The Aphelandra squarrosa or Afelandra is an evergreen shrub native to Central and South America, which in nature reaches 2-3 m in height, and in container is maintained in size close to 50-60 cm. The fleshy stems, of dark colour, carry numerous oval leaves, very big, of light green colour, but in many species of dark green colour, with white or yellow veins, very showy; the leaves are glossy, slightly crumpled.
In spring, it produces short spikes covered by tubular flowers, under each of which is present a coloured bract, usually yellow, but there are varieties with bracts and orange, pink or red flowers. These plants have a rather compact appearance, very ramified and dense, and usually do not need to be pruned.
Keep the Aphelandra squarrosa plants in a bright place, but far from direct solar rays, at a temperature not inferior to 10-15°C; in summer it is possible to place them outside, provided the place is semi-shady. These plants don’t like the cold, therefore in winter they are to be kept in the house or in a temperate greenhouse. The best temperature for the growth of the Afelandra plants, being specimens of tropical origin, is around the 22/25 °C.
This kind of plant is sensitive to the air currents, which can cause also the death.
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Water the Aphelandra squarrosa regularly, letting the soil dry between one watering and the other, without ever soaking the soil too much; excessive watering can promote root rot, and cause the yellowing of the leaves; generally these plants do not stand well the drought, and in cases of prolonged periods without water tend to sag. In both cases, the plant tends to lose its leaves; in winter, water sporadically.
When the temperatures are higher, it is better to proceed with the nebulisation of water at room temperature on the leaves, in order to guarantee the right degree of humidity.
From March to October provide fertiliser for flowering plants, mixed with water from the watering, every 10-15 days.
The plants of Afelandra need a soil very rich in humus and well drained: you can prepare a suitable compound by mixing peat with sand, leaf soil and a small handful of manure or humus.
Usually they do not grow very quickly, so it is not necessary to repot them often, but it is good to change the soil every two years.
In spring it is possible to sow the aphelanders, remembering that with this technique it is possible to get plants different from the mother one, seen the genetic variability; in the same period it is also possible to practice cuttings, which root quite quickly and easily. The cuttings shall be placed in a peat and sand compound and in a protected place where the temperature remains constant. When the new shoots appear, the cuttings can be transplanted into individual containers.
Afelandra – Aphelandra squarrosa: Parasites and diseases
These plants are particularly afraid of root rot, aphids and cochineal. To eliminate the cochineals, if the attack is reduced, it is possible to intervene with a cloth or a pad soaked in alcohol, otherwise it is also possible to wash the plant with soap and water, to be rinsed carefully. To eliminate aphids it may be sufficient to increase the degree of humidity with frequent nebulisations of water on the leaves.
Otherwise, it is advisable to use special insecticide products that are easily available.