Other characteristics of Beaucarnea
The Beaucarnea is a plant of tropical and equatorial origin, spread in the last decades as indoor plant. It is appreciated for its beautiful bulging trunk at the base, which makes it look like a baobab, and the thick tuft of leaves present at the apex. It is also known as “Nolina” (from the name of the French horticulturist who introduced it and spread it in Europe in the XVIII century) or, more popularly, as “elephant’s foot” and “smoke-eater”.
It is attributed the ability to retain impurities in the air and make the home more livable.
This tree can also be grown by the less experienced: it adapts well to the climatic conditions of our homes and, thanks to its particular shapes, is able to give the environments an exotic touch.
IL CALENDARIO DELLA BEAUCARNEA
End of winter, when the roots come out of the pot
Basal sprouts sampling
From April to October, once a month
November to March, not necessary
From April to October
- Small plant of easy cultivation, the beaucarnea has distant origins, in the semi-desert areas of Central and South America, where it grows like a real tree, reaching 7,000 square feet.
- I have had a “smoke-eater” for many years but a few weeks ago I noticed that its leaves break in half and dry out. Then some leaves instead have clean cuts in the upper part of the leaves, as you can see in the …
- I have a plant “of smoke” from about 20 years, reached the height of about 1meter and 50, remains outside on a partially covered terrace …has always been very nice and full … this winter has risen to the top of the …
Description and origins Beaucarnea
The genus Beaucarnea belongs to the family Aspargaceae. All the species (about 20) are endemic to Central America: in cultivation they rarely exceed one metre in height while, in the spontaneous state, they are capable of becoming trees even quite large. In Mexico, where this essence is protected, it is possible to see some that exceed 15 meters and whose base, enlarged, has a circumference of almost 14.
However, these cases are very rare because of the extremely slow growth and reduction of population due to deforestation.
At the top of the trunk is a thick tuft of dark green ribbon-like leaves with a soft texture. The flowers are white, grouped in clusters that we produce only in exceptional cases. Being dioecious plants there are individuals who will only carry male flowers and others only female.
Unlike other tropical essences, some varieties of Beaucarnea can boast a discreet rusticity: the most widespread, the curvature, can withstand even -5 ° C. This makes it suitable for cultivation in the open land in almost all coastal areas of our peninsula.
How to cultivate the nolina (beaucarnea recurvata)
These plants are quite easy to cultivate, also because they tend to endure not ideal conditions, without being affected by excessively arid or slightly cold climates, even for months.
The plants of Beaucarnea recurvata are cultivated in very bright positions The apartment is located in a quiet area, even with a few hours of sunshine a day, but away from cold draughts and direct heat sources, such as fireplaces, stoves, radiators, air conditioners.
Smoke-eating specimens do not like excessive watering, and during the winter they are only sporadically watered During the rest of the year, they are only watered when the soil is fairly dry, i.e. every 2-3 days in August, every week or every ten days in April. From March to September, the water is added to the water of the watering of the fertilizer for succulent plants, poor in nitrogen and rich in potassium and trace elements.
It seems that at home the nolines have a better development if during the winter they can enter a period of vegetative rest To do this, it is advisable to place the plant in a poorly heated area of the house, with temperatures not exceeding 10_12°C, but not even below 8°C; a perfect place could be a stairwell, but only if the air currents coming from the house door do not reach the plant directly.
It often happens that the foliage of the nolina dries up, only at the tip or completely; the dryness zones can be removed with a scissor, the leaves, on the contrary, completely dry, can be removed directly from the base of the head.
These plants, although they come from areas with arid climate, seem to like Periodic canopy vaporisation during the driest periods of the year, and in particular during the winter; therefore from October to February, instead of watering the plant, let’s remember to vaporize its canopy every week, with demineralized water.
LA BEAUCARNEA IN BREVE
Smoke Eater, Nolina, Elephant’s Foot
Beaucarnea, about 20 species
Type of plant
Persistent, ribbon-like, dark green
Up to 1 meter (in cultivation); up to 15 meters (in nature)
From citrus fruits; field soil + peat + sand
Very bright, even full sun
10°C (in apartment), -5°C (outside)
From 18 to 30°C
From November to March, optional
Pests and diseases
Cuttings, basal sprouts removal, sowing
Vase, exterior (coasts and south of Italy)
The cultivation of the Beaucarnea is very simple, especially if treated as a houseplant. You only have to pay attention to excessive cold and irrigation, as it can be subject to rottenness.
Temperatures and environmental requirements
The Beaucarnea is perfectly suited to the growth in our homes. The ideal is to keep it, depending on the season between 10°C and 30°C. The plant is actually able to withstand a harsher climate but stopping the growth, already very slow.
