Stephania Erecta is a lovely tropical plant native to Thailand, but it is quite unlike most tropical plants with which you are familiar. This plant is amazing, growing from a bulb that resembles a potato, and producing delicate but beautiful leaves.
It may be difficult to locate in your area, but if you wish to add this unique plant to your houseplant collection, not only will it look lovely, but it will require very specific care due to the tropical environment from which it originates.
|Scientific name and common names
|Stephania pierrei, Stephania tetrandra, Stephania abyssinica
|Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos
|Indoor or Outdoor plant
|Height and Structure
|Caudex (Bulb) – Up to 17cm in diameter. Branches – Up to 1m in length. Individual Leaves – 6cm in diameter.
|16° – 26°C (61° – 79°F) H1a (Hardiness Zone 13) – Should be maintained indoors year round. Temperatures should never dip below 59℉
Stephania Erecta is a hardy plant that requires little maintenance in terms of watering and fertilizing. It thrives indoors with a humidity level of 60% or greater. Because they do not require direct sunlight, they can be placed in a variety of locations indoors. Maintaining a happy and healthy plant requires the following:
As is the case with many tropical plants, this one goes dormant once a year in the winter, with the leaves turning yellow and falling off, giving the appearance of death.
Indeed, it is just dormant. During this time period, typically between December and March, it should be kept dry and cool. It is recommended to soak the caudex for approximately 24 hours in the middle of January and then carefully insert it back into the soil, though repotting due to size is best done in the summer.
If done correctly, the plant will begin to re-establish itself within a few weeks. The bulb may take up to three months to awaken from its winter slumber, so it is best to be patient and not assume it is dead if there are no immediate signs of life.
Individual bulbs should be planted in their own pots and not too closely together, as the plant tolerates periods of drought and dryness quite well, and you don’t want bulbs competing for water. They should be planted in well-drained pots with holes or terra-cotta pots filled with a succulent-specific soil mixture.
While the plant prefers bright light, it should not be placed in direct sunlight. It can be kept in a bright location, even under a grow light if insufficient sunlight is a problem. If kept outdoors, it should be protected from the elements and kept in a bright but protected location away from wind and rain, preferably in a greenhouse.
Despite the delicate stems and oversized leaves that appear to float in midair, the plant actually supports itself quite well and rarely requires staking or support. However, some plant owners prefer to train the stems to follow shaped supports to enhance the plant’s appearance.
Allow the top half of the soil to dry out between waterings, as excessive watering can cause the bulb to rot. Allowing the soil to dry out slightly during the cooler months is fine, but once the leaves begin to yellow and fall, spent watering the caudex should be cut back.
Allow it to sit in water for an extended period of time; in fact, the general rule is that underwatering Stephania Erecta is preferable to overwatering.
This plant does not require extensive mulching or fertilizing, as salt buildup in the soil is undesirable. Fertilizing the plant every four to six waterings during the summer and spring, and every six to eight waterings during the autumn and fall, is usually sufficient to keep it healthy. Fertilizer formulated for houseplants or cactus is an excellent choice for Stephania Erecta. Fertilizing should be discontinued during the dormant season.
Bear in mind that this is a tropical plant and will require some humidity. It can be grown in a humidity tray or a small greenhouse, and if the leaves curl or brown, this is typically a sign of dehydration. Misting the plant frequently is beneficial in drier climates. It is preferable to maintain a humidity level of greater than 60% for Stephania Erecta.
When the leaves begin to yellow and die, the plant can be pruned and trimmed. They should be performed with clean scissors and all plant debris should be removed to promote healthier growth. Avoid excessive damage that could shock the plant, and keep in mind that allowing plant material to decompose around the bulb can promote bacterial and fungal growth.
Indeed, while the plant is not a succulent, it requires much of the same care, including similar potting soil requirements and watering requirements. Because the bulb is water-retentive, it is not necessary to plant it in soil that is also water-retentive.
A potting mix labeled Cactus & Succulents is a good choice, as it contains a good blend of compost, perlite to aid airflow, grit, and sand. Additionally, you can incorporate some small stones or pebbles into the potting mix to improve drainage. The bulb should be placed approximately two-thirds of the way into the potting mixture, with the top third protruding above the soil level.
It is rarely necessary to repot Stephania Erecta; in fact, unless you intend to propagate the plant, it is best to choose a suitable pot and leave it alone. If you do decide to repot the bulb, it is best to wait at least three years after the plant has established strong roots in its current location. Early summer is the best time to repot.
The species is typically propagated via seeds, though this is not an easy task for beginners. The plant produces flowers that produce seeds that can be stored in a cool, dry place. When it is time to germinate the seeds, soak them for 24 hours in a warm, dark location. The seeds can then be planted about half a centimeter into a well-drained tray of cactus or succulent potting mix with perlite, taking care not to compact the soil.
They should be placed in an area that receives indirect sunlight and maintains a temperature of at least 64°F. To maintain humidity and moisture, some people find it beneficial to place a plastic bag over the pot. Seeds can take up to five months to germinate, so patience is required when growing this plant. Again, each plant should have its own pot, so if several seeds were planted in the same location, it is best to separate them once they sprout.
The cultivator should keep an eye out for aphids, mealybugs, spider mites, and whiteflies. Root or basal rot, powdery mildew, and leaf-spot disease are all common diseases of Stephania. The majority of diseases are caused by excessive moisture in the soil or on the foliage, which can be avoided by maintaining dry leaves and preventing the pot from becoming waterlogged.
- Family: Menispermaceae
- Genus: Stephania
- Species: tetrandra
S. tetrandra is one of the 50 essential herbs in traditional Chinese medicine, where it is referred to as han fang ji. Some 45 species are included in the genus Stephania, which are native to Australasia.
While this plant is best grown in its own container, it can coexist on a shelf with a variety of other plants. As long as no one blocks its light or interferes with its humidity level, it makes a good neighbor with other indoor plants.
Regrettably, this plant is poisonous to the majority of living things, including children, cats, and dogs. If you have small children or pets, you’ll want to keep this plant outside or well out of reach of curious fingers and animals. This plant’s entire structure should be considered toxic.