Mystery Plant...ID help please?

greenthumbfaerieSeptember 14, 2011

I found this plant about 4-5 weeks ago growing as a "weed" in a container w/ a succulent (not sure what kind of succulent) @ Home Depot, and I liked it so much that I decided to buy the whole plant. Since I wasn't sure what it was, I asked one of the employees in the garden section to ID it for me, but he didn't know what it was either. He called over another employee, a cranky, rough-looking older guy whose face seemed to be frozen in a permanent frown. When I asked him if he could tell me what this lovely little plant was, he frowned and said impatiently, "Aw, it's just a weed." He reached into the pot and attempted to yank it out by the roots, and I slapped his hand (which shocked me as much as it did him, haha!) and explained to him that the "weed" was the reason I was even buying the plant to begin with.

When I got the plant home I separated it from the succulent it was growing with and put it in a well-draining pot with Black Gold All-Purpose Potting Soil. Upon further examination and research I decided it was probably something from the family Lamiaceae, so I've been treating it as such. But as genus, species and cultivar go, I've been researching for weeks and haven't found anything that looks exactly like this little plant. It doesn't seem to mind being indoors, and seems to like bright, filtered light. I have it sitting in a west-facing window that's shaded for most of the day by a big Juniper tree. Now that it's pretty well established it seems to do best when I let the soil dry a bit between waterings, and only needs a thorough soak about 2-3x a week. I fertilize it lightly about once a month.

When I got it, it was very leggy and almost transparent from a lack of light and nutrients. During week 2, the new growth started coming in more dense and compact, and the leaves turned a rich, silvery dark green with a narrow strip of silver along the main vein. During week 3, the stems started turning pinkish, and more new foliage came in a deep red wine color, with the silver on the veins less prominent. I'm pretty sure it's still a juvenile plant, and the tallest shoots are about 5 inches long.

If anyone knows what kind of plant this is and how to care for it, I would greatly appreciate any input you have! :)


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    Bookmark   September 14, 2011 at 12:33AM
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elsier(z6 KY)

It reminds me of a Pilea (aluminum plant.)


    Bookmark   September 14, 2011 at 1:34PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

I think that it is one of the Pilea cultivars, too....maybe not the one that I know of as Aluminum plant, though. It's a pretty big genus with lots of terrific species and cultivars. It's not a member of the mint family (Labiatae) but Urticaceae. It looks like it could do with a tad more light.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2011 at 1:46PM
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Thanks guys! Looks like you were right! :) I googled "pilea" and almost immediately saw a plant that looked just like mine! :) It appears that the name of this particular cultivar is "silver tree."
About the light thing, though...according to most of the websites I've looked at, these plants should never be in direct sunlight, so although it kinda looks like it isn't getting enough light, any more light than it gets sitting on the windowsill might be too much...I don't know, maybe I'll just give a brighter location a try and see what happens.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2011 at 5:41AM
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paul_(z5 MI)

That plant is definitely etiolated -- light starved. "Direct sun" should be taken with a grain of salt. First, just in case you did not know, "direct sun" refers to sunlight shining directly on the plant as it would early in the morning streaming through an unobstructed east facing window. A very bright window in which the sunlight does not actually do so would not count. That would be considered "indirect lighting".

Next, even in the case of direct sun there comes a whole range of intensities. Unfortunately, plant tags never make any such distinctions. Direct sun outside is more intense than direct sun indoors. Direct sun early in the morning or later in the evening is a completely different story from direct sun during the afternoon. (Afternoon sun is much stronger.) This is true both indoors and outside. Many indoor plants (dare I say "most"?) will do quite well with a little direct sun early in the morning or late in the evening. The stronger direct sun they might experience from around 10am to 4 or 5pm is where things often get too intense for shade lovers. In addition, one needs to consider one's latitude. The direct sun experienced by those close to the equator is very different from that of those in the far north of the northern hemisphere or far south of the southern hemisphere. To complicate matters even further, is the direct sun being discussed obstructed or unobstucted light. For example, if you have a west window with a large tree in front of said window then the direct sun that makes it through might only amount to "dappled shade" as the tree's leaves block much of the sunlight. In contrast, that same situation with no trees, buildings, window blinds, etc would experience far different (much more intense) lighting.

Is your head spinning yet?

So the upshot is you must look to your plant to tell you what it needs. In this case, your plant showing distinct signs of being etiolated -- weak skinny growth with a great deal of space between leaf nodes. This is the result of insufficient lighting. Your plant is stretching in an attempt to reach a place of greater light. The segments of stem between each layer of leaves should be MUCH closer. This is, then, tells you that the plant wants more light than it is currently receiving ... no matter what its tag says. So DO move it to a bit brighter location if you can. If it continues 'stretching' then move it to an even brighter location. Repeat bit by bit until the plant is growing in a more compact manner.

I hope that helped.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2011 at 8:39PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Another plant in the sisterhood of Pilea:

This plant is so succulent you can actually see shadows through the stems (even more succulent than the most succulent of the Impatiens), yet it's been thriving on a plant cart I made, in full sun from dawn til dark since Memorial day, so take the 'low light' advise with a grain of salt. Your plant has assuredly been affected in its form by low light.

You can't really correct the long internodes (length of bare stem between leaves), without cutting the plant back hard, but unless you can improve on the light intensity compared to where it WAS growing, even that won't help. As everyone else notes - the plant would prefer more light.


    Bookmark   September 19, 2011 at 9:15PM
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