Dischidia vidalii (Kangaroo Pocket) is a very odd and interesting epiphytic climber. The leaves are small, thick, fleshy, oval-shaped and…
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Dischidia plants are generally easy to grow and they make good houseplants or even as Christmas decorations and wreaths.
The genus Dischidia belongs to the milkweed family (Apocynaceae) and is closely related to plants in the genus Hoya, another popular group admired for their showy, sometimes fragrant, often waxy flowers.
Five species of Dischidia are available in Singapore and they are commonly grown for their foliage and interesting growth habit. Most of them have very small flowers that only the keen-eyed gardener can spot. When injured, they exude a milky sap and individuals with sensitive skin should avoid touching it.
Some Dischidia species are fast growers while others grow in periodic spurts. Dischidia is an epiphyte - plants that grow on supports such as tree trunks or branches. Their stems may produce roots along the nodes to absorb nutrients and water and provide additional support for the plant.
Be creative with Dischidia for Christmas
Most Dischidia plants are usually sold in small pots that can be hung at a bright window, balcony or corridor. Some species are wound around a decorative support and these can be used as Christmas tree decorations on more sturdy trees. They also make very good gifts even for novice gardeners.
The stems of species such as Dischidia ovata, Dischidia nummularia and Dischidia oiantha can be cut and used to adorn wreaths and Christmas trees. Dischidia vidalii is a particularly good candidate because of its unusual pouch-like modified leaves and tiny red flowers.
Also known as Dischidia pectinoides, it is better known by its common name the Ant Plant. It is perhaps the most common Dischidia species grown and sold locally. It produces numerous small, ornamental red flowers and is best known for its curious-looking, pouch-like modified leaves which are hollow, root-filled structures.
In its natural habitat, this plant is often associated with ants and the hollow modified leaves (affectionately called 'ant hotels') provide shelter for ants. In return, ants guard the plant and their excrement provide nutrients for their host.
Commonly known as Million Hearts, this species of Dischidia has numerous small, heart-shaped leaves that line both sides of thin trailing stems. Its flowers are small and grow between a leaf and the stem (right).If grown under intense light, the plant's leaves will develop a red tinge.
In Singapore, the plant is sold in hanging pots where its stems trail over the rim of the pot or are wound round a heart-shaped frame ornament. Both versions often make their appearances around Valentine's Day.
This plant is commonly called the Watermelon Dischidia due to the appearance of its foliage - the leaves resemble watermelons with three stripes running across them. They often take on a nice reddish tinge when exposed to several hours of direct sunlight. Its flowers are small and produced between a leaf and the stem (right).
This plant is often presented in a hanging basket either with its stems trailing or wound round the basket supports.
Dischidia nummularia are sometimes seen growing on old tree trunks. A native of Singapore, its common names include Pebble Beach and Button Orchid - a misnomer as it is not at all an orchid.
This plant has wiry stems adorned with tiny leaves shaped like convex magnifying lenses. Its flowers (above right) are small and often overlooked. Not commonly sold in nurseries, its stems are grown wound round pieces of driftwood or coconut husk chunks.
To date, this species does not have a common name. The variegated version (labelled as Dischidia ioantha 'Variegata') is more readily available for sale, probably due to its more showy and decorative appearance.
It features trailing stems with oval leaves with white edges. It is often grown with its long stems wound round some coconut husk chunks.
Dischidia species prefer a humid and well-ventilated location with at least half a day's exposure to filtered sunlight. They can tolerate a couple of hours of direct sunlight but plants must be well-watered under such conditions. Avoid growing them in an overly windy place as the plants will dry out very quickly.
Water & Growing Media
These plants are best grown in a moist and porous growing medium. The most common material used is coconut husk chunks. Being epiphytic in nature, they prefer to dry out a little between each watering. Avoid using soil-based growing media as they often hold too much water and become compacted.
Climbing Dischidia species can be grown by winding the stems around its hanging pot's hangers, thin branches or a moisture-retentive, rough and porous surface, such as the bark of a tree. These may be cut back to prevent the plant from growing into places where they are not desired.
Dischidia are easily propagated from stem-cuttings. Cut short segments of the stem and let them heal and dry. Then put them on top of some moist sphagnum moss - strings may be needed to secure them in place. The stem cuttings should be placed in a protected place away from direct sunlight and wind with the sphagnum moss kept moist at all times. Once roots have grown and the cuttings show some growth, they can be moved to their final locations.
