THE WHITE BAT PLANT - Tacca integrifolia
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Tacca integrifolia – more commonly known as the White Bat Plant - is one of the world’s most unusual flowering plants! It has a highly unusual flower arrangement that is held about 3ft high, but amazingly, the thick purple whiskers that emanate from within the flower are so long that they can sometimes reach the ground! Its top bracts consist of two spectacular dorsals - usually white and purple stripes - each one about 8 inches wide! The true flowers are located at the bottom centre of the inflorescence and are reminiscent of thick, purple buttons!
As a native of Malaysia, the white bat plant prefers warm humid temperatures, but it will happily grow outside in a container so long as it is placed in a sheltered position and protected from the strength of a mid-day sun. In fact, you may be able to grow it directly in the ground if you live in a climate where frosts are unheard. In fact, you could consider growing bat plants permanently outside, planted directly in the ground. However, it would still be wise to start if off in a container and place it in a proven spot provided it receives enough shade from direct sunlight.
If grown from seed, your bat plant should start to flower after about two years growth, but within that there will be a surprise. With seed grown plants, variations in flower colour are regularly witnessed, producing purple or pure white bracts. On rare occasions bat plants can even produce flowers with white whiskers!
While growing bat plants from seed will give you the opportunity to produce a variety of colour forms, you can also propagate bat plats from root cuttings off of two year old plants onwards.
Note. Avoid re-potting bat plants unless there are still 2-3 months of warm weather left. During the winter - in temperate and sub-tropical areas - it goes dormant but will not die back. However it will die back to its rhizome if you overwater in winter when dormant. Over do it and you will kill off the whole root system!
CARE OF YOUR BAT PLANT
To get the best flowering out of you bat plant you will need to keep it well fed with plant fertiliser. Osmocote is particularly effective, but if you don't have any then use a soluble high potash fertilisers. If they start to dry out you will find that the leaves will quickly wilt, but don’t worry to much about this. If you catch it in time and give a quick watering, the leaves will bounce back with no obvious signs of distress.
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Based on an articles written by Bob Chalmers Paradise
Photo care of http://mgonline.com/articles/batplant.aspx