stromanthe’s leaves. Spraying the plant a few times a week will increase the humidity for your stromanthe.
It’s also beneficial to occasionally spray the leaves and wipe them off in order to remove any dust that accumulates on the leaves.
However, avoid spraying the stromanthe in the afternoon and early evening as moisture will remain trapped inside the folded leaves. At these times the plant does not need extra moisture so spraying will do more harm than good.
If you’re a lazy gardener like me then check out the next 2 options for increasing the humidity for your stromanthe in an easier way.
Humidifier: Easy Way To Increase Room’s Humidity
One simple solution is to periodically mist your indoor houseplants to increase the humidity. However, this is manual and, personally, I’m too lazy to continually spray my plants every so often.
An easier solution is to place a humidifier in the room with all of your tropical plants. A humidifier will allow you to adjust the settings to provide the right amount of humidity year round.
I use this humidifier in my room and the water reservoir lasts for about 2 days before needing to be refilled. I highly recommend it for a low maintenance way of keeping the room humid for your houseplants.
Group Plants Together
Grouping plants together to transform a portion of your home into a living jungle not only creates a beautiful area of your home but also helps create a humid environment for the plants.
Having multiple plants close to one another will create a microclimate that benefits all tropical plants.
So place a stromanthe with other houseplants to help it grow better.
Avoid Using A Pebble Tray
Although a pebble tray is usually recommended as an easy and functional way to increase the humidity for a plant, the stromanthe will not benefit from a pebble tray.
As the name implies, a pebble tray is just a tray full of pebble that holds water. The water evaporates which creates a more humid environment.
However, the pebbles will also keep the moisture too close to the stromanthe’s roots which can lead to root rot on this plant. So do not use a pebble tray with a stromanthe.
Temperature: Ideal Temperatures for Stromanthe
The ideal temperature range for a stromanthe is between 65°F and 85°F all year round. Stromanthe benefit from relatively consistent temperature throughout the year and from day to night.
So any large temperature swings will stress the plant which will lead to health issues such as leaves falling off.
No tropical plant enjoys cold temperatures below 40°F, but stromanthes are especially sensitive to temperatures below 40°F. Although stromanthes can tolerate 40°F, this plant can only handle temperatures as low as 40°F for short periods of time.
If the temperature drops below 40°F then the root system will quickly become hypothermic, which causes health issues from which the plant cannot recover from.
So keep stromanthes in locations where the temperature ranges from 65°F and 85°F.
Light: Best Locations for Stromanthe
A lot of diffused lighting or bright indirect light will help the stromanthe keep the bright coloration of the leaves. In other words, do not expose the plant to direct sunlight or keep it in the shade.
The ideal position for a stromanthe is in a bright area next to the east or north windows. These windows allow for some mild morning direct sunlight but prevent the plant from getting burned during the brightest part of the day.
West and south facing windows can also be used but the stromanthe needs to be placed a few feet away so it does not receive too much direct sunlight.
If the stromanthe receives too much direct sunlight then the leaves will develop brown spots or burns.
On the other hand, if the stromanthe is placed in a shady location then the leaf colors will fade or turn pale. New leaf growth will be smaller and the plant will look sick and unhealthy.
So just keep an eye on the stromanthe when you first place it in a location. Bright indirect sunlight is the best lighting situation for a stromanthe.
Fertilization: Which fertilizer is suitable for stomanthe?
Another important aspect when caring for a stromanthe is providing additional nutrients through fertilizers. Stromanthes will benefit for a liquid balance fertilizer intended for houseplants.
Balanced fertilizers will have equal proportions of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium such as (10-10-10) or (20-20-20).
Make sure to dilute these fertilizers to half the recommended dose when feeding a stromanthe. Wait until you see how the plant reacts and you can always add more fertilizer later but you cannot take out excess fertilizer.
So start with a small amount and add more if your stromanthe is responding well to the fertilizer.
If you prefer organic fertilizers then worm castings is a great choice.
Add one to three teaspoons (15-45 ml) to the substrate when transplanting the stromanthe. Alternatively, you can sprinkle half a teaspoon on the surface of the substrate once a month.
Make sure to thoroughly water the plant after you have added the castings.
Repotting: When to Transplant Stromanthe
When you notice that the roots are growing out of the drainage hole of the pot then the stromanthe needs to be transplanted.
Thankfully stromanthes are slow growers so typically the plant will only need to be repotted every two to three years.
When repotting a stromanthe, use a pot that is 2 inches larger than the original pot. This will give the stromanthe enough room to grow so it will not need to be transplanted for at least 2 years.
Tall or Wide Pots for Stromanthe
Stromanthe roots grow wide before growing vertically or deep. So a stromanthe will benefit from being planted in a wide pot as opposed to a tall one.
