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Mickey Mouse taro is a special plant

August 9, 2013
By H.I. JEAN SHIELDS - Garden Club of Cape Coral , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

A leaky air condition spout on a Saturday afternoon resulted in an unexpected gardening clean-up that was both a chore and a joy. Well, maybe not a joy, but certainly a satisfying event for me and some shade plants that were being mostly ignored this summer.

When my regular A/C repairman was available to come right over, I knew I was lucky to get such service on a Saturday afternoon. I was not so lucky, however, when I viewed the space he was going to have to be sharing with way too many unnecessary objects.

Besides the bell pepper plant, currently between edible peppers and the tall healthy cherry tomato plant, which was bearing almost ripe little gems, were half a dozen smaller pots with various non-edible re-potted baby plants.

Everything was in pots so easy to move. Then there were the 15 or so empty pots with no excuse for being where they were except for my habit of stock piling empty pots, just in case. I did have a nice shade place next to the pad to garden in.

The city recyclable bin, because with the latest new company handing out its new bins, it no longer fit into the garage, so it shared the concrete slab with the A/C.

There is also small horticulture tub, without wheels, so I could drag it around in the front grass to fill with cuttings and not have to walk the whole length of the house to the back where the larger wheeled containers shared a concrete slab with the pool equipment.

I am sure all of this sounds familiar to most of you. It is not easy to be neat and organized without a couple of concrete slabs and if you did not build your own house with concrete slabs where they were the most efficient, you will have to make due, or build a whole sidewalk along side your house. I keep my trash container inside the garage, not because I like it there but because the large one we received, for free, will not fit into the space where we had an alcove built to hold the recyclable cans. We figured as we got older we would have a nice clean and dry place for dirty work to collect. It takes a lot to fill up that can, something not considered at that time.

As you know, the politics of the city will forever be changing our lives, sometimes for better, sometimes not so much better. When the full-size trash can tripped me up and threw me to the driveway, the can, of course, falling on the soft grass, I was pretty upset. When I called to ask for a smaller can, I was told I could buy one at any time and they would deliver it to me. I asked what happened to older residents being able to replace their unnecessary large cans with a smaller one, for free, I was told they had given out too many and now you had to pay for a change.

I hope the city had that in their contract with the new company. I know, of course, it was my fault, I should have said I was old and needed a smaller can right away. That did not happen, and I did not want to put down more concrete so was stuffing things all around the A/C and the pool equipment, and gardening as close as I could get. A gardener has a hard time ignoring a nice shady gardening spot in this area.

Too make a long story short-sorry, with everything off of the concrete I could get into that shady spot very easily.

I really did a great job clipping the tall clump of Dracaena Marginatas, which are about 12 feet tall with the beautiful large variegated philodendron leaves growing around and through the slender stalks of the dracaenas. This is a west wall of the house and without that shady mass to shade things, the afternoon summer sun would burn everything up. This shade protection was not a planned idea of mine.

There is also a stand of tall, strong Heliconia stalks which will bear lovely, bright orange and blue dangling lobster claw flowers, which flower designers love to use. I know notice that they are spreading a lot.

There is a kinky little plant called a Buddha that has a bloated body with wide green leaves and small bright orange flowers in spring. Also, my most prized plant that is called several names but I usually only remember the non-scientific name of Mickey Mouse taro. An expensive item, it is always noticed wherever it grows because of its variegated chalk white leaves splotched with green. It is from the elephant ear family, Araceae Genus Xanthosoma.

The name Mickey Mouse comes from the fact that the elongated heart shaped leaves remind one of Mickey Mouse. The very tip of each leaf point has a tiny cup and tail. Some of you will be reminded this plant is also called the pocket plant.

While the most attractive thing about this plant is the splotchy white and green, the white is really a virus and as it matures the white will gradually remove the green of the leaf thereby causing the plant to no longer be able to produce chloroplasts and will no longer produce the green tissue and without that the plant will eventually die since it cannot produce food for itself or return oxygen to atmosphere. A plant can recover from the virus to a natural all green leaf.

Some sellers try to inbreed these plants because they can sell the variegated plant for a higher price. In reality few stay variegated for life. I, of course, did not know this until I had purchased a small one at a large nursery. I did not ask about the variegation lifestyle of the plant and they did not tell.

I am happy with this plant because I was able to pull out a couple off sets and re-pot then. I considered planting in the soil but decided even though there was a light breeze and cloudy skies, it was just too warm to do any digging. It has been growing for about three years, mainly because I kind of ignore it, and because it is happy right where it is. Right plant right place.

This plant is the Genus Xanthosoma and produces the off sets from the mother plant, other cultivars grow from a corm.

By 5 p.m., the A/C was fixed and the rains were starting so I stopped gardening for the day. I finished on Sunday afternoon, under cloudy skies and just before the rain and the mosquitoes appeared. Could have done more but figured I better put everything back and let well enough alone, on the concrete and in the soil.

A quick reminder, pinch back any outside growing poinsettias this month for good healthy growth. Trim back about one third and not any more this year.

Happy gardening till we meet again.

H.I. Jean Shields is a past president of the Garden Club of Cape Coral.



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