Aphelandra squarrosa or Afelandra is an evergreen shrub native to central-southern America, which in nature reaches 2-3 m in height, and in a container it remains close to 50-60 cm. The fleshy stems, of dark color, carry numerous oval leaves, very large, of light green color, but in many species of dark green color, with white or yellow veins, very showy; the leaves are shiny, slightly wrinkled. In spring it produces short spikes covered with tubular flowers, under each of which there is a colored bract, generally yellow, but there are varieties with bracts and orange, pink or red flowers. These plants have a fairly compact habit, very branched and dense, and generally do not require pruning.
Keep the plants of Aphelandra squarrosa in a luminous place, but away from direct solar rays, at a temperature not below 10-15 ° C; in summer it is possible to place them outside, provided they are in a partially shady place. These plants fear the cold, so in winter they should be kept indoors or in a temperate greenhouse. The ideal temperature for the growth of Afelandra plants, being specimens of tropical origin, is around 22/25 ° C. This kind of plant is sensitive to air currents, which can also cause death.
Water the Aphelandra squarrosa regularly, letting the soil dry between one watering and another, without ever drenching the soil too much; excessive watering can promote root rot, and cause yellowing of the leaves; in general these plants do not tolerate drought well, and in cases of prolonged periods without water tend to collapse. In both cases the plant tends to lose its leaves; in winter water sporadically. When the temperatures are higher, it is good to proceed with the nebulization of water at room temperature on the leaves, to ensure the right degree of humidity.
From March to October, provide fertilizer for flowering plants, mixed with water for watering, every 10-15 days.
The plants of Afelandra need a very rich soil of humus and well drained: a suitable compound can be prepared by mixing peat with sand, leaf mold and a small handful of manure or humus.
Generally they do not grow very fast, so it is not necessary to repot them often, but it is good to change the soil every two years.
In spring it is possible to sow the aphelandre, remembering that with this technique it is possible to obtain plants different from the mother, given the genetic variability; in the same period it is also possible to practice cuttings, which root quite quickly and easily. The cuttings should be placed in a mixture of peat and sand and in a protected place, where the temperature remains constant. When the new shoots appear, it is possible to transplant the cuttings into individual containers.
Afelandra - Aphelandra squarrosa: Pests and diseases
These plants particularly fear root rot, aphids and cochineal. To eliminate scale insulators, if the attachment is reduced, it is possible to intervene with a cloth or a wad soaked in alcohol, otherwise it is also possible to wash the plant with soap and water, to rinse carefully. To eliminate aphids it may be sufficient to increase the degree of humidity with frequent sprays of water on the leaves. Otherwise it is good to use special insecticide products that are easily available.