Broader and shallower pots will also provide more stability to the stromanthe as this plant grows taller.
Propagating: How to Start New Stromanthe Plants
Plant division is the only reliable way to start new stromanthe plants.
Cuttings, either in water or soil, will not work with stromanthe.
Follow these steps to propagant a new stromanthe by plant division:
- First water the plant so it’s easier to remove the plant from the pot.
- Rinse the soil from the roots. Inspect the rootball and remove any damaged or rotten parts.
- The rhizome root of this plant usually has visibly defined parts that you can carefully separate.
- Plant each separated plant in a separate pot to the same depth at which it grew in the original pot.
Now you have successfully propagated new stromanthe plants.
Common Problems With Stromanthe
Q: Why is my stromanthe not growing?
A: Stromanthe is a plant that grows at a moderate rate which is more pronounced from spring to autumn when it forms most of its new leaves. In winter, this process is naturally slowed down. If the plant gives just one or two new leaves during the active phase then something is wrong. Growing stromanthe can be tricky since all the conditions of its cultivation must be met! Otherwise, the plant will survive instead of thrive.
Q: Why are the leaves of my stromanthe yellowish pale?
A1: Any change in the color and appearance of the leaves suggests that some aspects of its cultivation are not satisfied. Pale yellowish leaves may appear if the substrate is too wet. As soon as you notice this change, check the moisture of the soil. If the soil is wet then remove the plant from the pot and leave it out for half an hour to dry. Then repot the plant into a fresh substrate and take care not to overwater the plant again.
A2: If the soil in which the plant grows is not too soaked then the reason for the leaves fading is the lack of light. Move the plant to a location that receives more bright indirect sunlight. The leaf colors will return once the plant receives enough light.
Q: Why are the stromanthe leaves curled with brown edges?
A1: The most common reason for curled leaves with brown edges is too much direct light or insufficient watering. Change the place where you keep the plant or water it more often. Remove damaged leaves because they will not regenerate. However, be careful not to remove more than one-third of the total leaf mass.
A2: Another reason for curled leaves with browned edges is low humidity. The plant will curl its leaves to retain moisture if the air is too dry and the leaves may start to brown on the edges. Increased watering will not solve the problem but misting the plant or using a humidifier will. Stromanthes prefer humidity levels above 50%.
Q: Why are the stromanthe leaves wilting?
A: Stromanthe leaves will wilt when the plant does not receive enough water. Try to establish a watering rhythm that will meet the plant’s water needs without the risk of overwatering the plant.
Pests: Is stromanthe prone to pests?
The usual pests that attack houseplants will not bypass the stromanthe either.
Due to the conditions of high humidity, aphids are likely to attack the plant. The sap-soaking pests form colonies on the reverse of the leaves and spread quickly to other plants.
In dry air conditions, spider mites can be found on stromanthes. Therefore, inspect your plant regularly and begin treating the pest infestation as soon as you notice one.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Why do stomanthe leaves move?
A: This spectacular phenomenon is known as nyctinasty and involves folding the leaves in response to a reduced amount of light during the night. In the morning, the plant drops the leaves again, showing their beautiful colors. It is characteristic of all plants of the Maranatha family. Its movements, so unusual for plants in a time interval of 24 hours, actually follow the circadian rhythm– the plant actually sleeps at night, reducing physiological processes, and wakes up again in the morning with the first rays of the sun.
Q: Is stromanthe a calathea?
A: Both of these plants belong to the same family but different genera of plants. Stromanthe is not a type of calthea and calthea is not a type of stromanthe. However, both of these plants have similar movement of leaves which is the main reason for confusion about whether they are varieties of the same plant type.
Q: Is stromanthe toxic?
A: Stromanthe are not toxic so these plants can be placed around pets and children.
Q: Do stromanthe bloom?
A: Stromanthe can bloom in the summer months. Small white, yellowish or pink flowers can appear on long stalks. However, flowering stromanthe grown indoors are rare.
Q: Can stromanthe spend the summer outside?
A: During the hottest summer months the stromanthe can be placed outside in a shaded balcony or a shady part of the garden. However, as soon as the night temperature drops below 40°F then the stromanthe needs to be brought back indoors.
Q: Can stromanthe grow in the garden?
A: Stromanthe can grow outdoors in the garden in climate zones 10 to 11. However, during the winter the above-ground part of the plant will die but the stromanthe will grow back again in the spring.
Stromanthe are beautiful houseplants that are great additions due to their unique leaf movement and beautiful colors.
Similar to most tropical houseplants, stromanthe prefer bright indirect light, high humidity levels above 50%, moist soil, and tropical temperatures of 65°F to 85°F.
As long as this plant receives its ideal conditions then you will be greeted with beautiful leaves that miraculously move throughout the day and night.