Warm greenhouse ornamental-leaved plants which grow wild in tropical America ancl belong to the family Marantaceae. They are suitable for growing outdoors in frost-free regions only. These plants form tufts of leaves which rise straight up from the soil: they vary in height from 1-6 ft. The leaves vary in size and shape, some being oval, others lance-shaped, round or heart-shaped; they are often nicely marked with streaks or blotches of contrasting colors. The leaves may be gray, purple, and green or variegated with white, pink, purple or brown above.
Arrowroot of Commerce. Maranta arundinacea is the principal source of Arrowroot. It is grown chiefly in Bermuda, St. Vincent and Natal. The tuberous roots are dug up, washed and pulped, and passed through several processes to extract the easily digested substance known as Arrowroot. The name Maranta commemorates li. Maranti, a Venetian physician.
Handsome Ornamental-leaved Plants. Marantas require a minimum winter temperature of 60 degrees and a shady moist position in the greenhouse. The best potting compost consists of one part loam, two parts peat, and half a part sand. Repotting is done in February or March. Well-drained pots are necessary, as the plants require abundance of water during the summer but resent waterlogged soil conditions. When the plants are repotted, the loose soil is removed with a pointed stick and they are set in slightly larger pots. The compost must not be rammed, but simply firmed by pressure of the fingers.
Water is carefully applied to the soil until the pots are well filled with roots; afterwards it must be given freely until the end of the summer. The supply is then gradually reduced, and throughout the winter the soil is watered only when it becomes quite dry. During the summer months, well-rooted plants should be watered with weak liquid fertilizer, the atmosphere kept humid, and the foliage syringed several times a day. Throughout the winter the atmosphere must be kept moist, but much less damping and syringing are required.
The principal method of propagation is by division in late winter. Old plants are removed from the pots and the soil is washed away from the roots. The rhizomes are then cut through with a sharp knife; care must be taken not to bruise them, as this is liable to set up decay, and the cut surfaces are dipped in sulphur. The pieces are then potted separately in pots just large enough to hold the roots comfortably without cramping theMaranta After potting, they are assisted to root quickly into the new compost by being plunged in a propagating case with bottom heat.
Thrips and red spider mites attack the leaves.
The chief kinds are Maranta bicolor, leaves 12 in. in length, pale green, spotted dark green; Maranta leuconeura (Prayer Plant), leaves 6 in. long, pale green, with white and dark green blotches, and purplish beneath; and its varieties Kerchoveana, leaves larger, edged with red, and Massangeana, leaves purple beneath. Maranta arundinacea, the Arrowroot, grows to 6 ft. high. Its variegated leaved variety, variegated, with yellow-blotched leaves, is sometimes grown for ornament; it attains a height of about 3 ft. Maranta is related to Calathea, in which genus many kinds are now included.