Fire Flash

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Fire Flash, Chlorophytum amaniense or Chlorophytum orchidantheroides, C. orchidastrum, C. filipendulum amaniense Chlorophytum orchidastrum, Chlorophytum filipendulum,

Family:  Anthericaceae, Liliaceae or Agavaceae

Also known as: a Mandarin Plant, Fire Glory, Orange Spider Plant, Green Orange Tangerine and Sierra Leone Lily

The intriguing plant we see here was introduced to the Americas not much more than a decade ago.  A perennial foliage plant, it is fast becoming a favorite for both indoor and outdoor use. 

Its native home is the rain-forests of East Africa in the Usambara Mountains of Tanzania.  But take note: It requires substantive shade.  (In point of fact, we’ve moved ours three times, before finally finding a location that seems to suit its finicky and fickle nature!)

So new is the Fire Flash to this side of the Atlantic that there is a degree of confusion as to both its Latin and family name.  I’ve striven to select its most commonly used names from numerous tropical plant resource publications.  But, in reality, few of the presently published books on landscape plants that I’ve perused include this colorfully stemmed gem in their texts. 

We do know that the Fire Flash is a colorful relative to the Spider Plant and, while it forms no runners, it seeds most prolifically.  If you choose to plant these seeds don’t be worried if only a few decide to sprout, as they, generally, have a very low germination rate.

Regardless of the nomenclature confusion as to where it correctly fits in the plant world and indecisiveness as to its most appropriate moniker, it is an intriguing plant.   It has a shiny rosette of dark green pointed leaves and a heart of glowing pink to coral orange from the base of the leaf up through the petioles (that’s the stem connecting the leaf to the stalk) and leaf midribs.  

These leaves, which are approximately ten inches (25-30 cm) long and two to four inches (5-10 cm) wide, are rubbery yet brittle.  For the brightest colors, remove basal sprouts as they appear to avoid crowding, which can hide the colored growth. 

There are a few “down sides” to this plant.  One is that the petioles are brittle and can be broken easily.  As a result of this, they are not good plants for high-traffic areas.  Beyond that, the old flower stalks go black and become unsightly, requiring removal.  And, any leaf tear or petiole break will develop black marks around the injury.

Multi-functional, it can be used as a potted plant, ground cover, mixed with others or highlighted as a showcase specimen.  Because of its great tolerance for low light and its resistance to disease, it will make a great indoor houseplant. 

The fine Fire Flash foliage (nice alliteration there!) is extremely sensitive to chemicals, pesticides, insecticides and high light levels.  Thus – as regards the latter – it logically follows that it should not be placed in the full sun.  Intense light levels will cause chlorosis (a yellowing of leaf tissue due to a lack of chlorophyll) or scorching.  Like some of us, it prefers shady, filtered or dappled sun. 

One we have grown successfully as a showcase plant was on our dining palapa with only indirect sun.  Other uses include groupings, as ground foliage, and well ensconced in the heavily filtered shade beneath several multi-fronded palms.  In this latter case, sheltering ours are a Medjool Date Palm from Iraq, a Fiji Palm from the Fiji Islands, a Zombie Palm from the island of Hispaniola, and a Mexican Palmetto from the southeastern part of this country and Central America! 

Considering its native environs, it follows that the Chlorophytum orchidantheroides (I have to admit that its Latin name is, indeed a mouthful) prefers a humid environment.  Though it is quite drought tolerant – with its root system consisting of swollen water-storing nodules – there is dispute about how much and when to water this plant.  Some say to let it become fairly dry before watering.  Others advise to keep the soil moist – but not to over water.  (I damply lean to the former.)

Ground planted, at maturity, its height will be eighteen to twenty-four inches (45-60 cm) but generally shorter if container-grown.  The flowers – borne in groups – are about one-half inch (one cm) in diameter, white with six petals and last only one day.  But even with this short bloom time, the plant itself is a “glowing beauty!” 

Cutting to the chase, this is a somewhat flexible-to-use plant – and certainly attractive.  So, if you’ve the impetus, inclination and right location, I heartedly encourage that you adopt some soon!

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Transplanted barely a month ago, these finely have found a home they like in our gardens!

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The flowers – about one centimeter (1/2″) in diameter – are white, have six petals and last only one day.

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This is the beauty of these plants!