THE WHITE BAT PLANT - Tacca integrifolia

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.

However, it may need to come under protection over winter if temperatures are likely to dip below freezing. To keep on the safe side, bring it into the warm as soon as temperatures start dropping below 6 °Celsius. During this cold period, keep the compost on the moist side or even let it dry out between watering as you would do for an orchid..

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 plants from root cuttings off of two year old plants onwards.


When potting on a bat plant, use a good quality ericaceous compost mix. However, it is advisable to add 10-20% horticultural grit or perlite to it for extra drainage. Drainage is important where bat plants are concerned. If they are left in waterlogged conditions, they can be subject to a fungal disease which can attack the leaves - blackening them from the edges.

Note. Avoid repotting bat plants unless there are still 2-3 months of warm weather left. During the winter - in temperate and subtropical 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!


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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