Stephania Erecta, also called Stephania pierrei, is a native of Thailand. The Stephania Erecta plant has a large potato-shaped woody bulb called a caudex that can grow to be seven inches wide. Several long slender stems grow from the caudex, topping out at three feet tall. These are topped by green leaves about two inches in diameter and shaped like parasols. It has yellowish flowers in the spring and summer.
Rare and Collectable
Stephania used to be a rare plant but it is gaining in popularity. It is still uncommon enough to be considered rare and collectable. These are strictly indoor plants in zones cooler than 10a. Stephania erecta care is moderately difficult but you can grow it with a little extra effort.
How to Plant Stephania Erecta
Most people receive a Stephania caudex (the potato part) with no roots or leaves. You will need to pot the caudex before it can grow. Stephania erecta bulbs need to be soaked for 24 hours in warm water before potting.
Well Draining Soil Mix
Use a succulent potting mix for your Stephania. Water retaining soil will cause problems. Use a pot that has drainage holes, as the plant will get root rot if the roots stay wet. Fill the pot 2/3rds full of the soil mix.
Pointy Side Up
Place the caudex on the top of the potting mix. Make sure the node, or point, is on top. Fill in the potting mix between the caudex and the pot, being careful not to cover the top of the caudex. Water the potting mix well.
How to Sprout Stephania Erecta
The caudex is sold when it is dormant. In order to get it to sprout, you must increase the humidity around the caudex.
Use Germination Dome
The easiest way to do this is to create a germination dome using a plastic bag. Water the soil so it is moist but not squishy. Place a clear plastic bag over the top of the pot. Move the pot into bright indirect sunlight.
When to Remove Germination Dome
When you see new growth coming from the top of the caudex, remove the bag from the pot. Keep the soil moist until you remove the plastic bag from the pot. It can take anywhere from one week to three months to get a Stephania erecta to leave dormancy, so be patient.
How Long Does It Take for Stephania Erecta to Grow?
Stephania erecta grows very slowly. It can take twenty years to reach maturity.
Stephania Erecta Care
This plant is considered moderately difficult to grow. Here is what you need to know about Stephania erecta care.
How to Water
You should water Stephania erecta once a week. Let the soil dry out slightly between waterings. The caudex holds in moisture so even if the soil is dry the plant might not need water. In fact, overwatering is the chief cause of death for Stephania erecta in pots.
When you water, put the plant in a sink. Water with lukewarm water until the water comes out of the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot. Let the pot sit in the sink for about 15 minutes to finish draining. Remove the pot from the sink, set it back in the saucer, and put the plant back where it grows.
Symptoms of Watering Problems
Crispy leaves usually indicate underwatering. If you are under watering when there are no leaves, it will take longer for the shoots to start growing and you will have stunted growth.
The symptoms of over watering are wilting and yellowing leaves. Eventually, over watering will cause root rot. The bulb can also rot, killing the plant.
How to Fertilize
Fertilize once every four to six weeks during the growing period, which is usually the spring and summer. Use a water-soluble houseplant fertilizer in place of water for one watering. In the fall, fertilize every six to eight weeks. Do not fertilize when the plant is dormant.
Stephania erecta needs indirect sunlight for four to six hours a day. Direct sunlight will burn the caudex and leaves. If the caudex gets burned, it can kill the plant.
If your plant looks leggy, it is not getting enough sunlight. Place it in bright locations in the house to fix that.
Stephania erecta grows best in temperatures between sixty to eighty degrees F. Since that is the temperature range of most homes, it is easy to keep the plant at the correct temperature. Put it in a warm place with no drafts.
Make sure that the plant does not get too hot in the summer. You may need to move the plant to a western or eastern facing window. Even indirect sunlight from a south facing window can be too intense in really hot places.
Stephania erecta is from forests that have high humidity. It needs a humidity of at least sixty percent. This is higher than most homes.
You can create a more humid microclimate for the plant fairly easily with pebbles and a saucer.
- Take a saucer larger and deeper than the saucer at the base of the pot your plant is in.
- Fill the saucer with a layer of pebbles.
- Fill the saucer with water until the water is just below the tops of the pebbles.
- Place the pot and saucer the plant is in on top of the pebbles.
- Refill the water in the pebble saucer regularly.
The water evaporates and increases the humidity in the air around the plant. You can also spritz the leaves with water using a spray bottle. If you do that, however, do it in the morning so the leaves are dry by night. Wet leaves invite disease problems.
