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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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Monday - September 01, 2008

From: Spalding, NE
Region: Midwest
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Bulbs named exotica
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

When I purchased some seed from a catalog I received some free bulbs called exotica which I planted.They have long green stems. I don't know what they are or what to do with them. Can I plant them outside or are they just house plants? Can you send a picture?

ANSWER:

Much to our surprise, we may actually have found that plant you are asking about. We were sure that the bulbs you were sent, named "Exotica", were just given a random trade name, with no connection to any scientific name. However, we found a plant that grows from bulbs named Hemigraphis "Exotica" on the Kemper Center for Home Gardening website. We can't guarantee this is your bulb, as it appears to be a vining plant. If we found the right one, it would be a house plant in Nebraska, as it needs Zones 10-11 to be grown outside. One of the suggested uses was as a hanging basket plant. The forum website Dave's Garden has some more information and comments on the plant by gardeners who have tried it. Another site from Dave's Garden, Purple Waffle Plant, has more pictures. It has a very distinctive and unusual leaf, so it should be easy to tell if you have the same plant. This plant is native to Asia. At the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, we are dedicated to the promotion and protection of plants native to North America, so the plant does not appear in our Native Plant Database. However, most house plants are non-native tropicals because they are able to withstand the living conditions indoors. 

If this still doesn't seem to be the right plant, we suggest you go back to the company from which you received it. Look in their catalog, either online or in print, and see if such a plant is listed. Any time you purchase or receive a plant from a dealer, you should be given the full scientific name of it, so you can research it and find out its growing conditions. The packaging in which the bulbs arrived should have had this information, and also should have given you some sort of cultural instructions. 

 

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