The white batflower (Tacca integrifolia) might look like a normal plant right up until it starts to bloom. When it does, it unfurls some of the strangest and most amazing flowers in the plant kingdom. Beneath its clusters of purplish flowers hang long, whisker-like bracts that can reach a foot in length. Above the flowers, two widely flared, white bracts (which resemble flower petals) give the plant its "bat wings."
There is no way anyone can glance at a batflower and not do a double-take. And if you wish to gaze at these fascinating flowers from the comfort of home, you're in luck because the plant can be successfully grown indoors. The main challenge will be finding it. Specialty and mail-order nurseries often are the only viable source of any batflower variety.
|Botanical Name||Tacca integrifolia|
|Common Name||White batflower|
|Plant Type||Tropical herb|
|Mature Size||2 to 3 feet tall|
|Sun Exposure||Partial shade, shade|
|Soil Type||Loamy, well-draining|
|Soil pH||6 to 7|
|Bloom Time||Mid-spring to early fall|
|Flower Color||White, purple|
|Hardiness Zones||10 to 11 (USA) or indoors|
|Native Area||Tropical and subtropical Asia|
How to Grow the White Batflower
Batflowers are grown mainly for their flowers, which emerge during the warmest months of the year. Plants typically begin to flower after they have produced at least a pair of full-sized leaves, and they can bloom up to eight times per growing season. The blooms should be left on the plants, as they don't survive long as cut flowers.
In terms of growing conditions, white batflowers generally do well in the same conditions orchids prefer: high humidity, good airflow, and moderate light. They can grow fine indoors in pots, as long as their needs are met.
Batflowers are native to Asian rainforests, where they grow in the shade of the loamy understory. So if you are planting your batflower outdoors, pick a spot that gets low to moderate light. Indoors, the plant needs moderate to bright light, though it should not be exposed to direct sunlight.
The plant prefers a loose, well-draining, and rich soil. Growing outdoors, it can tolerate some sandy soil. And for potting indoors, you can use an orchid potting mix or add some perlite to a peat-based potting soil to improve drainage and airflow.
To remain healthy, the batflower likes to be evenly moist but not wet. During its growing season, the plant will typically require watering twice a week if you keep it in a pot. But over the winter months when its growth slows, you can let it dry slightly.
Temperature and Humidity
The batflower can grow outside all year in its hardiness zones, but it does not do well once the temperature drops near freezing. It prefers temperatures of the tropics in the range of 70 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. It also must be protected from wind (including indoor air vents), which can damage foliage and burn the plant. Furthermore, the batflower thrives in humidity. In an indoor pot, its humidity level can be increased by regularly misting the plant or placing it on a pebble-filled tray of water.
The plant is a moderate feeder and will appreciate a biweekly feeding during its growing season (spring to fall) with house plant food or orchid fertilizer. Fertilizing plant spikes also can work well for indoor batflowers.
Batflowers can be propagated from seeds or by rhizome division. But seeds can take months and are difficult to germinate, so most people opt for division. Separate rhizomes of an established plant in the spring or fall, and either replant them in the ground or a suitable container.
Potting and Repotting
This plant does not like being root-bound, and it appreciates an annual soil change using a rich, well-draining potting mix. Choose a wide, shallow pot suitable for the plant's size. A clay pot with drainage is ideal for maintaining healthy roots.
If you need to repot a batflower that has outgrown its container, do so in the spring before its growing season revs up. Avoid repotting a plant when it is flowering. When repotting an established plant, it's a good time to take a division to start a new plant. You also can trim off older rhizomes, leaves, and roots during repotting.
Varieties of Batflowers
The Tacca genus is mostly native to Asia, and the plants are considered collector's items due to their unusual flowers. The white batflower (Tacca integrifolia) is a relative newcomer to the plant scene. It was preceded by the black batflower (Tacca chantrieri), which looks similar to the white batflower but has dark bracts flaring above its flowers. The white batflower also grows about twice as large as its cousin, with correspondingly larger flowers.