We can keep the vases in the inhabited areas in all seasons, with minimum temperatures of about 16°C; alternatively, during the winter, we can move them in a slightly colder room, thus regulating the lighting and irrigations.
These saplings need, especially during the summer, a good passage of air, but, at the same time, the currents of cold air must be avoided. We must bear this in mind in spring and autumn, avoiding changing the air in the rooms during the coldest hours of the day.
The choice of the vase
The specimens of smoke-eating plants are placed in quite small pots, as they do not seem to appreciate the possibility of widening at will, here they are cultivated in container; they do not even love transplants, but, producing a fairly contained rooting apparatus, usually it is not necessary to repot a thick beaucarnea, it is sufficient to move the plant in a slightly bigger pot than the previous one, every 3-4 years; it happens often to see perfectly healthy nolines, cultivated in pots of a few millimetres wider than the base of the caudex.
A very well drained soil is utilized, completely without water stagnations, in order to avoid that the roots are attacked by rottenness, which can lead to the drying up of the whole plant.
An ideal soil is made of universal soil, rich and full-bodied, lightened with little sand or pumice stone, to increase its permeability.
It is not easy to choose the pot for the nolina, as it is good to find a pot not too much deep, but enough roomy for being able to overcome, in width, the base of the enlarged stem; besides this, as the nolines tend to develop more in height than in width, it is good to find a rather heavy pot, so that it does not tip over due to the weight of the tuft of leaves which is found at the apex of the stems.
In general, therefore, we choose large plastic bowls, easier to handle than terracotta pots, but on the bottom there is a layer of pebbles, so as to give the pot the right weight to be able to bear the weight of the plant without tipping over.
The Beaucarnea comes from areas characterized by warm climates and high ambient humidity. Also in the home cultivation it is important to comply with this need. Especially from June to September, when temperatures exceed 23°C, it is important to spray the canopy often and, if we have taken the pot outside, wet the surrounding floor.
In the house a great help can also come from the use of saucers full of expanded clay that we will remember to keep wet at all times (but without the roots coming into contact with water).
In every season it is necessary to provide you with very intense lighting. If we keep it at home, we choose a location near large windows facing south or west. Let’s not worry about direct sunshine: a well hydrated plant with good ambient humidity will certainly not be damaged.
In the summer we can move it outside, even in this case in full sun.
During the winter period, if with the lowering of the temperatures we induce the vegetative rest, we can reduce the illumination a little (even if usually it is not necessary to do anything since in those months the photoperiod is shorter and the sun is not particularly intense).
Pests and diseases
It’s one of the strongest indoor plants ever. You only have to be careful not to exceed in the irrigations so as not to cause rottenness to the root system and the collar: the first symptoms are the yellowing of the leaves and the very dark color of the base. Let’s make up for this by repotting and treating with special products.
The specimens in bad condition can be attacked by cochineal: in addition to restoring the plant we can use a systemic insecticide mixed with mineral oil (in the right proportions depending on the season).
The noline are succulent plants, and as such suffer from the classic pests that attack all succulent plants; the cultivation in a very dry and dry climate, with poor watering and lack of ventilation, promotes the settlement on the leaves of the mealybug which, unluckily, nests at the base of the foliage, where the head is thick and narrow, and where it is difficult to eradicate the insects by utilizing a special anticoccidico; for this reason, it often happens that, if the cochineal is found too late, the best care is the removal of the leaves which present the insects nested at the base, with consequent impoverishment of the head of leaves.
Often we are forced also to cut at the base the whole tuft; the plant eats smoke, which is found, in this way, without organs for the photosynthesis, will tend to produce quickly a new big bud, from which will develop a new head of long ribbon-shaped leaves; however, it is essential, like this one, to avoid to recreate the conditions for the development of the cochineal, vaporizing periodically the foliage of the plant with demineralized water, in order to increase the ambient humidity.
Another disease that often attacks the beaucarnea is the root or collar rot The rottenness of the roots can be avoided by watering only and exclusively when the soil is well dry, and avoiding to leave the plant in excessively cold conditions; it is also important, after repotting, to avoid watering for at least ten days, to ensure that the roots damaged in the change of pot are easy prey of rottenness.
For the rottenness of the neck, usually only the specimens that are potted with the stem slightly underground should be placed in the ground at the correct depth, with the part of the caudex provided with underground roots, and the part without roots completely outside the ground.
The smoking plant
The nolina, or beaucarnea, is often called smoke-eating plant, this feature is a sort of urban legend, and unfortunately those who are used to smoking at home will not have improvements in the quality of air in the house, placing here and there some noline.
