Producing unusual house plants from a visit to the grocer’s

A slightly different topic this week, I am going to talk about my experiences of how to produce exotic houseplants from bits and pieces gathered from an Asian supermarket.

First off is lemongrass. Most larger supermarkets in the UK stock sticks of lemongrass, but if you are in a city, you will find it is far cheaper in a Chinese supermarket. Take a lemongrass stick, and you will see that there is a corky basal plate at the root end. With a craft knife, very gently, scrape about 1 mm of material off to encourage rooting. Be careful not to cut off the solid basal plate completely. Then it really is a question of placing it in some well-draining seed or cutting compost, (although multipurpose compost will work too) and leaving it in a warmish place on a windowsill. Not too much direct sunlight to dry it out though. You should see it start to sprout new leaves after a few weeks. Lemongrass will grow into a sizeable plant. The leaves can be cut off, chopped up and infused to make a tea. It is like a spider plant with far more uses. In fact, the Jamaicans call it ‘fever grass’ because it is believed to have many medicinal properties. When the plant is larger, you will also have a modest supply of sticks to use in cooking, or making more plants!

The taro plant is my other choice for houseplants. It has many names! It is sometimes known as the elephants’ ear plant, but it is grown from tubers that can be bought in any Caribbean grocery shop or market stall. Here they will be labeled as ‘Eddo’ or ‘CocoYam’. They have a very distinct texture, like the smoothest creamiest of potatoes. From my experience, any tubers that you buy in the shops in August will already have small sprouts on them, so they have started off the job of growing them for you already. Just put the sprouted tubers, about an inch deep into some moist compost, and wait for the leaves to grow. Taro really appreciates a warm place, plenty of sunlight and a damp fertile soil, as it naturally grows in humid swampland. It will then reward you with lush, spade-shaped leaves, turning your living room into that jungle you have always wanted.

Find out more about growing these plants and others here.

More about Anton...
Anton is a Knowledge Officer at Garden Organic, where he has worked for 16 years. He is looking forward to writing a series of blogs on how to garden using little resources.

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