The plants can also be grown from seeds which are produced in pods that split when mature. The seeds have fine hairs attached that enable the wind to carry them away.
By Dr Wilson Wong
Pictures of Dischidia vidalii, Dischidia nummularia, Dischidia ovata courtesy of NParks Flora and Fauna Web.
Dr Wilson Wong leads the Horticulture section in HortPark & the Southern Ridges. An avid gardener and blogger, he regularly contributes to The Straits Times' "Root Awakening" column. He is also the founder and administrator of Green Culture Singapore, and Vice President of the Singapore Gardening Society. Dr Wong aims to inspire and cultivate among Singapore's residents a greater interest in plants and gardening..
It is best to grow your Dischidia plant in a spot that does not receive direct sunlight. These plants need bright light, but direct exposure can irrevocably damage the leaves. If you are going to keep this plant inside, you should choose a window that faces south, east or west. This should provide the plant with adequate light without damaging it.
You only need to water this plant every 2-3 days. Over watering can quickly lead to root rot, which will damage the plant beyond saving. You should allow the soil to become fairly dry but not bone dry between watering.
It’s also a good idea to keep a humidifier right by the plant and keep it running for just an hour on a daily basis. This will provide the plant with the moisture it needs to stay healthy over the short and long term.
These plants can grow in tropical climates in hardiness zones of 10 through 11.
The Dischidia plant needs loose soil that drains well. This will help with preventing root rot, which is a serious issue. You should look for a soil that is specifically meant for epiphytic plants. This soil is traditionally made up of shredded bark or coconut husk. Heavy potting soil should be avoided.
These plants can tolerate temperatures of 40 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. It is recommended that you bring them inside when it starts getting chilly. They cannot survive the winter months outdoors in non-tropical regions.
While you don’t need to use any fertilizer on these plants, it is important that you repot them each year. This will ensure that your plants get all of the nutrients necessary to stay healthy and avoid disease.
Repotting this plant can be a bit tricky, as it tends to become rootbound fairly easily. If you notice the roots are tangled around the rootball, you’ll have to remove them gently. It can be easy to damage the root system, so you must keep this in mind.
Dischidia plants can grow very quickly, especially when they are kept in a high-humidity environment.
These plants can grow up to 12 feet with a width of up to 40 feet, depending on the variety. You need to consider the particular variety of the Dischidia you are growing so it has enough space.
The Dischidia pectenoides plant produces small red flowers that are quite striking and vibrant.
Sometimes you may need to cut back the stems of this plant so they don’t grow out too far. Regular trimming is not necessary with these plants, which is one of the reasons they are such a popular choice.
|Plant Habit:||Vine |
|Sun Requirements:||Partial or Dappled Shade |
|Minimum cold hardiness:||Zone 11 +4.4 °C (40 °F) to +7.2 °C (50 °F) |
|Maximum recommended zone:||Zone 11 |
|Plant Height :||2 feet|
|Flower Color:||Red |
|Bloom Size:||Under 1" |
|Flower Time:||Late winter or early spring |
Late spring or early summer
Late summer or early fall
Late fall or early winter
|Suitable Locations:||Houseplant |
|Wildlife Attractant:||Butterflies |
|Resistances:||Humidity tolerant |
|Propagation: Seeds:||Provide light |
|Propagation: Other methods:||Cuttings: Stem |
|Containers:||Suitable for hanging baskets |
Needs excellent drainage in pots
|Thread Title||Last Reply||Replies|
|Help identifying (another!) plant by LightSheet||Aug 31, 2019 2:14 PM||1|
|Looking for Dischidia pectinoides by Pscigam||Feb 8, 2019 8:15 PM||1|
|Dischidia vidalii?) by Belovedhoneygirl||Jan 10, 2019 2:52 PM||12|
|Dischidia anyone? by Gina1960||Mar 1, 2019 2:46 PM||21|
|who loves hoyas? by blueeyes||Mar 25, 2021 5:52 PM||1,402|
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What is Dischidia? Dischidia are epiphytic rainforest plants native to Southeast Asia and can be hardy in United States Department of Agriculture zones 10 and 11, or grown as a houseplant anywhere. These plants are also called ant plants because of a unique symbiotic relationship with ants. Dischidia ant plants are a fascinating species with a host of interesting features. Read on to learn more.