Even the best potting mix becomes compressed and no longer meets a plant’s needs eventually. You will need to repot your Stephania erecta about every three years. To avoid transplant shock, do not remove the potting mix from the plant’s roots. Instead, set the caudex on a new soil mix and follow the steps above to pot the plant again. Make sure the new pot has enough room for the caudex to grow.
Care During Dormancy Period
During the winter, Stephania erecta plants go dormant. This dormancy period lasts about three months. The leaves will fall off, leaving just the dormant caudex above the ground.
You should reduce the water you give it during this period. Instead of watering once a week, water once every two weeks. Do not fertilize the plant during the dormancy period. In the spring, go back to watering every week. New foliage will start growing as the humidity level increases and triggers the shoots to grow from the caudex.
How to Prune Stephania Erecta
Normally, pruning is not required. Plants shed their leaves in the late fall when they go dormant. Browning leaves are normal then.
If a leaf becomes yellow, brown, or torn, at other times of the year, you can cut that leaf off with clean sissors. If more than one leaf is affected and it is during the growing season, your plant may be sick. Over watering, under watering, diseases, and pests may be at fault.
How to Propagate Stephania Erecta
You can propagate Stephania erecta from seeds. This is time consuming and moderately difficult.
- Soak seeds for 24 hours in a dark, warm place.
- Use a succulent soil mix just like the adult plants need.
- Put one seed per pot.
- Make sure the pot has drainage holes.
- Bury the seeds about 1/4 inch deep.
- Water the seed in.
- Cover the pot with a clear plastic bag.
- Place in indirect sunlight so the plant stays at least 64 degrees F while germinating.
- Direct sunlight is too much for Stephania erecta.
- Keep the soil moist by watering every two weeks.
It can take up to five months for the seeds to germinate, so you will have to be patient. When the seed produces its second leaf, remove the bag over the pot.
Pests of Stephania Erecta
Stephania erecta falls prey to several common household pests. It is important to isolate new plants before placing them around other house plants so that you can detect and treat any pests on the new plant. Otherwise, they will spread throughout the house. Before treating for pests, make sure that the product is specifically labeled for use on Stephania erecta. Follow the instructions carefully to avoid problems.
Here are the major pests to look out for:
Spider mites are anthropods related to spiders and ticks. They have eight legs, two body parts, and are very small. The most common spider mite on house plants is the two spotted spider mite. They are green or yellow with a dark spot on the sides of the abdomen.
Yellow or white spots on your plant leaves and webbing on the underside of the leaf are typical symptoms. Isolate any plant with these problems away from other plants.
Spider mites like dry, warm places and are attracted to stressed plants. If the plant is heavily infested, it is best to place it in a plastic bag and discard it. If the infestation is caught early, you can use neem oil to treat the plant. Make sure you put the oil on every part of the shoot and stem as it only kills mites it touches. Do not put it on the caudex.
You will have to treat again in seven days to kill the newly hatched mites. You may have to continue treatment for several weeks to get rid of all the mites. Increasing the humidity around the plant will also help get rid of the mites.
Whiteflies look like tiny moths. They prefer to feed on the underside of leaves. When a badly infested plant is disturbed, the whiteflies fly up in a cloud of white. These pests reproduce rapidly, so they can spread to all the plants in a house or greenhouse. They pierce the plant leaf and suck out the contents. This causes the leaves to turn yellow, then brown, and then to drop. In addition, whiteflies excrete a sticky substance called honeydew. Sooty mold often grows in this honeydew, further weakening the plant and preventing photosynthesis.
Inside the home, the primary ways to treat whiteflies are sticky traps and neem oil or insecticidal soap. Sticky traps are made by taking cardboard and painting it yellow on both sides. Coat the cardboard with a sticky substance such as Tanglefoot, petroleum jelly, or mineral oil. Place the trap on stakes just above the plant. The whiteflies are attracted to the color yellow and will perch on the trap. They then get stuck and die.
Insecticidal soap or neem oil is also useful. Make sure you coat the underside of the leaves as well as the rest of the leaves and stems. Do not put it on the caudex. You will need to re-treat the plant at weekly intervals for five weeks to kill the newly hatched nympths as well as the adults that emerged from pupa since the first treatment.
Aphids are small and usually white or light green but can be other colors. They have soft bodies. Like whiteflies, they suck the sap out of plants. They also excrete honeydew. Affected leaves will curl and wilt. Sotty mold often grows on the honeydew.
Washing the leaves and stems with insecticidal soap or neem oil is the most affective way to eliminate aphids indoors. Again, make sure you cover the entire stem and leaves as the treatment will only kill aphids that it touches. Do not put it on the caudex.
