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Saturday, 21 November 2015

Hen-and-Chickens - Chlorophytum comosum

Chlorophytum comosum, often called the spider plant, airplane plant or hen-and-chickens, is a flowering perennial herb. It is native to tropical and Southern Africa, but has become naturalised in other parts of the world, including western Australia. Chlorophytum comosum is easy to grow as a house-plant; variegated forms are the most popular.

Chlorophytum comosum grows to about 60 centimetres (24in) high. It has fleshy, tuberous roots, about 5–10 centimetres (2–4in) long. The long narrow leaves reach a length of 20–45 centimetres (8–18in) and are around 6–25 millimetres (0.2–1.0in) wide.

Flowers are produced in a long branched inflorescence, which can reach a length of up to 75 centimetres (30in) and eventually bends downwards. Flowers initially occur in clusters of 1–6 at intervals along the stem (scape) of the inflorescence. Each cluster is at the base of a bract, which ranges from 2–8 centimetres (0.8–3.1in) in length, becoming smaller towards the end of the inflorescence. Most of the flowers which are produced initially die off, so that the inflorescences are relatively sparsely flowered.

Individual flowers are greenish-white, borne on stalks (pedicels) some 4–8 millimetres (0.2–0.3in) long. Each flower has six three-veined tepals which are 6–9 millimetres (0.2–0.4in) long, slightly hooded or boat-shaped at their tips. The stamens consist of a pollen-producing anther about 3.5 millimetres (0.1in) long with a filament about the same length or slightly longer. The central style is 3–8 millimetres (0.1–0.3in) long. Seeds are produced in a capsule 3–8 millimetres (0.1–0.3in) long on stalks (pedicels) which lengthen to up to 12 millimetres (0.5in).

The inflorescences carry plant-lets at the tips of their branches, which eventually droop and touch the soil, developing adventitious roots. The stems (scapes) of the inflorescence are called "stolons" in some sources, but this term is more correctly used for stems which do not bear flowers, and have roots at the nodes.

Hen-and-chickens are easy to grow, being able to thrive in a wide range of conditions. They will tolerate temperatures down to 35°F (2°C), but grow best at temperatures between 65°F (18°C) and 90°F (32°C). I have found that they prefer a LOT of water in summer, less in winter. They are susceptible to frost but planting them under a tree where they are a bit protected helps a lot. They also do well in shade to semi-shade.

When in full sun they tend to be more yellow

A draw-back in my garden is that my chickens absolutely love them! When there's no green grass in winter for them to graze, the hen & chicks is high on their menu and these plants do not recover from clipping or being cut down, I've lost many a plant to my girls!

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