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African plants

Plant of the Day - Chlorophytum cf. bowkeri

This clumping cousin of the ubiquitous spider plant houseplant is proving to be an outstanding landscape plant. It is always fun to find a hardy species in what I otherwise think to be a tropical genus and I'm not alone as evidenced by the fascination in the last decade with hardy scheffleras.  This particular plant, Chlorophytum cf. bowkeri, or African snake lily as it is known to the 10's of people familiar with it in the US is a close relative of the spider plant that hangs listlessly in the corner of dentist offices.  The houseplant is typically grown in its variegated form where its plantlets cascade down like young spiders.  African snake lily is not like this cousin which spreads vigorously.  Instead it forms a lovely clump of stiff, bluish-green foliage.  In late summer into fall it sends up a stiff flower scape to about 4.5' with lovely white star shaped flowers that open from the bottom up.  The plant hails from southern Africa.  We've been growing ours in full sun where it has thrived but it would probably grow as well in part shade.  Hardiness is a bit uncertain but it should be fine to at least warm zone 7 gardens.  There is some question as to the correct identity of this plant, it was received as C. colubrinum but it does not match that description.

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The flowers are a welcome addition to the late season garden and would combine well with flowering gingers and tall asters.

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