What Makes a ‘Show’ Plant?

Question:  In your catalog, you describe some varieties as good “show plants” and others as good “houseplants”.  Could you elaborate?

Answer:  It’s not a matter of better or worse, just different.  Much like the difference between the family pet and the winner at Westminster.  By “houseplant” we mean a variety that one grows purely for decorating the home, the windowsill, of the light stand.  It may have pretty blooms, be particularly easy to grow and bloom, but is unspectacular in mos other ways.  With the proper care and expertise, any plant can be grown as a show specimen, including those we describe as “houseplants”.  Varieties good for “show”, however, possess certain qualities that make them either exceptional show specimens and/or make them easier to grow for show.

What makes a variety good “show plant” material?  Most importantly, it will have an exceptional growth habit, producing leaves in an even, predictable pattern.  Leaves will overlap and “shingle” atop each other as they are produced, and the plant will always have a round shape when viewed from above.  If variegated, the leaves will show more and/or brighter variegation of white, yellow, pink, or beige, and hold this variegation with age.  If it’s a standard-size variety, it typically will grow larger, making a more impressive plant when mature.  If miniature (or semiminiature), it will not outgrow the maximum allowd diameters for its size (6 or 8 inches, respectively)–it will look small and petite.  If a trailing variety, it will easily branch and spread, creating a full, round, form.

No matter the type or size, it will have more blooms and larger blooms (especially for a larger standard).  Unusual colors or patters in the blooms aren’t always important when selecting for show, though it helps.  Many of the best varieties for show are actually quite plain in many ways, simple colored blooms or plain foliage, but they grow so impressively and bloom so profusely that they always seem to find their way onto the Court of Honor.  Of course, “show” varieties don’t need to be grown for show.  You can enjoy them as “houseplants”–after all, the winning dog at Westminster also is somebody’s family pet!

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