It is true that these plants live without problems in areas characterized by air full of smoke and pollutants, so if we are used to smoking two packs of cigarettes a day, sitting on the sofa next to our beautiful hired, we can continue to poison our lungs, without fear for our plant.
In fact, however, as is the case for most urban legends, there is a little truth in this too: it seems that plants such as the nolina, the filodendro, the ficus, the dieffenbachie, are able to absorb the harmful gases present in the air, released from cigarettes, exhaust pipes of vehicles, paints, wall enamels, furniture, fabrics.
For this reason it seems that cultivating these plants at home eats smoke, and especially cultivating them in offices, where we also have the presence of toner, inks and so on, is a good and fair thing for our health, since these plants make the air in the home healthier, absorbing and eliminating all unhealthy gases in it.
Price of the smoke-eating plant
The smoke eater are plants that tend to be expensive and expensive and the reason is soon said: they have a very slow growth and therefore to become of interesting size they need many years of cultivation.
In nurseries and garden centres we usually find both small beucarnea plants that cost a few dozen euros, and larger smoke-eating plants that can cost even a few hundred euros.
However, if we do not consider the price as an end in itself, but instead relate it to the beauty of the plant that eats smoke, we immediately realize how much a plant smoke eater to add value to our apartment.
Its shape is unique and is perhaps the most beautiful and elegant interior plan, ideal for offices and waiting rooms thanks to its composed and statuesque appearance. The smoke-eater can be compared in beauty perhaps only to some ficus benjamin, another plant of great value much used for the interior.
Soil, vase composition and repotting
The substrate suitable for these plants must be rich enough, but capable of quickly draining the water. Among the mixtures on the market, the one which best suits is, without any doubt, the soil for citrus fruits. An even better mix can be achieved by combining field soil and peat in equal proportions and adding a little coarse river sand. A little perlite can also be useful for drainage.
Repotting is carried out occasionally, in early spring, when the roots come out of the drainage holes. Let’s choose a slightly larger container than the previous one. On the bottom we place about 3 cm of draining material, the plant and then some soil, compacting well. Let’s irrigate abundantly.
The terracotta vases are ideal: they are very stable and allow excellent breathability.
The Beaucarnea, thanks to the reserve of water present at the base of the stem, bears very well the drought. This does not mean, however, that it likes it: its vegetative growth is speeded up by a constant supply of liquids, especially from spring to mid-autumn.
On the other hand, the roots are subject to rottenness and attention must be paid to water stagnation. As a general rule, it is advisable to irrigate abundantly, but only when the substrate is dry in depth.
In winter, if we lower the temperatures, let’s remember to simulate a dry season, suspending almost totally the watering. During this period, the plant will benefit from the accumulated reserves.
They are extremely slow growing plants and do not require a large supply of nutrients. However, it is useful to administer a monthly liquid fertilizer for green plants, balanced in its elements, but also diluted twice as much as recommended on the package.
In winter we can postpone further or even suspend.
Pruning and cleaning
The Beaucarnea does not need this type of intervention. In case of old or damaged leaves, we can cut them at the base with sharp and disinfected scissors or simply pull them down firmly.
For the rest it is a very autonomous plant; once a week it is recommended to thoroughly clean the leaves from dust and household waste by wiping them with a damp cloth. For this purpose, during the summer, it is also possible to move the pot outside during the rain: in addition to cleaning the leaves, the plant will be deeply rehydrated.
The Beaucarnea can be propagated by stem cutting, basal sprouting or sowing. The first two are preferable because they considerably shorten the time as well as having a higher percentage of successes.
The stem cuttings are made in summer: one end is taken and, after having dusted the cut with rooting hormones, it is placed in a very draining mix of soil and sand. We place it in the shade and always maintain high temperatures and humidity.
The basal shoots are taken from late winter to early summer: they are transferred into jars with light compost and are kept at about 24°C, in the shade, until they begin to vegetate.
Sowing takes place in spring. The seeds should be buried very little in a light compound: let’s keep about 22 ° C with high humidity. The germination takes place even months later and we will have to wait years before the specimens reach even only ten cm in height …
Eat smoke Nolina – Beaucarnea recurvata: Variety of Beaucarnea
In the wild, 20 species can be found, but at ornamental level, only the Beucarnea recurvata is very common. It is characterized by a swollen base and long leaves that are soft to the touch. It is very resistant to drought.
Also interesting is the Beucarnea stricta, with a trunk very similar to the neck of a bottle. The leaves are stiffer and ropes.
The Beucarnea gracilis, on the other hand, has a cone-shaped trunk and short, sparse leaves of a beautiful glaucous green. It is appreciated in tropical gardens.
- I have a plant “of smoke” for about 20 years, reached the height of about 1meter and 50, remains outside on a terrace
visit : smoke plant