If you're looking for a leafy, green and interesting houseplant, why not consider a Homalomena species. A genus of evergreen, perennial tropical plants, they're known for their large, waxy and glossy foliage and relative ease of care.
The slow-growing, sometimes aniseed-fragranced, leaves tend to be heart or arrowhead in shape. This is why they get their nicknames of the queen of hearts or the shield plant.
If you like showy blooms, Homalonema won't be for you. Their tiny, green flowers don't develop petals and aren't ornamentally significant. The large foliage definitely overshadows them.
The interesting and tidy foliage is usually deep green, but it can be variegated and will sometimes feature red shades on the underside and along the stem.
Because of their ability to grow in low light conditions, it makes them a good choice for a house that doesn't benefit from windows offering a lot of natural sunlight.
How to Care for Homalomena
The main requirements for the tropical-in-origin Homalomena are a well-drained potting mix, warmth, humidity and indirect light.
Providing these criteria are met, your plant should thrive for several years.
For best growth, your Homalomena should be positioned somewhere that it can benefit from medium, indirect, dappled light, especially during its growing season. It'll still survive in low light conditions, but just be aware that it'll slow the growth rate down considerably.
The key thing is to ensure they don't have extended periods in direct sun or the leaves will become faded, yellow and scorched.
Homalomena has a preference for light, loamy, well-drained, fertile, acidic soils or mediums. Potting mixes that contain peat moss can help ensure water will prevent a build up of moisture. Be sure that the pot the plant sits in also has good drainage holes.
The trick is to let the soil dry on the top inch or so before rewatering. When you do, provide enough so that it comes out the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot. Any excess water in the saucer or tray should be removed to prevent the roots sitting in standing water.
During the plant's growth period, through the spring and summer, more moisture will be required. Ensuring the water temperature is lukewarm rather than cold can help your Homalomena in good health too.
Temperature and Humidity
Given their tropical origins, unsurprisingly, Homalomena like warmth and humidity.
If they're exposed to prolonged cold temperatures or draughts, their leaves will turn yellow, and they'll eventually die.
If the rooms in your home regularly sit below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, this isn't going to be the houseplant for you. They thrive when temperatures are above 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
If your home has a dry rather than humid heat, your plants leaves will appreciate regular spritzing, and you can also use a pebble tray. This can help prevent brown tips and keep the humidity levels up.
During the summer, your Homalomena will appreciate being fed a couple of times a month with a slow-release, organic fertilizer. In the winter months, because there isn't any active growth, you don't need to worry about additional feeding.
Homalomena have rhizomatous roots, which means they can be propagating from cuttings of these rhizomes. The plants can also be divided once they're well established.
Varieties of Homalomena
It's not uncommon to see wild species of Homalomena, like rubescens or wallisii, in tropical hothouses and gardens.
The commercially available options tend to be hybrid cultivars and they can vary greatly in their foliage size, colors, patterns and shapes. Some of the most common varieties include:
- Emerald Green - this has large, dark green, slightly wrinkled, distinctly heart-shaped foliage
- Selby - is known for its interesting variegated leaves
- Purple Sword - has spots of silver on its green leaves and the underside is usually a burgundy shade.