Undoubtedly one of the most beautiful jewels of the tropical world, the Stromanthe sanguinea ‘Tricolor’ (Triostar) is one of the few Stromanthes available for indoor gardening. And although its popularity has risen steadily over the past few years, its deep-rooted reputation as being too difficult for the average grower has only slightly declined. I won’t dispute this and tell you that this plant is easy because I agree that the ‘Tricolor’ can be quite challenging if its needs are not fulfilled.
Originating in Brazil, Honduras and Costa Rica, Stromanthe sanguinea ‘Tricolor’ is a member of the Marantaceae (Maranta) family, and like all its cousins, craves high humidity. This is an essential need that should not be compromised. The plant will deteriorate rapidly and become very unsightly if the air is too dry; the tips and margins of its leaves will brown and dry to a crisp, and spider mites won’t hesitate to move right in. If humidity is too low in your home, remedy the situation by adding a humidifier nearby, by placing the plant on a pebble tray filled with water, by double-potting and filling the spaces in between the containers with moist peat, by grouping plants together to form a microclimate with higher humidity or by growing the plant in a room naturally higher in humidity.
Use an airy, quick-draining soil and keep it evenly moist during the warmest months of the year. Allow it to dry slightly between each watering session, and then water thoroughly. During the cooler months, water carefully to avoid rot; allow the soil to dry out a little more. Regardless of the time of year, never let the medium dry out completely at any time.
Switch to hydroculture for an alternative growing style. Conversion is fairly quick with few signs of stress. You can transplant the entire plant by rinsing its roots free of soil and potting it up in clay pellets. Or you can scrub the roots completely free of soil and place the plant in a glass of water until new roots develop. Once the water roots are formed, transfer to the clay medium.
Avoid direct exposure to sunlight, which will damage the leaves and cause them to fade, and place your plant in bright light to intensify the dramatic variegation. Medium to low light is tolerated very well, but some of the variegation may be lost. Average room temperatures are ideal throughout the year; keep your plant away from cold drafts.
If the plant is healthy and actively growing, feed with half strength food for foliage plants every 2 – 4 weeks. Clean the foliage every now and then to keep it dust and pest-free; wipe the top and bottom of the leaves with a damp cloth or sponge, or rinse them under a running faucet. Give larger plants a shower in the bathtub.
Stromanthe sanguinea ‘Tricolor’, with its exotic looks, turns heads in the greenhouse and melts away any doubts about trying one’s hand at it. But be forewarned: if you don’t fulfill this lovely plant’s needs, it won’t be long before it becomes very unsightly and ends up in the big compost in the sky. So if you’re going to pick one up, be prepared to care for it properly.