Mealybugs are small, white insects covered with a white wax. Seeing the white wax and the slowly crawling bugs are usually the first signs of an infestation. Mealybugs suck the sap out of stems, leaves, and flowers, leaving yellow leaves, stunted leaves and flowers, and can cause dieback or the death of plants. Severely affected plants should be put in a plastic bag and thrown away.
Mealybugs, aphids, and whiteflies are all related. Control of mealybugs is the same as control of aphids and whiteflies. Insecticidal soap or neem oil will kill them, but only if it touches them.
Thrips are tiny, only one to two millimeters long. They have long slender bodies and come in yellow, white, brown, or black. The nymphs are usually yellow or white. Thrips suck sap from the leaves leaving a long wavy white or silver trail. Some species transmit deadly plant viruses. Many leave behind black fecal spots on the leaves.
Blue sticky traps staked just above plants will attract thrips and help control them. Insecticidal soap and neem oil will also kill them. Thrips do not like high humidity levels, so using a spray bottle to spritz the leaves in the mornings will help control them.
Pests are usually carried indoors on plant material. Before buying a new plant, carefully examine it, including on the underside of the leaves. If you find any pests, do not bring the plant home.
It is a good idea to isolate all new plants for ten days while closely monitoring them. That way, if you find a pest, it won’t infect other plants in the house.
Some pests can ride in on fresh vegetables from the farmer’s market or a friend’s garden. Check them carefully before bringing them in the house. Wash them in the kitchen away from any plants to remove any problems.
Diseases Affecting Stephania Erecta
Most diseases that afflict Stephania erecta are due to excess water. Plants that are over watered are vulnerable to disease. Here are the most common diseases that affect Stephania erecta.
Bulb Rot (Basal Rot)
Excess moisture can cause the caudex to rot. Yellow, stunted growth and discolored, soft, often smelly caudex mean the plant is rotting. The best treatment is to make sure the water can freely drain from the pot. Making sure the soil dries between waterings is also important. Once the caudex has bulb rot, it cannot be saved.
There are many different types of fungus that attack houseplants, including Stephania erecta. One of the most common is fungal leaf spot disease. Brown, tan, or black irregular spots appear on the leaves. These may spread to cover most of the leaf. Eventually, the leaf drops. The fungus can spread to the stem and flowers.
To treat this, remove and destroy the leaves and other parts of the plant that are infected. Avoid splashing soil on the plant during watering as the fungus hides in the dirt and decaying leaf matter in the soil. Copper fungicides can help stop fungal growth after the effected leaves are removed from the plant.
Some species of thrips and whiteflies carry deadly viruses. The viruses differ, but all of them are incurable. Typical symptoms include distorted leaf growth, stunted growth, dead spots or yellow rings on the leaves, distorted flowers, and sometimes mosiac patterns on the leaves. These symptoms mean the plant should be discarded.
Diseases can enter the home in three ways: on a plant, with a pest, and in the soil mix. Again, isolating new plants before allowing them near other plants in the house will help protect your plants. Controlling pests that may spread the disease is essential, as well. Finally, use a sterilized potting mix and try not to get soil on the plant stems or leaves. Maintain moisture but do not overwater as that leads to rot.
Use Sterile Tools
If you have other houseplants, it is a good idea to sterilize your tools between plants. You can use a solution of nine parts water and one part bleach. After dipping in the sterile solution, wash the bleach off the tool.
Do Not Damage the Plant’s Skin
Be very careful not to bruise or cut the plant and caudex. Cuts, bruises, and nicks allow viruses and other diseases a way into your plant.
In summary, while Stephania erecta is an interesting plant, it is moderately difficult to grow. At present, the plant most plants can only be purchased at nurseries and online. Seeds can take up to five months to germinate and the plant may not reach its mature height for twenty years. However, by following the instructions in this article, you can enjoy a Stephania erecta in your own home.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are the most common questions our readers have about Stephania erecta care.
Is Stephania Erecta rare?
As with many moderately difficult to grow house plants, Stephania erecta is fairly rare. As it has grown in popularity, it is becoming more common. However, you will probably have to go to a nursery or order it online to get one.
How do you get Stephania Erecta seeds?
The same specialty nurseries that carry Stephania erecta plants are the best places to buy seeds. Since the seeds are hard to germinate, they are not as available as the plants.
Is Stephania Erecta pet safe?
No, Stephania erecta is poisonous to pets and humans. Place your plant where pets and children cannot reach it.
Is Stephania Erecta a perennial?
Yes, Stephania erecta is a herbaceous perennial. It can take as long as twenty years to mature.
How can you tell the top of Stephania Erecta?
The top has a circular opening with a small stem on it. The bottom does not have this.