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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, November 09, 2019 1:00 am

Mother of Thousands is unusual, grows easy

Ricky Kemery

Question: What can you tell me about an indoor plant called Mother of Thousands?

Answer: Mother of Thousands is an unusual annual succulent with triangular leaves. It is native to Madagascar

Mother of Thousands is hardy from Zone 9B to 11. It will not survive a frost. It can be grown outdoors during the summer in sun or partial shade and can withstand hot temperatures if given regular water. All parts of this plant are poisonous if ingested – something to consider if you have animals or small children that would have access to this plant.

In late winter, a mature Mother of Thousands plant grown indoors may produce a ring of orange trumpet-shaped flowers that hang down from the top of the plant. After flowering, the plant dies.

In the Midwest, a container-grown Mother of Thousands will be more suitable. You will need to bring your plant indoors before the first frost.

Mother of Thousands is considered viviparous. This means it grows plantlets along the leaf's edges. When each plantlet can survive on its own, it then falls off the leaf. These plantlets sprout up just about anywhere. I sat my first Mother of Thousands on my deck with all my other houseplants in the beginning of spring. By early fall I had Mothers of Thousands in the pots of all my other houseplants.

You may have to do some searching to find a Mother of Thousands. I haven't found it at mainstream nurseries. The best way is to find someone growing one and get a seedling for free. If you can't find one locally, you can easily order one over the internet.

It's easy to have success growing Mother of Thousands. Pick a container around two gallons or larger. This will allow some room for plantlets to fall and begin to grow. Each plantlet will become a mother plant. This way you will always have new plants to transplant or give to friends. Fill your container with a professional grower's mix a couple of inches from the top. Avoid cheap potting soils that will hold onto too much water. After planting keep the soil moist.

Make sure your container has a hole in the bottom to allow excess water to drain.

During the winter months I keep my Mother of Thousands inside and near a sunny window. After the last frost in spring, they can be put outside and allowed to grow until the first frost. I've never needed to fertilize these plants. If you feel you need to, then I would recommend fertilizer spikes. There's probably no easier way to feed a container-grown plant.

When people come to my house, I get more comments on the Mother of Thousands than any other houseplant I have. In summer it is amazing to see how quickly this plant grows and reproduces itself. In winter it becomes a spectacular flowering succulent. Try the Mother of Thousands. No green thumb required.

The Plant Medic, written by Ricky Kemery, appears every other Saturday. Kemery retired as the extension educator for horticulture at the Allen County branch of the Purdue Extension Service.